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Old Calculator Web Museum Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 6/11/2012

This page is here to help answer any questions that you might have about the museum. I try to keep track of the many questions that I receive as a result of having the museum online, and provide a place here where the most common questions are answered, saving everyone a little bit of time. If you have a question which isn't answered here in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), please don't hesitate to drop me an EMail. You can click the "EMail Me" button in the toolbar above to send me an EMail.


Quick Links to Questions

Why do you do this?
May I copy or use material from the museum?
How much is my calculator worth?
How can I find out how much my calculator is worth?
Do you accept donations of old calculators?
Do you accept monetary donations?
Are any of the calculators in the museum for sale?
Do you buy calculators or related materials?
Can you repair my broken calculator?
Can you give me recommendations for someone who can repair my broken calculator?
Can you provide parts for my calculator?
Can you give me information about a calculator I have that isn't listed in your museum?
Do you have a physical museum that I can visit?
How do you find all the information on these old machines?



Why do you do this?
Simple. I am very interested in preserving and documenting this particular aspect of our technological base. With technologies that change so fast, there are many aspects of technology which come and go so quickly that little record is left of its existence. Calculator technology is an example of this, where the technology advanced at such a tremendous rate that machines were literally outdated by the time they made it to market. This rapid pace of change resulted in many machines having relatively short lifetimes -- even though a machine may have still worked just fine, the savings in desktop space, electricity, and improved functionality and features offered by replacing the machine with a newer one were hard to deny. As a result, many machines were simply cast aside, either relegated to a storage room, basement, garage, or shed, or worse, thrown in the trash. Because technology is something that is generally considered 'disposable' in our society, many examples of the basis for our technologies of today are gone. My goal is to make sure that, even if the machines are massively outclassed by the amazing technology of today, that as much information about these wonders of their time is preserved and shared.

May I copy or use material from the museum?
Not without asking first. The museum materials are copyrighted and protected by law. If you wish to use excerpts or copies of material from the museum, simply send me an EMail explaining your interest, and how you intend the use the information. Please be detailed in your explanation, including specific references to the materials you would like permission to use. Generally, I will grant such requests, with the the provisions being that any materials used carry the Copyright information (© 1997-2015) clear indication of the source of the material (The Old Calculator Web Museum), and the URL of the museum website (http://www.oldcalculatormuseum.com), and that any images be left exactly as they appear in the museum, and that any text is quoted verbatim. There have been numerous cases of people stealing material from the museum, most notably using text or images from the museum for eBay auctions where the seller has a calculator for sale that is exhibited in the museum. In cases where I find such instances occurring, I immediately report the seller to eBay's investigation division as an infringement of eBay's rules and regulations, and a violation of copyright laws. In all cases reported so far, eBay has responded by removing the auction in question, and in one case, barring the seller from listing items on their auction sites. Please don't make life difficult for us both, simply take the time to ask first before using text or images from the museum.

How much is my calculator worth?
A lot of folks write me describing a calculator that they have, wanting to know how much it is worth. The simple answer is that the museum's collection is not focused on the value or investment potential of the machines.

The purpose of the museum is to preserve, document, and share all information possible about late model desktop electromechanical and early electronic calculators. Such a pursuit isn't really related to money, value, or the cost of time.

See the next FAQ Question for more information.

How can I find out how much my calculator is worth?
Some old calculators have attracted interest as collectibles. Even though the focus of this museum is not related to the monetary aspects of collecting, the reality is that to keep the museum going, I must acquire, restore, and provide proper storage space for the machines, as well as providing the computing resource to develop and host the web site. All of these things cost money, most all of which I currently pay out-of-pocket. To help in funding the museum, I will provide expert appraisals of the value of selected calculators for a nominal fee. I only provide appraisals on AC-powered, desktop-style electronic calculators from the period between 1960 and 1979. I do not provide appraisals for ancient calculating devices, adding machines, mechanical or electromechanical calculators, accounting machines, or handheld calculators, as I simply do not have the expertise in these areas of calculating technology to render accurate and value-added appraisals.

If you have an instrument that meets these criteria, and are interested in an appraisal, please write me an EMail providing details about the machine. Include in your EMail the make/model/serial number, cosmetic information (is there damage to the cabinet, is it dirty or clean, condition of accessories?); functional status (does it power up and operate properly, does the keyboard work smoothly, display condition, do all operations provide proper answers?); accessories (manuals, other literature, dust cover, power cord, carrying case, program storage media?); peripherals (card reader, programmer, printer, plotter, I/O interfaces); any information on the history of the machine (are you the original owner, or if not, do you know anything about where the machine came from, how long you've owned the machine?); what you paid for the machine if you purchased it; and, if you have the capability, photos of the machine and accessories that are detailed enough to verify the general cosmetic condition of the calculator. I can accept GIF or JPG images via EMail, or photographs can be mailed to me via the US Mail. Cost of an appraisal is US $75.00 per calculator, and includes a custom-written document containing all information that I can find (historical, technical, operational) about the machine being appraised, a statement of the condition and operability of the machine, and my estimate of the fair market value of the machine as presented. The appraisal will be generated within 10 days of receipt of the information, and will be sent to the customer via EMail, as well as a signed copy of the document sent via conventional mail.

Do you accept donations of old calculators?
Yes. However, due to storage space limitations and my focus on desktop, AC-powered late model electromechanical and early electronic calculators, I have to be selective. Unfortunately, the museum simply cannot rescue every adding machine, modern desk calculator (after about 1980), mechanical calculator, or handheld/pocket calculator that comes along. See my
Wanted page for more specific information on calculators and other related items that the museum is looking for. If you have a machine that is listed there, I'm most certainly interested. Along with calculators themselves, the museum is also interested in calculator accessories, including things such as original power cords, power supplies, carrying cases, dust covers, program storage media (magnetic cards, punched cards, cassette tapes), peripherals(punched card readers, magnetic tape/card readers, plotters, printers, remote keyboard/display units, digital interfaces), printing paper (electrosensitive paper, thermal paper), cables, programmer add-on's, and other such materials. Also, if you have printed materials (old marketing materials, advertising, white papers, operator's manuals, training documentation, service manuals, or periodicals featuring early electronic calculator technology), I will gladly accept donation of such materials. At this time, the museum is not registered as a non-profit organization, and therefore I can not offer any tax relief for donations of equipment or materials. I do credit the donor of any exhibit or information in the museum that comes about as a result of a donation of equipment in the museum's Thanks & Acknowledgements section. The museum will also pay all costs for packaging and shipping donated items to the museum.

Do you accept monetary donations?
I do accept monetary donations to help support and maintain the museum, and will provide credit to all donors in the
Thanks & Acknowledgements section of the museum. As with equipment donations, the museum is not yet listed as a non-profit organization, so I can not provide any tax relief for monetary donations. If you are interested in making a donation, please contact me via EMail.

Are any of the calculators in the museum for sale?
No. The museum is not about money. It is about preserving and documenting the machines, and the technology and history behind them. As such, none of the museum's items are for sale at any price. Occasionally I will come across duplicates or spares which the museum does not need. In such case, the items will be posted on the "For Sale/Trade" section of the
Wanted page. If you are interested in an item listed there, please drop me an EMail.

Do you buy calculators or related materials?
Yes. If you have a machine or related item which is listed in my
Wanted page, or feel that may be of interest to the museum, and are interested in selling it at a fair price, I am definitely interested in talking to you. Send me an EMail with as much information about the machine as you can (see the section on appraisal above for hints about the information needed).

If you have a notion as to what you would like to receive in compensation for your item, please include that information. If you don't know what you want for the item, please consider having me appraise it for you. As a result of the appraisal, I can provide you with an idea of the fair market value of your machine. From there, we can negotiate a mutually acceptable sales price for the machine. The price of the appraisal will be refunded if we end up making a deal on the machine. I pay by cashier's check, and will also pay for all costs related to packing and shipment of the item to the museum.

Can you repair my broken calculator?
Generally not. I've got my hands full as it is keeping all of the machines in the museum up and running. Many of these machines use parts which simply do not exist anymore today, and it can be very difficult to track down replacement parts. Service information on these old machines is also hard to find, making troubleshooting very tedious and time-consuming. If you have a broken machine that fits the criteria for donation, I'm more than happy to accept it, and try to repair/restore it. At the worst, it will be retained as a donor machine for spare parts. As with any donation, your generosity will be credited in any materials generated in the museum as a result of your donation. In some special cases, I may be able to help with restoration of a particularly historical or significant calculator. If you have such a machine that I may be able to help with, by all means,
EMail me, and we'll see what we can work out.

Can you give me recommendations for someone who can repair my broken calculator?
Unfortunately, I can't help you here. For one thing, since about the mid-1970's, anything but the highest-end electronic calculators were desined to be "disposable", meaning that if they broke, it was much more cost-effective to just toss it and buy another calculator to replace it. This still holds true today. Calculators made prior to around 1973 in general were expensive enough that it was practical to repair them. During this time, there were a large number of independent business machine repair shops, along with factory- approved repair centers, as well as repair facilities maintained by many of the major manufacturers, such as Sharp, Casio, Hewlett Packard, Wang Laboratories, Toshiba, Friden, and others. But, as calculators quickly became a low-cost commodity item, most of the manufacturers gave up the practice of repairing caclulators because it was not cost-effective. Maintaining a nation-wide or world-wide service organization was an expensive proposition. Also, keeping an inventory of spare parts was expensive. The response by manufacturers was to offer longer warranty periods, during which the calculator would simply be replaced with the same, or an equivalent model. Also, during the mid-1970's, the "fall out" in the calculator business, which was caused by the introduction of inexpensive large-scale integrated circuits, made it much more difficult for smaller calculator companies to stay in business, and many of them either got liquidated; went bankrupt; or moved to different markets, abandoning the calculator business. Because of the proprietary nature of the designs of electronic calculators from the early 1960's through the early 1970's, independent repair shops had a hard time getting troubleshooting information and schematics necessary to make repair of these machines practical or cost-effective for the customer. Also, some of the exotic parts, such as magnetic core memory, specialized magnetic card reader/writers, and custom hybrid devices were virtually impossible to get. Calculator manufacturers also made life more difficult for independent repair shops by using "in-house" part numbers on components such as integrated circuits, diodes, and transistors to make it more difficult to repair the machines, except in a manufacturer- sponsored repair shop. Most of the repair shops made their money on repairing typewriters and mechanical calculators, and as the demand for repairs on these devices fell off, the independents either moved to other lines of business equipment (copiers, faxes, dictation machines, word processors, etc.), or left the business. Boiled down into the simplest terms, calculators from the '73-'74 timeframe onward are generally not repairable. Earlier calculators are problematic because servicing information is not available, and many of the parts used in these machines are no-longer manufactured. There are only two pieces of guidance that I can give:

1) If you know someone who has a long history of electronics (particularly digital logic) design engineering experience, and they have a lot of time on their hands (or you can afford to pay them as a contractor), they may be able to figure out what is wrong with a pre-'73 electronic calculator, and might even be able to repair something newer, but it's a shot in the dark.

2) Visit the Vintage Calculator Forum website. The URL moves around, so simply do a
Google search for "Vintage Calculator Forum" and follow the links. This forum is for folks who are very interested in old calculating devices, and someone there may be able to give you some advice, although it's more likely you'll find assistance for repair of older mechanical calculators than early electronic machines.

It's pretty much pointless to write me asking if I can make a recommendation for repair of anything made after 1973 to 1974 for all of the above reasons. If you do have an electronic calculator from the early 1960's, through around 1970, please see the FAQ question above regarding whether or not I can repair your old calculator.

Can you provide parts for my calculator?
I am not a business machines parts provider, nor do I stock parts for calculators that are for sale. I do keep some spare parts for old calculators, but these are used to maintain the existing machines in the museum, and are not available for purchase. If you need a ribbon, ink cartridge, paper roll, or other expendables for your calculator, please check your local office supply centers or business machine retailers. Generally, if your calculator is older than about 5 years old, and has developed a problem (broken key on keyboard, printer problems, display problems, or other such malfunction) it's unlikely that the machine is supported anymore by the manufacturer. Your best bet is to simply purchase a new calculator, and consider donating your old calculator (if it was manufactured prior to 1974 or listed on the
Wanted page) to the museum.

Can you give me information about a calculator I have that isn't listed in your museum?
Sure! The only thing I won't do is tell you what I think it is worth (see FAQ questions above on calculator value). If you have a question about the history, operation, technology, or anything else related to a machine that is within my area of focus (late model electromechanical calculators from 1950-1970, and electronic calculators from 1960-1975), please don't hesitate to drop me an EMail. I'm more than happy to provide all information that I can about any particular machine you may be interested in finding out more about. Something to consider: If you have a calculator that isn't in the museum, and want to learn more about it, consider making it featured as a "Guest Exhibit" in the museum. The museum can pay for packaging and shipment of your calculator to the museum, and then I will prepare a detailed exhibit of the machine, and return the machine to you. I have a lot of experience shipping these old machines around, and know how to package them to maximize the chance of a safe round-trip. Of course, I can't guarantee that shipping damage won't occur, and strongly suggest that insurance be taken out on any machine that is shipped. Any machines shown as guest exhibits will prominently credit the source for the machine in the exhibit and accompanying materials.

Do you have a physical museum that I can visit?
All of the machines featured as exhibits in the museum, with the exception of those specifically identified as "Guest" exhibits, are in the physical posession of the museum. As of June, 2005, the museum physically exists in a 1800 sq. ft. heated and air conditioned, stick framed (2x6 construction) shop building. You can see photos of the physical museum by clicking
HERE. The physical museum can be visited by interested parties by appointment, on weekend days, or weekday evenings. If you are going to be in the Portland, Oregon area, and are interested in visiting, please EMail me by clicking on the "EMail Me" button at the top of this FAQ.

How do you find all the information on these old machines?
The technical information on the machines that are exhibited is garnered first-hand, meaning that I experiment with the machines, and take them apart (for cleaning and repair). In the process, because of the many commonalities in the general architecture and function of most calculators, as well as a having a pretty good knowledge of mathematics, computing principles, and an engineering background, I can get a solid idea as to how they were designed, and how they operate. Of course, if I am able to find old literature, such as operator's manuals, marketing literature, books, or product reviews, all the better. The historical information about the machines and the people behind them comes from a number of sources. Sometimes, folks who were employees of the calculator companies back in those days will come across my museum, and share the stories of their experiences. Other times, printed materials documenting company information, such as annual sharholder reports, newspaper and magazine reports, and information from company websites (Sharp, Casio, and Texas Instruments have quite comprehensive company and product history information online) helps fill in gaps. Other information comes from exchanges with other fellow calculator preservationists. Lastly, some comes from my own memories. I was keenly interested in the technology even when I was a child, and can clearly remember things like seeing the Friden 130 at the Seattle World's Fair, tinkering with an Olivetti Programma 101 in the Math Lab in grade school, and, also reading everything I could find on the subject in those days. It all comes together to make up the information in the museum. Visit the
Thanks & Acknowledgements page to see the names of some of the folks who've contributed priceless information or machines to the museum.