30 November 2018

Review: Sharp Compet VX-2126A

It's Friday again already so that means another Facebook review. I've still got quite a few of these so this tradition will last a while. Unlike the previous remakes of Facebook reviews, this one had enough thought put into it to simply be copied to this site. The first few Facebook reviews had very little content, but later ones were much better. 

So I'm proud to say I put minimal effort into this Facebook Friday Calculator Review.

Sharp Compet VX-2126A.
Every morning* since I've started on this quest to review all of my calculators, I get out of bed, open the blinds for my pet to look outside, pour myself an iced coffee, and then return to the bedroom to select a calculator from the shelf. I look forward to this, even when I don't particularly care for the calculator of the day. But today is special. Today, I share with you the...

Sharp Compet VX-2126A. This thing has a MASSIVE 12-digit LCD screen, capable of handling any number between 0 and one less than a trillion with ease. Worried you need to work with numbers bigger than that? Well stop worrying, because this beast also lets you use exponents.

The Compet VX-2126A is solidly constructed with a combination of metal and plastic. Even a firm grip on any two points (including the screen) doesn't feel like it's going to hurt this thing. It features a hinged stand to increase the viewing angle on a desk that would also take a lot of pressure to break off. As far as I can tell, this was constructed in Japan ca 1983.

But none of that is what makes this calculator special. I told that story at the beginning because, since I've owned this calculator, every morning I see this beast chugging along. You see, this calculator *never* turns off as long as it has even the tiniest amount of light. This is by far the most reliable calculator I have ever owned.

The Compet VX-2126A uses no batteries. It's beautiful, sturdy, and has more functionality than I would expect from a purely solar calculator. I found it at Goodwill for like $1.99.
Disassembled, front and back.
* I no longer write these the morning they are posted, so this routine no longer applies to my calculator reviews. I considered removing this no-longer-true statement, but it would affect the flow and themes of the review negatively. It would require considerably more effort to restructure the review than to explain myself here. Thank you for your understanding.

Internal components exposed.
Internal components removed.

28 November 2018

Review: Staples BD-6108 Scientific Calculator

I often ponder the development cycle for a calculator. Every product is created to fill some need, and for the past decade or two, it could be argued that calculator innovation hasn't exactly been booming. A lot of the devices in my collection do the same things, so what inspires a company to put forth the time and resources to create a new model? This is the question that today's calculator raised for me.

Staples BD-6108 Scientific Calculator
The Staples BD-6108 Scientific Calculator is ugly. It's thinner than many scientific calculators, sure, but what were the designers thinking when they decided to go with a clear button scheme? Taking a step back, the black back plate and white face plate is a bold choice, and I don't know of another device that uses this level of contrast. With just the red Staples label, this could have been a bold calculator that would look awesome on any desk.

But they went with clear buttons. This design not only annihilates the aesthetic, but makes finding the button you need a chore. Black buttons with white text would have looked outstanding and make this easier on the eyes.

I'd have been happier with this calculator if they'd decided to go with bright, obnoxious colors and made it absolutely hideous. At least then it would be interesting. As I keep taking glances at the device while writing this, I just get more annoyed with it. I don't like it.

The display isn't particularly great either. Any time light hits it directly, or it's tilted just slightly too far, the digits become unreadable. This might be useful to keep someone sitting next to you from cheating, but why would anyone bother if they saw you using this thing?

Then Staples had the nerve- the NERVE- to forgo a solar panel and use a non-standard battery type (CR2025) with a pain-in-the-ass series of screws to get inside this calculator to change said battery.

They still sell this on their Canadian website for $7. Who is the market for this calculator? With so many other great- even crappy- calculators, why on Earth would anyone bother with the BD-6108?

Fortunately, I didn't pay much for my BD-6108. It was $3 at a used book store, and I can totally see why its previous owner ditched it. As a calculator collector, I will keep and care for this device, but that won't stop me from giving it dirty looks whenever I see it.

Internal components.

26 November 2018

Review: Texas Instruments 1000

So begins another week of calculator reviews. Giving myself more time for each review has allowed me to improve the videos and the posts, as well as create additional content such as Obsolete Technology and The Calculator Repair. The response I've received for these has been just as positive as the calculator reviews.

Since it's Monday, I also get to pick the Comment of the Week, so here it is:

I didn't get any comments last week...

Last week I reviewed the APF Mark 65 and mentioned that there were other calculators with a similar aesthetic that were far superior. The one I had in mind was this Texas Instruments 1000 calculator. Personally, I prefer this color scheme as it's more consistent and elegant, but the TI-1000 beats the Mark 65 in several other categories.

I'd like to address the bizarre numbering system Texas Instruments uses for their devices. I don't get it. The TI-1000 is the third generation, starting with the TI-2500 and then the TI-1200. I have no idea why they went backward with the numbers, or why even later models used only two digits. Nothing about it makes any sense.

The TI-1000 doesn't try to impress anyone, but it succeeds in doing so. It features a gorgeous red fluorescent display behind a crisp brushed aluminum face plate. It's a little heavier than it looks, and the device feels very sturdy when held. The functionality is about as basic as you can get with a calculator and yet that somehow makes it even better. The operations work, and that should be all that matters.

Back view.
Well, they mostly work. I've actually purchased two TI-1000s and both of them have had issues. The first one I bought had a messed up display, so I attempted to fix it and found that the ribbon inside was slightly torn. This seemed like an easy fix, but the ribbon was so brittle that my attempt to fix it made it much, much worse. I ended up rendering the device completely useless and disposed of the internals. Later, I bought a second one and this one's display works perfectly. However, it has an annoying habit of inputting a digit twice when a button is pressed once. There may be a way to fix this, but I'd have to get under the buttons and this would mean manipulating the ribbon again, and I just don't trust myself to not screw it up again.

So the TI-1000 does have problems, and for that I can't bring myself to recommend this as more than a display calculator. It looks (and feels) amazing, and it's clear that Texas Instruments put a lot of love into it. But sadly, time has been a brutal enemy to this calculator. The internals have become so frail that it's risky to even take the device apart.

This calculator runs on a single 9 volt battery hidden by a panel that feels just as sturdy as the rest of the device. I found the first one at Goodwill for about $3, then ordered the currently working one on Ebay for $8.

Back view, battery removed.

Back of front plate.

Internal components not removed due to fragility.

23 November 2018

Review: APF Mark 65

It's Friday, so that means another calculator reviewed on Facebook! As always, I will post the original review below this one if you're interested in seeing whether my opinion changed.
APF Mark 65

As my calculator collection has grown and I've taken them apart, cleaned them, and even repaired a few, my tastes in specific features become more refined. Some calculators are absolutely fantastic and others only exist in my collection because I refuse to just throw them away. Then there are the ones like today's calculator. I don't really know what to make of it.

The Al & Phil Friedman (APF) Mark 65 was released no later than 1977, and, like most electronics from that decade, looks like it was made in that decade. While Wednesday's HP 10bII review mentioned it went for this aesthetic, the Mark 65 didn't even have to try. It just is 1970s.

I mean, look at it. The brushed aluminum face plate, the weird combination of white, orange, and not-so-brown buttons, and the care-free use of a different font for everything- it was a different time, man.

But also check out that bulk. You just don't see that in a modern calculator. This was to accommodate a beautiful-as-always teal-greenish-blue fluorescent display and thick pinches of solder all over the main board. And of course this runs on three AAA batteries and I should feel lucky it doesn't require more.

I want to love this calculator, I really do. But sadly, it only looks great. It feels miserable. Every component of the device is made of cheap material and it feels way lighter than it looks. The buttons and switch feel fine, but without a weighty feel to the rest of it, I'm just disappointed.
Cheap materials are easily ruined.

The cheap plastic is most evident in the battery cover. I feel like I'm going to snap it in half every time I try to put it back in place. This plastic is the type that will break into sharp pieces if dropped onto a hard surface. It's a shame, really.

This is the kind of calculator that looks great on display next to other vintage devices. There's no doubt it belongs among them. But my dream calculator museum would place this calculator behind glass not to protect it from patrons, but to protect the patrons from knowing how crappy this thing actually feels.

I found this calculator at Goodwill for like $3.99. As someone who has had hands-on experience with many devices, I can assure you that the APF Mark 65 is not worth seeking out. If you're sold entirely on how it looks, just wait for an upcoming review of a similar, but far superior device.

Internal Components

I wanted to completely disassemble this device, but screws beneath soldered components prevented this.

Here's the original Facebook review:

21 November 2018

Review: Hewlett Packard 10bII

If you've been following my Twitter or YouTube channel, you may have noticed by now that I'm expanding into older technologies that aren't calculators. This is something I've been wanting to do for some time. I won't be posting non-calculator material on this blog, but maybe I'll create something separate for posts about the other things.
Hewlett Packard 10bII

My first real interest in calculators was piqued in early 2016, during my first semester of the Computer Science program I'm still working on. Since calculators are the precursor to the personal computer, my professor at the time discussed them in great detail, especially the Hewlett Packard brand. I remember being fascinated by these, and have acquired a few to play around with myself, they definitely live up to the hype.

The Hewlett Packard 10bII Financial Calculator doesn't use Polish notation like some other HP-branded devices, but it's still really cool. This isn't a particularly old or vintage device, having been introduced in 2001. It's the second in the 10b line, and has since been replaced by the 10bII+ in 2011. Despite it being new, it retains a beautiful vintage aesthetic with its use of dark brown and a sort of muted orange. HP even gave its display a sleek brushed aluminum frame. The plate for the buttons may also be aluminum, but it's a shiny black with a thin aluminum border.

Oh, the display. It's fantastic. Sure, it's LED, but they absolutely nailed the contrast. The digits that appear on the screen pop out boldly and appear from left to right instead of the usual right to left. Since this is a financial calculator, commas are automatically applied where they should be, giving this device a feeling that it's more luxurious than your average calculator. This is the kind of calculator that will guarantee looks from passersby as you walk with it.

The 10bII also feels as good as it looks. It fits nicely in the palm of my hand allowing for simple one-handed operations. There is absolutely no give when any two points are pressed so I can feel comfortable leaving this in my pocket all day, especially with its provided leather case.

I need an entire paragraph for the button feel alone. Readers of my reviews should know by now how much I love clicky buttons. It's like this device was designed specifically for me. There is an audible click with every button press and it is so satisfying. Every single operation feels great, and this is on top of the great results looking great on the great display great.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a huge fan of Hewlett Packard calculators. I've never used one that I didn't like. This device runs on two CR 2032 batteries that are easily accessed via a panel that can be opened with a fingernail. HP knew this was going to be a go-to financial calculator and ensured its reliability by doing this.

This calculator was found at Goodwill in a glass display case. I paid $7.99 for it.

HP still has this device's manual posted on their website. Click here to check it out.
This is as far as I could safely tear this calculator down. I didn't want to risk breaking it.

19 November 2018

Review: Jot Pocket Calculator

Welcome to another week of calculator reviews! Starting this week, I'm going to highlight the best comments of the previous week. These comments may come from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or this site. Feedback is always appreciated, so thank you for your kind messages!

In response to the Rock On Drum Kit Calculator Review
I'm so glad my review could be so helpful.

A few weeks ago I reviewed the Jot Scientific Calculator and was disappointed with it. It was a $1 calculator with too many design flaws to recommend. Today, I'm giving Jot another chance with their Pocket Calculator, which also costs $1 and can be found at the Dollar Tree.

Jot Pocket Calculator
Wow. What a piece of junk. I was able to make sure this thing actually worked before removing it from its packaging, but until it was actually in my hands for use, I had no idea how bad this really was. The very first thing I noticed when this went into the palm of my hand was how rough and sharp the sides were due to terrible injection molding. The face plate and back piece don't fit together quite right, so this only exacerbates the side problems.

The buttons feel okay, which is probably the best thing I can say about this device. The screen is unusually small for the size of the calculator and it runs on a battery so there's a lot of empty space inside that could have been used to fit a solar cell.

During the video review, I ran out of things to say, so I disassembled the device to make it a bit longer. Everything inside felt cheap and poorly designed. That's not so much of an issue, but what isn't shown in the video is the calculator no longer working properly after I reassembled it.

This calculator is further evidence that $1 calculators are not worth buying. The Jot Scientific Calculator had a few redeeming qualities, so I had some hopes for this one, since it has less functionality but costs the same amount.
Here's a picture of it not working, next to a useless manual.

Like that other one, this one also has to be completely disassembled in order to get to the battery. I'm generally careful when putting things back together, so someone who isn't as interested in calculator preservation as I am will likely mess it up as well.

I still have one more Jot calculator to review, and that one's not looking promising...

Back view.

Internal view.
Another internal view.

16 November 2018

Update: No longer posting every week day

Hello! Due to things going on in my life, I am reducing the number of calculator reviews I put out every week. Starting 19 November, I will be posting reviews on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This will help take reduce the pressure of getting a video and a written review made every day, so maybe quality will increase too?

In addition (haha) to calculator reviews, I have also been working on creating content about other vintage technologies. Several of these videos have already been recorded, but they require some editing work to become presentable. I'm very excited about it, and I think people will enjoy it as well.

I still fully intend to produce quality calculator content that will continue until I run out of calculators to review.

Thanks again for all of the social media support and comments!

Review: Radio Shack EC-451

It's Friday, so that means a remake of a Facebook review! It's nice to go back and update my thoughts after a bit since I get my hands on so many different calculators. Usually my first impression is accurate, but sometimes I notice different things that are worth mentioning. As always, I'll include an image of the original review at the end of this post.
Radio Shack EC-451

The Radio Shack EC-451 doesn't look like much, and that's because it really isn't. It features a fairly boring color scheme and a clamshell design that, while practical, doesn't do much for its aesthetic. The EC-451 just wants to be a calculator, not a fashion statement.

As a calculator, it's really good. The buttons work great, and the display is contrasty and all those other things that can be good about a calculator. None of it is special or all that interesting, with the exception of the metric conversion table printed into the cover. I really like it when extra space is utilized, especially for a device that's clearly going for function over form.

Protective clamshell design. Neat.
Nothing about the EC-451 feels unnecessary. Everything is where it should be and because of this it's a reliable device. It's dual-powered, using solar panels and a single battery inside, allowing it to work in a variety of conditions (those varieties being bright and not very bright).

The clamshell design does its job in protecting the LCD screen and preventing accidental pocket calculations. It's small and thin enough to slide into any pocket and sturdy enough to withstand a reasonable amount of abuse.

It's not the type of calculator anyone is going to put on display, but if reliability is vital for your needs, the EC-451 is worth getting. I got this in a bag with several other calculators at Goodwill for $3 I think.

I wish I had more to say about this device. Enjoy your weekend.

Back, clamshell open.

Internal components
I couldn't safely remove the inner assembly.

The Original Facebook Review.
Note: I originally stated that the screen could be too dim at times, but during the re-review, I did not notice this issue.

15 November 2018

Review: Lloyd's Accumatic 30

One of the strange side-effects of reviewing calculators is that people really like telling me when they're using a calculator. People also send me pictures and tell me stories about devices they used long ago. I love this. Many have inspired me to seek out calculators to try them myself, and this has been a huge motivator for continuing this project. Please feel free to send me messages on any social media platform if there's something you'd like to share!

The Lloyd's Accumatic 30.

What I also like is that I come across devices such as the Lloyd's Accumatic 30 Microelectronic Handheld Calculator. I admit to having been unfamiliar with the Lloyd's brand, but it's actually very interesting. While looking up other devices, I noticed a lot of them had a similar look to this one, but each had buttons positioned in different ways. An image search of "Lloyd's Calculator" will yield what initially looks like a bunch of the same calculator.

Of course, I'm not here to talk about all of them. The only Lloyd's I've got in my collection so far is this Accumatic 30. This beautiful device wears its decade on its sleeve and is unmistakably from the 1970s. The dyes required to make these shades of brown apparently only existed during that time. 
Another great 70s feature that is sadly underutilized in other decades is the amazing bluish-greenish fluorescent display. I can appreciate a calculator that works just as fine in the dark as in direct light. 

Face plate removed.

Everything about the way this calculator looks appeals to me, even on the inside. Taking this thing apart was very satisfying, so it's definitely worth checking out the pictures I've got below this review.
The Accumatic 30 also feels great. It's dense and sturdy and almost too wide for the palm of my hand. It's not big enough to qualify for desktop status, but it's almost too big to call a pocket calculator. The leather case is just a cherry on top of this mathematical sundae.

Functionally it's pretty basic. The buttons feel fine, but aren't anything special. You can easily see what this device is capable of doing with a quick glance at any picture. Even though the device is pretty large, and it lacks more advanced functionality, it doesn't seem like it's too big for what it can do. 
Top view. Slightly broken plastic.

It's not my rarest or most valuable calculator, but this is one I keep in my display case simply because it looks like it belongs there. I'm definitely intrigued by the Lloyd's brand, so I'll be keeping my eye out for more of them. 
I found this one at Goodwill a while ago, probably for around $3.00. It runs on four AA batteries.
Back, battery cover removed.

Face plate removed for cleaning

Inner assembly, front

Inner assembly, back.

Calculator in its leather case.

14 November 2018

Review: Franklin Merriam-Webster's Dictionary & Thesaurus (MWD-1470)

Eventually I would like to review and discuss more than just calculators on this site. For now, I don't want to offend my fans by daring to go too far out of scope. For now, every device must have some kind of calculator function and at least kind of look like a calculator.

MWD-1470: Dictionary Function
And that's good news, because the loose requirements allows me to review the Franklin MWD-1470. This device is far more than just a calculator, and definitely something worth keeping in a pocket at all times. Finally, a device is available that puts much of the world's knowledge into the palm of your hands.

The MWD-1470 is primarily a dictionary and thesaurus, as its label implies. Turning it on, you're greeted with a graphical user interface showing six items. Dictionary and Thesaurus are the first two options, and they work basically as you'd expect. This is a lot more convenient than carrying around a dictionary, thesaurus, or both in your pocket, and we're just getting started with the amazing functionality of this device.

Strangely, the word "calculator" does not provide a definition in the device's dictionary. The thesaurus does give synonyms, but considering what I'm holding in my hand, this is just weird.

Hangman game
The third icon takes you to an educational application that is mostly useless. The word database lets you add words so who cares. Then there's a spelling bee that is just sort of baffling. This device has no audio output, so it just shows you the word and then you type it out. I don't get it. The other two options in the learning center are flashcards, which just show a random word, and an SAT word list. I can't imagine this device being of much use for learning the SAT, but then again I've never taken that test so I'd look for another review if you must know.

The fourth icon brings you games. Word games. This includes hangman, anagrams, word train (?), word builder (??), and jumble. None of these games are particularly fun and are really just exercises in guessing words by typing letters. If you're into simple word games, I highly recommend the MWD-1470 I guess.

And then the fifth icon opens up some word list application where you can add words to a database. I don't understand the purpose of this unless you need to memorize a list of words for some reason. Or maybe you want to create a list of your favorite words? That's weird if you need that, but you do you.

Finally, the sixth icon lets you read a short help guide or change some settings.

But we're still not done!
Calculator function

Pressing "ORG" you're brought to the more mathematical aspects of the device. Here you get a clock, name and address database, calculator, metric to standard conversions, and a currency exchange rate converter. Each of these is very simple but they work just fine. The calculator only uses a small portion of the screen for some reason, but it's got all of your standard functionality.

And that's it! That's everything on the device!

Yet not really.

See, you can add cartridges to increase this device's functionality. I only have "The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia" cartridge, but it adds an entire encyclopedia! This puts a lot of power into the palm of my hands, and if I had the entire set, I'd probably be unstoppable.

Back with cartridge inserted
I can't vouch for any of the other cartridges as they are hard to find and rather expensive. There are a few games, ebooks, and language translation things out there that I'll be happy to review if I ever get my hands on them.

Functionally, this device is pretty amazing. Everything works well and there's not much load time for anything. The keys work great, and the screen has enough contrast to read with ease. It feels dense for its size, and this is likely due to the durable plastic and rubber material that make it up.

I didn't even know I had bought this when I got it. It came in a bag full of calculators that I got at Goodwill for like $3, so I was surprised to find that it's actually a cool device. Franklin has made several other similar devices that I'd definitely like to try out.

Back, cartridge and batteries removed
Disassembled, front and back assemblies.

Inside, back assembly removed.