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Monroe 620 Calculator

Updated 5/10/2005

The Litton/Monroe 620 is another example of a Canon-designed calculator in a Monroe box. The insides of the machine are all-Canon, as is the general design and layout of the keyboard and functions. This 620 was made in early 1972, with date codes on the IC's in the 1st week of 1972. The 620 is a very close relative of the Canon Canola L121, using the same Texas Instruments-made four-chip LSI set for its brains. The only major differences between the Monroe 620 and the Canon L121 is the obvious difference of case styling, and also the fact that the 620 gets an additional digit of capacity, with 13 digits instead of the 12-digit capacity of the L121.

The 620 is member of the 600-series of Monroe calculators, which include the 610, 620, 630, 640, and 650.

Interior View of Monroe 620

The 620 is a basic four function electronic calculator with a single memory accumulator register. The calculator has a 13-digit Nixie tube display, and uses fixed decimal point logic, with the decimal point location selected via a rotary switch on the keyboard panel, at 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 digits behind the decimal point.

Detail of Calculator Logic

The logic of the machine is divided up amongst the four LSI's in the chipset. The "Entry Chip" (TMC1754) provides the logic for handling the input from the keyboard; It takes care of key debouncing, locking the keyboard on overflow, keyboard encoding, and other input-related functions. The "Data Chip" (TMC1733) contains the majority of the working registers of the machine, logic for routing and some processing of data as it is channeled between the various registers, and some Nixie display decoding/multiplexing logic. The "Timing Chip" (TMC1753) provides for controlling and coordinating the operations of the calculator, as well as providing for some miscellaneous functions such as keeping track of decimal point location. Last, but not least, the "Arithmetic Chip" (TMC1807) contains the logic that actually performs arithmetic operations. All of the main logic of the machine is packed onto one circuit board, with hand-wired interconnects between the Nixie display module, keyboard module, and power-supply module. The Nixies, JPC B-5755's (clones of Burroughs parts of the same part number), use discrete-transistor driver circuitry, and are multiplexed rather than directly driven. The keyboard is of the standard magnet-activated reed-switch design. A special circuit in the "Entry Chip" monitors the keyboard, causing an 'overflow' error should more than one digit key be activated at a time, making it more difficult for data entry errors to occur.

Detail of the Monroe 620's Overflow Indication

The calculator performs the standard four functions. A push-on/push-off key labeled "K" enables or disables the constant function, which works for multiplication or division only. The "RV" key swaps the content of the hidden operator register with the display, useful in cases where the divisor and dividend in a math operation need to be swapped. The 'back arrow' key deletes the last digit on the display, shifting the display to the right, to allow for correction of input errors. The backspace key doesn't handle undoing the decimal point if it is backspaced over, so if a decimal point is entered in error, the backspace key can't be used to fix the error, and the user must resort to using the "CD" (Clear Display) key to clear the display and re-enter the number. The "CD" key also clears the machine in the event of an overflow condition. The "C" key clears everything, excluding the memory register. The "C" key also removes any error condition except if the memory register has overflowed. To clear a memory overflow condition, the memory must be recalled with the "*" key, which recalls the content of the memory to the display (with any overflow digits discarded), and clears the memory register. The memory of the machine operates somewhat differently from the Canon L121, though they both share the same LSI chipset. The differences are likely 'programmed' by jumpers that define the various different configurable functions of the logic chipset. The "=+" key acts as an "=" key, and adds the result of the calculation to the memory register. Likewise, the "=-" key subtracts the result of a calculation from the memory register. In either case, the display is not affected. To recall the memory register's content without clearing it, the "diamond" key does the task. The "*" key, as mentioned before, recalls the memory register to the display and clears the memory register. A slide switch selects whether or not the calculator performs roundoff. A neon tube indicator at the left end of the display, with a cut-out window in the shape of a "-" sign indicates negative results, and a small jeweled indicator near the lower left end of the display lights up via a neon bulb "OVERFLOW" when overflow conditions occur.

The "Brag Tag" on the Monroe 620 (note the "Litton" logo at the left end of the tag)

Dividing by zero results in no indicated error condition, and the calculator enters a somewhat strange state, where the machine counts in an internal (not displayed) register at a rate of approximately 10,000 counts per second. Pressing a single digit, followed by the "+=" key will display the count as of the time that the digit was pressed. Other keypresses result in unpredictable results. Pressing the "C" key clears up any of the strangeness created by dividing by zero and returns the machine to normal operation.

Text and images Copyright ©1997-2011, Rick Bensene.