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News Archive - Nortec Electronics Closes $2M Calculator IC Deal with Omron



Computers and Automation, September, 1971

Nortec Electronics, a spin-off of General Micro-electronics, closes a $2 million deal to manufacture an inexpensive LSI chipset for Omron Tateisi Electronics in Japan. The result was a three-chip set (which Nortec called the "ALPHA" chipset) that provided all of the calculating electronics needed for a basic desktop calculator. The Omron 800 was the calculator that resulted from the chipset, and set a new low-price benchmark for a basic desktop electronic calculator. Omron licensed the use of the chips and circuit board layout to a number of other calculator manufacturers. Example of machines made by some of these other manufacters are the Adler 804 and Miida 840.

It is worthy of note here that a managerial bungle at Nortec Electronics resulted in Omron getting angry about a price increase in the chips, and canceled the contract with Nortec to make the chips, and proceeded to make an agreement with Hitachi in Japan to make the chips instead. Terms of the agreement between Nortec and Omron provided that Omron would own the design, and that Omron could "second source" other manufactures for the chips if the demand exceeded Nortec's chipmaking capabilities. These loopholes in the agreement allowed Omron the full right to have Hitachi manufacture the chips.

For more information on this history, see the article on the development of the Victor 3900 calculator.