12 April 2019

Review: Sharp Elsi Mate El-120

Searching thrift shops and other stores for calculators is one of the most rewarding aspects of calculator collecting. When I first started getting serious about collecting, I bought just about anything I found to make the collection grow as quickly as possible. I ended up with a lot of very boring devices because of this. But in my searches, my heart sometimes skips a beat when I discover something truly unique.
Sharp Elsi Mate El-120.
The Sharp Elsi Mate EL-120 was one such find. I had never seen anything like it before. It features a horizontal design, three digit display, and a button that says "count." I cannot explain the design choices.

Before I get into its interesting functionality, I want to address the overall aesthetic. This calculator looks awesome.The red and black color choice makes it look more like an old portable computer than a simple calculator. It uses the gorgeous green LED display that I love so much in early electronic calculators. It's a very sturdy device that simply looks fantastic despite adhering to zero typical design choices.

This button adds one.
The unique look it has raises several questions for me, most importantly: what is this for? Only being able to display three digits at a time makes this less useful for routine calculations than a standard eight digit device. The count button adds one to whatever number is displayed, so this would be useful for counting things one at a time I guess. But the position of that button isn't ideal for how you would normally hold this calculator.

To view the display while using the count button, you have to hold it in a very awkward position. It's not extremely uncomfortable, but if you're counting for a long period of time I imagine you'd get some serious wrist cramps.

The EL-120 comes from Japan in the year 1973. I found it at a thrift shop for $5. It's not a device I have any real need for, but if you have any idea who would benefit from this design, please let me know.
Calculator inside original box.
Bottom of box.
Back of calculator, batteries removed.

Back cover removed, exposing internal components.
LED display and components exposed.
I didn't want to remove this and risk letting the buttons fall out.

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