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Old Calculator Museum Advertising & Documentation Archive


An early advertisement for the first-generation Mathatronics Mathatron calculators
April, 1965

This is an early advertisement for the first generation Mathatronics Mathatron 4-24 and 8-48 electronic calculators touting the ease of evaluating complex calculations, as well as their simple to use learn-mode keyboard programming capability.

The calculators were miracles of their time, setting many firsts in fledgeling electronic calculator industry that haven't been acknowledged historically. The Mathatronics Mathatron was formally introduced in November of 1963, though two early production, fully functional Mathatron 8-48 calculators were delivered to Mathatronics' first paying customer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in March of '63.

It is historically stated that the Olivetti Programma 101 was the first programmable desktop electronic calculator. That isn't really true. The Mathatron calculator was learn-mode programmable, just as the Programma 101 was, but was introduced nearly two years before the Programma 101 was announced.

Industria Macchine Elettroniche (IME) in Italy claimed that their beautifully designed IME-84 was the first electronic calculator in the world to automatically calculate square root. The IME-84 was introduced in April, 1964.

Hayakawa Electric (later known as Sharp) claims that their Compet 10 was the first fully solid-state (transistorized) electronic calculator. Sharp first showed a prototype of the Compet 10 in March of 1964.

Friden showed a prototype of their capable and very stylish Friden 130 in June of 1963. The Friden 130 is also a candidate for the first transistorized electronic calculator, beating Sharp's Compet 10, but not the Mathatron.

Monroe introduces its EPIC 2000 in December of 1964, exclaiming it is the first printing, programmable electronic calculator. The EPIC-2000 is one of the earliest printing electronic calculators, but the Mathatronics Mathatron, with its ticker-tape printer, was the first production printing electronic calculator. The EPIC-2000 is also a two-piece calculator, with the keyboard/printer unit sitting on the desktop, and a small suitcase-sized unit with the electronics sitting on the floor beneath, with a rather huge cable connecting the two unis. The Mathatron is a completely self-contained calculator.

Bottom line, the Mathatronics Mathatrons were revolutionary in many ways, setting numerous historical benchmarks, some of which were not matched by other electronic calculators until years later.

Among these firsts, perhaps the most incredible was that the Mathatrons provided full algebraic entry, which also followed the mathematical rules of precedence (known as PEMDAS: Parenthesized equations evaluated first, followed by Exponentiation, then Multiplication and Division, then Addition and Subtraction), so that math problems could be entered into the calculator exactly as they were written on paper. For example, to solve √4x(2+3) on the Mathatron, one would enter:
[√] 4 [X] [(] 2 [+] 3 [)] [=]

and what would be printed on the tape would be:

√ 4 X ( 2 + 3 ) = 4.472136

To perform the same calculation on the Monroe EPIC 2000, the problem would have to be entered as:
2 [ENT] 3 [+] 4 [X] [√] [PRINT]

While the Monroe calculator requires fewer keypresses, some thought is required by the operator to enter the calculation into the machine in order to achieve the correct answer, implementing the rules of precedence in their mind before committing the calculation to the machine, while no such thought is required on the Mathatron. The Mathatron's fully algebraic mode of entry did not become available on any other calculator until years later.

Along with this remarkable achievement, The Mathatron was the first learn-mode programmable standalone desktop calculator, with either 24 or 48 steps of magnetic-core based program memory. The Mathatron calculator was also the very first printing electronic calculator, utilizing a ticker tape-like printing mechanism that printed a transcript of the problem being solved on a 5/8ths inch-wide paper tape, as it was entered, and then printing the result when the [=] key is pressed. It also was the first to be able to accept and operate on numbers in scientific notation; with a capacity of up to nine significant digits and an exponent ranging from 10-42 to 10+58. Not only was it the first electronic calculator to support scientific notation, it was also the first to have fully automatic floating decimal point, as well as leading-zero suppression. Many of these first were, in some cases, not available on any other standalone desktop electronic calculator until years later.

All of this is a testimony to the brilliance of the design of the Mathatron. Given the technology at the time it was designed, it still seems almost unbelievable that such a machine that could even have been made.