Wearable technologies of the past, like calculator watches, aren’t always recognized as innovations, but they have been around for some time. So, let’s have a look at the history of calculator watches.
Early calculator watches perform some basic arithmetic operations—namely, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. While calculator watches can work with eight digits, they can also work with six. (Ten is rare, but Casio did produce one once, called the CBA 10).
A snapshot of the history of calculator watches
First introduced in the 1970s and produced for the next decade to meet huge demand, calculator watches were synonymous with the era’s aesthetic. In fact, if you think of retro watches now, you probably think of Casio.
Around the late 1970s, more complex calculator watches with more buttons than the average mobile phone (at the time) came out, and fans loved them. Many celebrities were even fans! As a result, collectors’ websites, message boards for tech enthusiasts, and digital watch forums were full of activity. However, calculator watches dropped off after their popularity peaked in the 1980s.
Arguably, the most prominent pocket calculator watch was the Hewlett-Packard HP-01. Though, of course, with their popularity, other calculator watches were quickly released by other manufacturers. One of note was from Uranus (hehe), who made a digital LED watch with such tiny buttons it required a stylus. Therefore, the Casio pocket calculator watch was distinguished by the fact that the buttons were far more finger-friendly in comparison.
HP released the HP-01 in 1977, and this introduced the ability to perform more advanced calculations. Including connecting a stopwatch to the calculator – making it one of the smartest calculator watches ever made.
The TI Star Wars Watch (also 1977) once again changed the digital watch landscape with the introduction of the first U20 LED watch in 1976. In 1977, TI produced a licensed LED watch linked to the release of the Star Wars watch for $1,695, a price that, unsurprisingly, kept falling.
During the height of popularity, Casio created the Databank. A pocket calculator watch that performed computing functions. Also, it could store appointments, names, addresses, and telephone numbers. Casio has since figured out how to add all kinds of functions to the basic calculator watch. They even added the Space Invaders game to complement the calendar and alarm features.
Calculator watches began to decline in the mid-1980s when mobile phones and PDAs became cheaper and more widely available. Watches thus became the ultimate nerd accessory that is unparalleled. Because calculator watches were so niche, most manufacturers decided to focus on cheaper, simpler models.
Before the Pebble and even before the iWatch was a sparkle in Steve Job’s eye, there was the Casio Calculator Watch. The buttons were small, and the first pocket calculator watch came with a combination of pen and stylus, with which you could type the buttons. Another trend-setting was the clunky time calculator, the Model 901, which had a numeric keyboard and function keys for adding, dividing, multiplying, and subtracting.
Wearable technology has become better and more compact since the days of the calculator watch. Once little more than a novelty, technology has become an integral part of our lives. With the success of smartwatches and other technologies still in the works, creators are constantly reassessing the primary purpose of their wearables and other devices. We can all agree that telling the time hasn’t been the goal of the watch for a while!
Now you know a little more about retro calculator watches, you might be wondering if smartwatches will replace traditional timepieces? Find out!
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