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News Archive - Sony Sobax ICC-500W Introduction

Sony Sobax ICC-500W Electronic Calculator Introduction Article
Electronics, May 29, 1967

A reasonably detailed introduction article for Sony's first electronic calculator, the Sony "Sobax" ICC-500W, to be available for sale in Japan at the beginning of June, 1967. It was some time before the Sony's initial calculators were available for sale in the US, with machines showing up in US office machine retailers in the middle part of 1968.

The article was clearly published before details about the model number and some capabilities of the calculator were available, but provides a reasonably good portrayal of the machine and the technology behind it. One notable error is the assertion that Mr. Zenichi Kitamura from the University of Osaka was the inventor of the ultrasonic delay line. The notion of ultrasonic delay lines using wire as the propgation medium for the pulses representing the digits of the working registers of a calculating machine had been around for a long time prior to the development of the Sony ICC-500W. It is possible that Mr. Kitamura developed a novel means by which the digital pulses were injected into the delay line wire, as well possibly the design of the transducer(s) that pick up the pulses in the wire and translate them to electrical impulses when they reach the appropriate amount of delay time. The article also states that it is believed that Sony's machine is the first to use such technology, and while it may be true if Mr. Kitamura's delay line technology was particularly unique. If the article is referring to wire delay line technology in general, the statement is incorrect, as there were a number of calculators introduced long before Sony's rather late entry into the electronic calculator marketplace, including most notably, one of the earliest solid-state electronic calculators, the Friden EC-130, introduced in early 1964.

It is notable that the article describes the circuitry of the machine as using hybrid IC's, which is misleading, as the hybrid circuits that Sony used were technically not integrated circuits. The devices placed on the substrate of the hybrid circuit were standard diodes and transistors, with resistors made by placing a film of carbon on the substrate between two traces. The carbon served as the resistive element, which was trimmed to provide the proper resistance needed. Capacitors were also created on the substrate using a different process. Once the circuitry was completed, the substrate was dipped into an electrically neutral material that covers the circuitry and protects it from moisture and physical damage. Sony did not use true integrated circuits its calculators until its second generation calculators, which utilized Sony-manufactured bipolar (DTL) plastic-packaged dual-inline ICs.