Once, far, far away, a man found that he did not have enough fingers to count the crop of beans. So the counter was invented.
Well, I’ve been a bit creative with my “historical facts”. The first widely recognized mechanism as a calculator, the abacus, appeared in Greece.
The counter was invented long before numbers were invented, and the counter has been used in various forms to keep track of the cost of merchandise. The oldest example of this technological leap dates back to around 300 BC
Now, given the pace at which the human race is evolving and designing new tools to solve new problems, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Abacus followed a meteoric path to improving the dark art of mathematical computations. In fact, the next step forward in calculator technology didn’t happen for another 1900 years.
The next giant leap came in 1642. Pascaline The addition and subtraction machine was made by the French inventor Blaise Pascal. Ironically, Pascal created the machine to help his father deal with tax affairs in Haute-Normandy!
Fast forward another 350 years and we enter the age of the frontier evolutionary calculator. Rapidly developing technological capabilities and reliable mass production have helped push the development of the calculator to ever higher levels.
Between 1820 and 1914, just 94 years old, the calculator went from being a curiosity accessible only to the wealthy to being used extensively in commercial settings. In fact, it was only as recently as 1885 that the calculator began discerning pushbutton switches, which we are all accustomed to today.
The early twentieth century saw fewer, but no less significant, improvements. The standard two rows of five buttons arrived in 1901. 10 years later, the United States imported the Swedish 10-digit design we know in design.
At this point, the development of the calculator was hampered by technology limitations.
The 1960s was the decade that saw the calculator go from being a cumbersome, crane-powered device to being truly portable.
The process of miniaturizing components such as transistors has increased in speed. Between 1961 and 1964, development of the calculator jumped from the 170 vacuum tube-based Anita Mk8 to the first commercial transistor calculator, the Sharp Competition CS 10A. Just four years later, Sharp unleashed its first commercial electronic calculator designed exclusively for the desktop market: the Competition 22.
In 1969, Sharp launched its first battery powered calculator, the QT-8D. One of the most impressive aspects of the QT-8D was its size: 5.2 inches by 9.6 inches by just 2.75 inches (width x height x depth). One year later, Texas Instruments launched a smaller calculator, the Pocketronic.
As technology has improved, calculators are getting smaller but more complex and capable. The only major drawback to its adoption by the consumer market was the high price. The HP-55, launched by HP in 1975, retails for $385—a price that most ordinary families can’t justify.
After a brief, but bloody, period of technological war in the 1970s, only four manufacturers are left. Among this group of survivors are well-known names such as Sharp and HP.
The 1990s saw an explosion of new devices hitting the market. The base model produced a whole new range of calculators designed to meet the growing needs of the consumer. From my knowledge to my statement; The list goes on and on and then goes online.
The age of the internet has seen webmasters create computational tools for nearly every possible use. Personal finance sites created compound interest calculators, frugal webmasters created calculators to work on the energy use of home utilities…the list goes on and on.
There you have it, over 2000 years old and still going strong. Where do you think the calculator will be in 2,000 years?