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Dero Research and Development "Sage 1" Desktop Electronic Calculator

Little is known about Dero Research & Development (Huntington, New York), the company that developed the Sage 1 electronic calculator. It is known that Dero was in the business of designing and manufacturing military electronics systems, including radios and control systems.

The company branched into the consumer electronics marketplace with the Sage 1 electronic calculator, which was introduced in October of 1965. This machine appears to be the one and only calculator model produced by Dero Research and Development.

The calculator had a 10-digit seven-segment display (which appears to have been lit by incandescent lamps), with 20-digit double-precision capacity. There was no provision for calculations involving fractional numbers -- there is no decimal point key on the keyboard for entering fractional numbers.

There is little known about the electronics of this machine, other than it utilized early Signetics DTL small-scale bipolar integrated circuits. Signetics was the first IC manufacturer to market a high-volume series of small-scale Diode-Transistor Logic (DTL) devices, introduced 1962. The IC's used in the Sage I were of a later-generation design than this first series, with significant refinements made to the IC technology. This use of Signetics' DTL ICs would make the Sage 1 the first commercially-available bipolar IC-based electronic calculator, assuming it was actually available at the time it was announced, which at this writing, appears unlikely. The Victor 3900, which was introduced at around the same time as the Sage I, probably holds the title of being the first production electronic calculator to be implemented primarily with any form of integrated circuit. The IC's used in the Victor 3900 were of much higher levels of integration, and were based on the new, bleeding-edge Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) technology - an IC technology that would prove to be the key to making electronic calculators smaller, lighter, and battery powered. Along with that, large-scale integration (LSI) MOS IC technology was the enabler of the microprocessor, which was a direct outgrowth of electronic calculator integrated circuit technology.

It is interesting to note in the advertisement that the image of the Sage 1 calculator is printed on a piece of paper, and is not a direct photo of the calculator. It is suspected that at the time the advertisement was created Dero could not provide an actual machine for use in the Signetics ad. The reason for this is not at all clear, but this image is the identical image used in all print materials found thus far relating to the Sage 1 calculator. The same image is used in a target="blank">Competitive Analysis Document published by Friden in 1965, as well as every article published in numerous trade publications announcing the calculator. This image of the calculator looks to be an artist rendition, or perhaps an artist-enhanced photo of a very early prototype of the calculator cabinet, with the artist adding details such as the keyboard, labeling, and display. One has to wonder if the Sage 1 was ever really produced. In fact, as evidenced below, it was.

Dero Research & Development Sage 1 Electronic Calculator, Serial Number 22177

In August of 2021, the Old Calculator Museum received an EMail from a man who claimed he was in possession of a Dero Sage 1 calculator that he had acquired as a result of clearing out the home of an elderly neighbor and friend who had passed away. The neighbor had asked him to take care of managing his estate after he passed.

After the curator of the museum recovered from the shock of the reality that one of these calculators actually existed, after having been on the lookout for one since the mid-1990's, a response was written thanking the gentleman for writing, and asking for more information about the machine, and if perhaps he could take some photos of the machine that could be EMailed to the museum.

After a nervous wait of about two weeks, a response finally came. It turned out that the correspondent had a vacation scheduled, and was away for two weeks before he could respond to the message from the museum. His response came with more information about his neighbor, as well as a series of very nicely taken high-resolution photos of the calculator, including its serial number tag, indicating that it was Serial Number 22177. It was inherently clear from the photographs that this was indeed a Dero Sage I calculator in the flesh. A reply was sent asking if there was a way that the calculator could be acquired by the Old Calculator Museum.

The Sage 1 had been found sitting on a shelf in the home of his neighbor, apparently having sat there for decades without being touched. It was dusty and dirty, furthering the assertion that it hadn't been moved in many years. It appeared to be missing the power switch (the empty rectangular hole at the left end of the keyboard panel). The correspondent indicated that the neighbor had worked in the military surplus business, and had amassed quite a collection of a wide range of old electronics, mostly military in nature, including military radios, ranging and targeting devices, telecommunications gear, and test equipment. The neighbor was into ham radio and electronics in general, and was always tinkering away with pieces in his collection. This lends to speculation that the calculator may have been originally purchased by some branch of the military (the US military was a huge consumer of early electronic calculators, which made much of the number-work involved in managing the complex logistics of the armed forces much faster than the old electromechanical calculators that were in use. It is possible that this Sage 1 ended up as government surplus after its useful life had passed, which this neighbor may have acquired as part of a military surplus auction lot, which he regularly attended.

The task of clearing out the home was an arduous one, as there was a lot of equipment to sort through and figure out what to do with. When the Dero Sage 1 was found, the correspondent performed an Internet search, and found this Wanted page on the Old Calculator Museum, and sent off his EMail to see if more information could be provided about this unusual calculator.

After quite a bit of EMail back and forth, as well as getting some additional photos of the inside of the Sage I, it was sadly determined that the logic circuitry of the calculator as well as its power supply had been removed at some point prior to the calculator being found. The correspondent did an exhaustive search of his neighbors gear hoping to find the guts to the Sage 1, but unfortunately there was no sign of either the power supply or the logic chassis of the calculator to be found. Either the guts had been removed prior to the neighbor acquiring the machine, or (more likely) the guts were removed by the neighbor in an attempt to possibly repair the machine, or perhaps to learn more about how it was constructed. In any case, all that remained of the Sage 1 was the keyboard circuit board and another small circuit board that appears to be part of the display logic. The display assembly itself was also missing.

Efforts were made to negotiate the acquisition of this shell of the Sage 1 for the Old Calculator Museum's collection, but unfortunately, a mutually acceptable agreement could not be made. The shell of the Sage I ended up being sold on eBay to help provide funds to aid in the settlement of the estate.

Whomever ended up with the remains of this relic owns a real piece of history. Though an un-restoreable (to original form) shell of the machine, it serves as proof-positive that the Dero Sage 1 actually was produced and sold, and that some reasonable quantity of the machines were produced.

Serial Number Tag showing Serial Number 22177

The serial number of 22177 does not necessarily indicate that over 22,000 of the Sage 1 were manufactured, which seems highly unlikely. It is common practice in the consumer products industries to start serial numbering at a number that provides enough significant digits to represent the maximum expected quantity of product created during the product's lifetime. Many manufacturers started their serial number sequences as 10001, or 100001. Using this method, it was more difficult for the serial number to be modified or defaced in the situation where an item was stolen, and the thieves would attempt to modify the serial number in order to reduce the chance of the item showing up on police "hot property" lists.

It is most likely that Dero Research & Development started the serial number sequence for the Sage 1 calculator at 20,001, meaning that this calculator would have been the 2,176th Sage 1 manufactured...a number that seems far more realistic for the production of the machine than a figure in the 10,000 to 30,000 range. It is not possible with the information available at this time to know how many of these calculators were produced before Dero Research & Development discontinued the calculator, but it is safe to say that less than 5,000 were made, perhaps substantially fewer than that.

Given the limitations of the calculator, most obviously being its lack of ability to deal with fractional numbers, as well as some apparent issues with reliability and durability. Along with those issues, in a very short time following the introduction of the Sage 1, competitors in the marketplace had put electronic calculators on the market that vastly outclassed the capabilities of the Sage 1. Despite the fact that the Sage 1's price was less than these competitors, the value proposition of the competitor's calculators made them a better buy, and it is suspected that as time went on, it became more and more difficult for Dero to sell the calculators and make any profit on the sale.

In fact, given the investment required to design and engineer an electronic calculator and turn it into a marketable product, along with all of the overhead involved in producing marketing, sales, and service literature, as well as creating a sales force, a distribution network, and customer service department, it's suspected that at its initial retail price of $995 that it is likely possible that Dero lost money on paper with every sale of the calculator.

The Dero Sage 1 was the only calculator that Dero Research & Development produced. It is clear that the limitations of the calculator, combined with the fact that Dero Research & Development was a complete unknown in the world of calculating machines, made the Sage 1 a tough sell, even with its remarkably low MSRP of $995. Companies such as Friden, Monroe, Victor Comptometer, and Smith Corona/Marchant (SCM) in the US; Casio, Hayakawa Electric(Sharp) and Canon in Japan; as well as a sprinkling of European calculator manufacturers including Olympia, Diehl, and Wanderer Werke, all had a long and strong reputation for selling quality mechanical and/or electromechanical calculating machines, or such as in the case of Canon(Cameras) and Hayakawa Electric(Fine Mechanical Pencils), had a strong market position in other lines of business that provided them with the reputation needed to successfully break into the calculating machine marketplace.

Dero Research & Development, likely due to their primary business involving creating products for the military(and the secrecy associated with that), simply did not have the public recognition that is an important part of breaking into a new line of business that sells into the public sector. Finding information on Dero Research & Development is quite difficult, most likely because of their dealings with the military, so at least at the time of this writing, it isn't known what led to the company dropping out of the calculator business, and what effect their exit from the business had on the company as a whole.

At one time, Mr. Gerald S. Loecher was the President and Chairman of the Board of Dero Research & Development. Also, Mr. Robert Paul Freedman was at some time the Director of Research and Development for the company, and perhaps may have been involved in the project to develop the calculator. If anyone out there has any information about the status or whereabouts of either of these two individuals, or information relating to Dero Research & Development overall, such as company literature, annual reports, or marketing literature for its other products, please contact the museum by clicking HERE to send an EMail.

The museum is still on the lookout for an example of this calculator (working or not). Certainly it would be preferable to find one in complete condition, but if you have any bits and pieces that are clearly from one of these calculators, please do get in touch. The museum is also very interested in any information relating to Dero Research and Development and its history, as well as any sales and marketing literature, service documentation, operator's manual, and any other documentation relating to the Sage 1. If you are in possession of such items, or perhaps worked at Dero Research & Development at any point in time, please contact the museum. We would sincerely appreciate hearing from you.

Below is a summary of the characteristics of the Dero Sage 1 calculator.

Dero Sage 1 Specifications

Manufacturer: Dero Research and Development Corp., Huntington, New York
Model Number: Sage 1
Manufactured In: Huntington, New York, USA
Date of Introduction: October, 1965
Price: $995 (at introduction)
Size: 6 3/8" High, 12 1/4" Wide, 12 13/16" Deep
Weight: 12 Pounds
Display Technology: 7-Segment, 7/8th-inch tall by 5/8th-inch wide digits/TD>
Display likely to utilize incandescent lamps to illuminate segments
Logic Technology: Signetics Small-Scale Diode-Transistor Logic (DTL) Integrated Circuits
Digits of Capacity: Ten, with 20 digit double-precision results
[D] key swaps display between most and least significant ten digits
Decimal Modes: Fractional numbers not supported
Math Functions: Four Function with product accumulation key [A]
Memories: One store/recall memory register
Constant: Available in all four functions
Performance: Addition/Subtraction: 8ms; Multiplication/Division: 250ms (Manufacturer Claimed)