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Monroe 650 Calculator

Updated 5/10/2005

The 650 is Monroe's version of Canon's Canola L163 desktop calculator, sharing the same basic internals, but packaged with Monroe's inimitable 'style' of machines from the era. The 650 is the top-end machine of Monroe's 600-Series, which include the 610, 620, 630, 640 and 650.

The 650 works virtually identically to the Canon Canola L163, except for a couple of minor deviations. The 650 does not provide the [%] key (useful for percentage calculations) that is provided on the Canon L163. To make up for this, the Monroe 650 offers more capable memory functionality than the L163. All of this done in the interest of market differentiation, allowing Canon and Monroe to co-exist in the marketplace, yet sell machines that are essentially clones of each other internally.

Monroe also marketed the Monroe 640, identical to the 650 with the only change being the omission of the square root function. Internally, the 640 and 650 are identical. The electronics of the 640 are fully capable of calculating square roots, but Monroe simply removed the [√] key to access the function on the 640. The additional cost for the square root key on the 650? $70! Just for a keyboard switch and key cap.

Interior of Monroe 650

Both the 650 and its Canon counterpart share the same basic internal calculating platform, made by Canon in Japan. The exhibited Monroe 650 was manufactured in late 1972, as opposed to the mid-1971 production of the Canon L163 in the museum. It is apparent from comparison that a few minor changes were made, but the basic platform is identical. The five-chip LSI chip set that makes up the brains of the Monroe 650 is identical between it and the Canon L163, with the TMC1761 (Shift Register), TMC1763, TMC1764 (Display), and TMC1765 chips combining forces with two ROMs (TMC1768 and TMC1793) that contain the microcode that direct the operation of the calculator. The TMC1793 ROM is a later part number than the TMC1769 occupying the same spot on the circuit board in the Canon machine, apparently containing bug fixes or other enhancements that came about due to the later production of the exhibited Monroe 650.

The main circuit board, shared between both the Monroe 650 and the Canon L163, differentiates the function between the two machines by virtue of a pair of wire jumpers that select whether the board is being used in a Monroe 650 or a Canon L163. The state of these jumpers are read by the microcode at power-up to customize certain aspects of the calculator (such as the [%] key on the Canon L163 versus memory function key(s) on the Monroe 650)

Main Board of the Monroe 650 (note daughter board)

The 650 also contains an add-on daughter board that contains five Toshiba small-scale integrated circuit devices in dual-inline packages. This board is not included in the Canon version of the machine. The function this board performs is not known, but it is clear that its inclusion was anticipated in the design of the main circuit board, as the locations where the wires that connect the daughter board to the main board are clearly marked in silk screen on the main board.

Detail of Display Subsystem

The Monroe 650, like the Canon L163, has 16 digits of capacity, using Nixie tubes for the display. The Nixie tubes are driven by discrete transistor driver circuitry, and are driven in a multiplexed fashion. Along with the sixteen Nixie tubes, a bank of 15 individual neon indicators are situated above and between each of the Nixies, providing indicators that help with display readability by lighting up to group the digits in the display into groups of three. The display subassembly connects to the main circuit board through an edge connector and three individual wires that provide power supply connections. Each Nixie tube contains the digits zero through nine and a right-hand decimal point. The display system provides leading zero suppression by blanking insignificant zero digits. Trailing zero suppression is provided by the machine always positioning results so that they are right-justified on the display while preserving as many digits behind the decimal point as possible.. A neon indicator with an orange jewel labeled "OVERFLOW" is situated at the left end of the display, below the Nixie tubes. This indicator lights when an illegal operation has been performed (for example, division by zero), or when the capacity of the machine has been exceeded. When the OVERFLOW indicator is on, the calculator keyboard is logically locked, ignoring any key presses other than the [C] key to clear the calculator and the overflow condition. The sign of the number on the display is indicated by another neon lamp at the right-end of the display, that lights through a minus-sign-shaped cutout in the display panel.

Keyboard Detail of Monroe 650

The Monroe 650 provides addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and square root functions. The machine uses arithmetic logic, functioning like an adding machine does, with the addition or subtraction operations coming after each numeric entry. The calculator can operate in fixed or full-floating decimal mode, as defined by a knob with positions for fixed decimal at zero through ten digits behind the decimal point, or "F" for floating decimal. A push-on/push-off keyboard key, [K], enables a constant function for multiplication and division. A three-position slide switch selects the rounding mode of the calculator, with positions for truncation, rounding, or force up. A feature that exists on the 650 that doesn't exist on the Canon machine is the addition of two neon indicators situated on the keyboard panel above the multiply and divide keys that light to indicate when a multiplication or division operation is pending.

As with just about all Canon-designed machines, an [RV] key is provided that swaps the two operands in multiplication and division operations, and a [←] key provides for correcting numeric entry by backing out digits one at a time. The [CD] key clears the entire display without affecting already entered operands, and the [C] key clears everything except for the memory registers, as well as resetting any error condition. The 650 has two completely independent accumulating memory registers. Each register has a neon indicator in the keyboard panel that lights to indicate that the register has non-zero content. Each memory register has independent keys to add to, subtract from, recall, and recall/clear the memory register. Each memory register has a two-position slide switch associated with it that enables a special function of the memory register. Memory register 1's special function switch (labeled "Σx) allows for automatic summation of the first operand in multiplication and division operations. Memory register 2 will automatically accumulate the results of multiplication and division if its special function (labeled "ACC") switch is enabled.

Like the Canon L163, the Monroe 650 provides a two-digit electro-mechanical solenoid-activated counter that is triggered by depressions of the [+=] or [-=] key. Each time either of these keys is pressed, the counter increments by one count. This counter is useful as an item counter for functions such as calculating averages of groups of numbers. A small button next to the item counter resets the counter to zero when depressed.

Keyboard Assembly

The keyboard assembly of the Monroe 650 is quite complicated, with a good-sized circuit board that serves both as the backplane for the keyboard switches, as well as containing the keyboard encoding logic. The keyboard uses tried-and-true magnetic reed switches for reliability and simplicity. Keyboard encoding is done by simple diode arrays. The numeric keypad is encoded into four bits of BCD (Binary-Coded Decimal), and the function keys are encoded into unique eight-bit function codes. The keyboard assembly connects to the main circuit board through an edge connector that plugs into the front edge of the main board. A separate individual wire connection feeds back to the power supply to provide the high-voltage necessary to drive the neon indicator bulbs for memory status and pending multiply/divide indicators. Two separate wires, with insulated plug-in style spade connections provide the connection to the "OVERFLOW" indicator.

The Monroe 650 seems to operate a just a little faster than its Canon counterpart. It is unknown why this is. Speculation is that it could be that Monroe negotiated that the calculator branded as them be faster than the native calculators. Monroe's marketing folks wanted their machine to be faster than Canon's and part of the function of the "650/L163" jumpers alters the clock rate of the Monroe 620, speeding it up. machine. It also could be that the differing ROM part numbers between the two machines may indicate that the Monroe 650 benefitted from newer versions of the algorithms for the math operations that provide results more quickly on the Monroe machine as opposed to its Canon twin. The Canon L163 can take up to two seconds to perform some square root operations, while the 650 seems to take no more than one second to perform any square root given to it. The "all-nines" divided by one benchmark seems to take about 1/3 second as opposed to 1/2 second on the Canon machine. Like the Canon L163, while the calculator is busy calculating the Nixie tubes are blanked, but the 'comma' and negative indicators flicker quite a bit.

A Profile View of the Monroe 650

The exhibited Monroe 650 spent its life as a dedicated servant of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Division, Stanislaus National Forest, California, as evidenced by two asset tags affixed to the machine. Date codes on IC's in the machine, along with two Quality Assurance tags inside the cabinet place the manufacture of the machine in the late part of 1972. The calculator was obviously was well-cared for, as it was quite clean inside, and the cabinet shows only minimal signs of wear, fading, and grime accumulation.

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

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