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Old Calculator Web Museum Documentation Archive

Wyle Laboratories WS-01/WS-02 Scientific Instruction Manual

This document is the general instruction manual for the Wyle Laboratories WS-01 and WS-02 Scientific electronic calculators. Wyle Labs introduced the WS-01 electronic calculator in late April of 1964 at the Spring Joint Computer Conference in Washington DC. This makes the WS-01 one of an early group of electronic desktop calculators introduced within the first half of 1964, joining ranks with the Italian-made IME-84, Hayakawa Electric's Compet 10, Mathatronics' Mathatron, and Friden's EC-130.

The Wyle Labs WS-01 and WS-02 calculators were identical in function, with the difference between them being the storage system used to hold the calculator's working registers. The WS-01 used a rotating magnetic disk as the medium for storing the working registers. This method proved to be finicky and unreliable. As a result, a relatively minor redesign of the register storage aspects of the calculator was carried out to replace the disk memory with a magnetostrictive delay line, which was much more robust and reliable than the disk device. This redesign was introduced as the WS-02 model in the latter part of 1964. When the WS-02 model was introduced, production and sales of the WS-01 were halted, with the WS-02 superseding it. In some cases where particularly troublesome model WS-01 calculators had been sold to customers, Wyle Laboratories exchanged the customer's WS-01 for a new model WS-02 calculator.

The WS-01/WS-02 calculators were quite capable for the time, providing four functions plus automatic square root, 24 digits of capacity (making it the highest-capacity electronic calculator available at that time), three independent memory registers, and a CRT display that utilizes very unique gated sine-cosine waveform-generated digits which appear almost hand-drawn, making for a very readable and visually pleasing display. The Scientific is also programmable with the addition of an optional optical punched card reader that is capable of reading program instructions both in forward and reverse directions, allowing punched cards to be taped together to provide branching and looping capabilities. Each punched card could hold up to 40 program steps. The punched cards had pre-scored holes, so that the punches could be done with a stylus or a ball-point pen. The cards were printed with legends indicating which punch holes provided which function, making it fairly easy to punch up a program from a listing of its steps. Interestingly, program loops could be created by taping the cards into a loop.

The machine used a rather complex arithmetic system, with working registers dedicated to specific functions. For example, the MQ register had to be used for entering one number of multiplication and division functions, while the other number was entered into the ENTRY register. Division operations provided the result in the MQ register, while multiplication operations deposited, added, or subtracted (depending on the function key used) the product to/from the ACCUMULATOR register. Addition and subtraction did so to/from the ACCUMULATOR register. Square root also returned its answer in the MQ register. It the responsibility of the user to remember what answers ended up where when working their way through a calculation. This somewhat complicated architecture served to make the Scientific a bit more difficult to learn to operate versus most of the other electronic calculators on the market. The primary weakness of the Wyle Scientific calculators was the inability to directly support negative numbers, expressing negative numbers in tens-complement form, e.g., -1 is displayed as 999999999999999999999999. A sequence of five keystrokes is required to convert the tens-complement number to its positive equivalent, but the user is required to remember that the displayed number is negative and accommodate for that fact in further calculations. The lack of negative number handling, and the rather fussy way of converting the tens-complement to a "normal" number was a pretty significant issue, especially for anyone that did calculations involving money. This deficiency did limit the market for the machine to some degree, but in reality, this was a machine developed mainly for scientific purposes (hence Scientific in its name, and the machine was rather expensive, so it's less likely that an accountant would end up buying a machine like this, and would opt for something much less expensive and complex.

The Scientific utilized transistorized logic, primarily using Germanium-transistors, most of which are the venerable 2N404. Semiconductor diodes are also heavily used, with literally thousands of them use in the machine. There is not a single integrated circuit to be found in the calculators, as at the time the calculator was designed, integrated circuits were still in their relative infancy for all but computer and military electronics, and were still too expensive for any kind of consumer product.

The WS-01/WS-02 calculators were the only electronic calculators that Wyle Laboratories marketed. After a relatively short time in the marketplace, Wyle Labs executives decided that the calculator business was not in line with the company's core competencies, and was not returning enough on the investment to develop it further, and exited the marketplace. A group of folks that were involved with the calculator development group proposed spinning the calculator operation off into a newly formed, independent company. The proposal was agreed upon by Wyle Labs management, and a new company was formed, with some seed money from Wyle Laboratories, that provided electronic calculator design development and consulting. The new company was called Computer Design Corporation, and would go on to develop some pretty amazing calculators, both for other companies, as well as eventually marketing their own machines. For more information the Wyle Labs WS-01/WS-02 calculators, as well s Computer Design Corporation, please check out the Old Calculator Museum's essay, The History of Compucorp.

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Wyle Laboratories WS-01/WS-02 Scientific Instruction Manual
November, 1964

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