Letter from the Czech Republic — the calculator that worked on two AA batteries for more than 30 years —

We recently received a letter from a customer in the Czech Republic:

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me to greet you and all personnel of SHARP Co Ltd. as well. I’m writing from Eastern part of Bohemia, the Czech Republic, Europe. So about in the year 1984, when spending my holiday in Hungary, there I bought a calculator trade mark ELSIMATE EL-230. I assumed that I will employ this product maybe 5 or 10 years. But I am very surprised and delighted that even now, in the year 2017 this calculator is still in operation, so that I can use it, and its source of power is original.
That’s why I employ this opportunity in order to thank very much all hard-working and painstaking personnel of SHARP Corp. Ltd., namely to developers, technicians and all other workers. They all were able to de­signed, drafted and made these outstanding products, which even after more than 30 years are in operation.
I would like to wish a lot of successful next years to all personnel of SHARP Corp.Ltd., and also plenty of new, excellent products.

This customer sent us this letter of gratitude that the calculator, which was purchased more than 30 years ago, is still in use today. The calculator still uses its initial batteries, without being changed.

Why is this calculator, over 30 years old, still working today? We did some research on the ELSIMATE <EL-230>, the calculator in the letter, while looking back at the history of our calculator products as well.


History of our calculators

In 1964, Sharp released the world’s first all-transistor-diode electric desktop calculator “COMPET” <CS-10A>. It measured 42cm wide, 44cm deep, 25cm high, and weighed 25kg. It was unimaginably large and heavy when compared to modern standards. The price for this calculator was 535,000 yen, which was almost the same price as a 1,300cc car at that time. Nevertheless, this calculator was quieter and calculated faster than mechanical calculators that used cogs, and was extremely popular both domestically and internationally. The evolution of the calculator took off with this product.

All-transistor-diode electric desktop calculator “COMPET” <CS-10A>


Due to progress in technology in the 1970s, calculators became increasingly smaller and lighter. With this, there was a flood of calculator manufacturers which resulted in an oversupply of products. Price competition also raged on, slashing calculator prices by half every year. This was the start of the “electronic calculator war”. The strategy Sharp took to advance in this calculator war was introducing “LCD (liquid crystal display)” technology. Practical application of LCD was successful in 1973, and the world’s first LCD display COS-type pocket calculator was introduced in the same year. The cost of this calculator was 26,800 yen. This groundbreaking compact calculator could be used for 100 hours on only one AA battery.

LCD display COS-type pocket calculator <EL-805>


The calculator featured in this customer’s letter – the handy-sized calculator ELSIMATE <EL-230> – was released nine years after this, in 1982. Its standard price at that time was 2,800 yen. The calculator used two AA batteries that allowed for approximately 10,000 hours of continued use, and it also had an automatic OFF function which was convenient when users forgot to switch it off. This was during a time in history when thin, button cell-powered calculators provided approximately 700 hours of continued use. As you can see, this model chose to have a larger size to specialize in longer use hours.



This calculator, which was promoted as being able to provide 10,000 hours of use with two AA batteries, is still working today after 33 years from the purchase. The developers of this calculator would be so proud to hear this story.



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