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Friden History - A Profile

Author Unknown, Circa 1967

This document was found amongst a cache of old Friden parts and documentation that was donated by the estate of Mr. Clifford Rueff, who was a Friden Service Technician for many years. The original document, which is believed to have been written sometime in 1967, likely by a Friden Employee, is in rather poor condition, and thus is being transcribed here rather than being scanned. The document is transcribed literally, with the exact wording and punctuation of the original document.

Curator's Comments: It is interesting to note that there is absolutely no mention of Friden's major accomplishment of developing one of the earliest desktop electronic calculators, the Friden EC-130. The EC-130 was a major accomplishment, and provided a huge boost to the company's bottom line as the machine (and it's follow-on, the Friden EC-132) were selling as fast as the factory could make them, with a sizable profit margin. Along with that sizable omission, there is little note of Friden's developments in small computing systems that began with the acquisition of Benson-Lehner's original invoicing machine, based on a modified Friden calculator that was interfaced electrically to a control unit operated by relay logic, and a modified typewriter that was also electrically activated by the relay logic to perform automatic invoicing, billing, and other form-based calculations that required addition, subtraction and multiplication. This machine became the basis for Friden's long line of Computyper machines which were also a highly profitable product line through the 1960's and early 1970s. The success of the Computyper, along with its evolution to transistorized (and later, integrated circuit) electronics for the calculating and control logic, laid the groundwork for Friden's eventual move into development and sales of true small- and mid-scale general purpose computer systems. All of these significant developments occurred during the time-frame that this document appears to cover, yet, there's little or no mention of any of these critical developments. It seems that whomever wrote this document was more enamored with the acquired postal equipment business than much else.


The depression still cast a long and somber shadow in 1936 and it was not a favorable time to incorporate a fledgling business. But a Swedish-born engineer had the faith and courage to set out - despite the economic gloom - on a $100,000 stake provided by four financial backers.

Carl M. Friden lodged his new venture - the Friden Calculating Machine Company - in a small, two-story building in Oakland, California. In a second-floor loft, he worked out the inventions which would bring success.

Challenges arose. One was that Carl Friden owned previous patents and had to work out an invention that did not infringe upon his earlier ideas or those of other people. He resolved this with the now-famous Model A Calculator, a fully automatic unit.

Another problem; no machines were available to customer because none had been manufactured. A Friden executive took the prototype calculator - the only one in existence - and carrying it under his arm, called upon potential customers. In some cases he did not even have that unit to show.

Despite these handicaps, enough money was collected from would-be customers to finance initial production. From the first, Friden inspired confidence in its design and engineering capabilities and this trust - along with superior marketing - has spurred continuous growth.

By 1936 the company was large enough to require a new plant on a 14-acre site in San Leandro, California. Before Carl Friden died nine years later, he saw his firm achieve a dominant position in sales of rotary calculators.

At Friden's helm for the next 10 years was Walter S. Johnson, one of the company's original backers and a noted philanthropist. The firm, during his term as president, began to diversity its product line - first with adding machines and then data processing equipment, composing machines, mail-room equipment, pay and production control systems equipment and electric heading equipment for home, farm and industry.

This expansion came in 1956 with the acquisition of Commercial Controls Corporation of Rochester, New York, developers of the Flexowriter* automatic writing machine and the Justowriter* automatic composing machine and the Mailing equipment. The merger gave Friden the strong position it holds today in the integration application of punched paper tape in data processing and graphic arts.

The growth rate of the Mailing Equipment product line rose sharply after 1959 when Friden purchased the assets of International Postal Supply Company of New York and the Cummington Corporation of Boston. Today Friden's Mailing Equipment line is a long and varied one.

By late 1954, Friden operations covered such a large portion of the world that a plant was opened in Wageningen, The Netherlands. At present the company has plants in Mechelen, Belgium, and Nijmegen, Holland, as well as four American cities.

In October 1963 Friden became a division of the Singer Company. The same month saw Friden acquire Physical Sciences Corporation, an Arcadia, California firm, which designs and builds space environment components and instruments.

As a member of the Singer family, Friden entered a new phase. The parent firm's long experience in foreign markets has proved invaluable as has the strong financial backing of this billion-dollar enterprise.

One of the result has been a stepped-up research program which led, early in 1967, to the opening of an Advanced Research Center built to Friden specifications in Palo Alto, California. Research is also carried on at other locations.

Expansion of product lines is a continuing process. In 1967 Friden marketed a line of office copiers.

Still more areas are certain to be explored as Friden has evolved from a calculator company (though calculators are still a staple product) to a business machines firm involved with products ranging from a 3-3/4 pound postal scale to sophisticated data processing systems.

* A Trademark of Friden, Inc.

Text and images Copyright ©1997-2023, Rick Bensene.