How the Electronic Calculator Changed the World
April 17, 2013
There’s a keystone in every great invention.
Before the iPhone and the Kindle, there was the electronic calculator. If you are of a certain age, you remember the days when a calculator was just about the only piece of electronic equipment you would (or could) carry around with you. Even the most complex and expensive models had a fraction of the computing power of the modern cell phone.
Despite all of this, you cannot get around the fact that when solid-state electronic calculators first came on the scene in the 1960’s, they revolutionized the way we learn and work. For centuries, man used the abacus, and later the mechanical calculator, to handle day-to-day calculations. The numbers added up, but it took a great deal of time and effort.
Blaise Pascal was the first person to invent a calculator albeit a 17th Century adding machine. His calculator was created to help his father deal with taxes. Taxes of course are front and center in April, as the 15th approaches. Everyone that has to deal with tax day are grateful to Mr. Pascal for being so thoughtful to his dear old dad and providing the tools to figure out how much they may owe to Uncle Sam.
Pascal’s invention took a jump into the future when in 1967, scientists at Texas Instrument took the recently developed “integrated chip” and “miniaturized” the basic adding machine. The hand-held calculator was the company’s platform to show the world the marvels that could come from these integrated circuits, as well as silicon transistors and single-chip microcomputers. Their invention was small enough to fit in a pocket, but still powerful enough to perform basic math problems.
When it hit the market, the pocket calculator made it possible for anyone to do both simple and complex mathematics quickly without needing a room-sized computer or a slide-rule and a graduate degree. This time, the calculator became a household item. Every child could use it to help them with their math homework and their parents could use it work on those dreaded income taxes.
Besides tax calculations, the modern calculator has helped many businesses to grow and flourish through the years. It helps engineers to develop new and exciting products and it provides the financial resources needed by many companies to continually exist. In many ways, everything we do at Keystone is built on the ability to quickly calculate math problem – thanks to Blaise Pascal and those Texas Instrument scientists. A number of Keystone products can be found in many of today’s calculators. Next time you pull out your solar powered miniature pocket calculator, think about all the things that go inside, the components, chips, and most importantly, the brain power. It all adds up!