When is the calculator invented?

calculator: We expected that!

In 1973 the media philosopher Vilém Flusser wrote: "The things around us are shrinking, 'miniaturization', and are getting cheaper and cheaper, and the absurdities around us are swelling, 'computer science'."

Six years earlier, an engineer named Jack Kilby had developed the "miniature electronic calculator" in the Texas Instruments laboratory. A device based on another Kilby invention, the integrated circuit, better known today as a microchip. The mini-computer weighed only 1.5 kilograms - in contrast to the 25 kilograms that other devices put on the scales. Management found this technology so revolutionary that they leased it to Canon. One did not believe in the market potential. This is how the pocket calculator was invented at Texas Instruments, but the Japanese brought the first device onto the market in 1970. Texas Instruments only supplied the components.

After Canon was successful with the Pocketronic and rival companies such as Sharp added their own versions of the pocket calculator, Texas Instruments released its first own model in 1972, the TI 2500 Datamath. The company quickly became the leading company for pocket calculators. Between 1972 and 1979 there were around 60 different TI calculators and models, from high-quality science calculators like the programmable TI 59 to children's calculators like the Wiz-a-Tron, a little orange wizard who helped with math homework. There was also a model especially for women: the Lady 1200 from 1975, in a delicate light blue and with the simplest input functions. The most successful model, however, was the TI 30, of which around 15,000,000 copies were sold between 1976 and 1983. It is likely to be the most popular pocket calculator of all time. The reason for this was not least its price: In 1977 it cost 24.95 US dollars.

Jack Kilby was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his development. He died three years later. His laboratory is now a museum and place of pilgrimage for tech freaks. The microtechnology launched by Kilby is now ubiquitous and even the smallest cheap devices can handle more operations than his mini-computer. The pocket calculators from Texas Instruments have not disappeared - because they are, in a way, backward. Smartphones and tablets are forbidden during exams at schools and universities. Only the pocket calculator is allowed as an electronic device. For example, some engineers develop a very close relationship with the small machine and, even after university, still prefer the calculator instead of the smartphone. The Texas Instruments is still used for experimental setups where a small, handy computing device has to be available quickly.