Old Calculator Museum Advertising & Documentation Archive
Early Advertisement for the Wang Laboratories 700A Calculator
An early advertisement for the new Wang 700A Electronic Calculator
Electronics Magazine, May, 1970
This is a relatively early advertisement for the Wang 700A calculator
published a few months after the calculator was generally available
for purchase by customers.
After the Wang 700 was announced in February of 1969, long before
the calculator's high-level design had even been settled, an eager market
had to wait for Wang Labs' new "Hewlett Packard-Killer" calculator to
actually become a product. It wasn't until a year later that regular
production of the Wang 700 calculator began,
and it was about a month after (March, 1970) that orders were actually being
accepted for the "new" Wang 700.
That was a long time for potential customers
to wait...a fact that Hewlett Packard and other high-end electronic
calculator manufacturers were actively exploiting to sell their calculators
to now-former Wang Labs customers who needed more power than Wang's second
generation 200 and 300-series
calculators could manage.
The statement in the advertisement that the Wang 700A was the "World's most
powerful electronic calculator" was demonstrably true, if one could get
their hands on one. At the time, and for quite some time thereafter, there
was no other electronic calculator in existence that could match the
capabilities of the Wang 700A. The closest calculators in existence
at the time were Hewlett Packard's 9100A and
9100B calculators, which
were very powerful electronic calculators, but had less memory and
much smaller secondary storage (magnetic card versus magnetic cassette tape)
than the 700A.
In fact, a secret showing by Hewlett Packard executives
of a pre-production HP 9100A calculator to Dr. An Wang, the CEO/President
of Wang Laboratories in March of 1968 was the impetus that drove Wang
Laboratories to develop the Wang 700. The Hewlett Packard calculator that
Dr. Wang was shown was vastly superior to any of Wang Laboratories'
extremely lucrative line of existing calculators. Had HP not given Dr. Wang
a rather serious wake-up call, Wang Labs could have been caught seriously
off-guard, potentially losing the long-standing position it enjoyed
as the producer of the highest-capability line of advanced calcualtors
The now-dubbed model "700A" had as much magnetic core
memory as some small minicomputers, allowing up to 960 steps of
program storage, and up to 248 memory storage registers. With advanced
math functions that execute at speeds that
exceed those of subroutines to calculate the same functions on small
minicomputers (minicomputers couldn't calculate things like Logarithms
or Square Roots directly and had to have a program written to perform
such calculations), The 700A also operated in floating point decimal mode
natively, where small computer systems generally operated in fixed-point binary,
meaning that the computers would have to have routines written to
perform binary floating point math as well as routines to input and
output the binary numbers in floating point decimal form that humans
could understand. With these advantages, as well as a substantial set
of programming instructions, the 700A could actually out-compute small
minicomputer systems in certain situations, and even though very expensive
for an electronic calculator, was much less expensive than entry-level
minicompuer systems at the time.
See the exhibit for the top-of-the-line Wang 700-series calculator, the
Wang 720C for more information.
Or for more background on the general history of Wang Laboratories'
electronic calculators, see the Old Calculator Museum's
Article on Wang's calculator
(and calculator-based custom-systems) evolution.