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The History of Handheld Calculators

Handheld electronic calculators were introduced to the United States in 1970 and 1971. These early handheld calculators were made by the Japanese firms Busicom (Nippon Calculating Machine Corporation) and Sharp (Hayakawa Electric) as well as the American firm Bowmar. In 1972, the Hewlett-Packard Corporation joined the market with the HP-35 scientific calculator, which could perform multiple complex functions; Texas Instruments introduced its first calculator, the Datamath (TI-2500) later that year and followed it up with the more complex SR-10 in 1973. Many of these early handheld calculators were very expensive and could only be ordered from the manufacturers or purchased at department stores. As better chips brought the manufacturing price down and liquid crystal displays drastically reduced the power needs of these devices, handheld calculators slowly become more affordable. By 1977, liquid crystal display calculators were retailing for $24.95, a far cry from the HP-35’s price point of $395 in 1972. By 1985, the solar-powered Sharp EL-345 was selling for just $5.95. Today, handheld calculators are found on school supply lists all over America and more complex models are considered indispensable tools in a variety of professional fields.

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