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Omron 1210 Desktop Calculator

Sincere thanks to Mr. Takaharu Yoshida for the image of the Omron 1210

The Omron 1210 is the first production electronic calculator produced by Omron Tateisi Electric Co. The 1210 was shown in prototype form at a Japanese Business Machine show in March of 1969 as the Omron Calculet 1200. When it was shown, it raised a quite a stir, as it was the smallest and lightest full-function electronic calculator in existence at the time. It took another six months for the production version of the Calculet 1200 to be introduced as the Omron/Answer 1200 in September of 1969.

At the time, Omron did not have its own distribution network for a consumer electronic product, so the company relied on a consortium of three electronic retailers to market the machines for them. The group, which was called "JBM" for "Japanese Business Machine", consisted of Nippon Business Machines Co., Ltd. (not to be confused with Nippon Calculating Machine Co. a.k.a. Busicom), Chuo Business Center Co., Ltd., and Nippon Answer Computer Co., Ltd.. The three firms marketed this first calculator from Omron as the "Answer 1210". Eventually, Omron built out its own sales operation and began selling the calculator as the Omron 1210. The museum is looking for either the Answer or Omron-branded version of this calculator. Here forward, the term Omron 1210 refers both to the Omron and Answer-branded examples of this calculator.

A unique aspect of this calculator, and a couple follow-on Omron-made calculators is that they use completely unique segmented Vacuum Fluorescent display tubes that create a very hand-written appearing digit rendition, similar to the Itron tubes used on some Sharp calculators from the early 1970's (an example being the Sharp QT-8D, but the digit rendition of zero in the tubes used in the Omron calculators was a full-sized zero, while the tubes used in the Sharp calculators had a half-sized zero. It seems that the display tubes used in the Omron 1210 were unique to Omron (perhaps manufactured by them), and were used in a few follow-on calculators, and those were the last apparent use of these unique and beautiful display tubes. If anyone out there knows anything about the original of these display tubes, and if they were used in any other type of calculator or other electronic device, please contact the museum by clicking the EMail button in the menu bar at the top of this page.

The Omron 1210 is a four function calculator with twelve digit capacity. It provides fixed decimal point positioning via slide switch at left side of keyboard at 0, 3, 6, or 9 digits behind the decimal point. Single accumulator-style memory register. Flip-up display cover becomes a shroud to allow easier reading of display in high ambient light conditions.

Unusual Circuit Modules in Omron 1210

At the time of the Omron 1210's introduction, it was the smallest and lightest electronic calculator in the world. The key to the machine's small size and light weight was the use some unusual hybrid circuit modules that were unique, but were a technology that did not last too long amidst the development of larger scale MOS integrated circuit technology. These devices are not integrated circuits, but instead are hybrid devices. Sony utilized hybrid devices in their early electronic calculators, including the Sony SOBAX ICC-400, Sony's first electronic calculator. However, in the case of the Sony hybrid devices, only a few transistors, diodes, and resistors were contained within each hybrid device. In the case of the Omron hybrids, there were many individual IC chips, as well as transistors, resistors and diodes, making the Omron devices much more complex than Sony's hybrid devices.

In 1967, Omron began a top-secret project to develop this hybrid technology, specifically for use in an electronic calculator, which involved placing a number of conventional Japanese-made MOS IC dies (raw integrated circuit chips without any packaging) onto a ceramic substrate, with tiny etched circuit traces on the ceramic substrate providing connections between the chips. The chips had extremely fine gold wires bonded to tiny pads on the integrated circuits that would connect the chips to contacts on the ceramic substrate. This allowed many chips, as well as transistor dies, diodes, resistors, and capacitors to be packaged together with the wiring to interconnect them on the ceramic substrate. The entire substrate was encapsulated in an epoxy-type substance that was inert electrically but provided for heat dissipation from the components within, with wire pins extending out the sides of the package that provide connection to the circuitry inside. This type of construction would allow a reduction in size versus the use of traditional IC packages, which made the calculator significantly smaller than anything on the market at the time. The IC chips used inside these hybrid devices were likely manufactured by one of the major Japanese MOS IC manufacturers such as NEC, Hitachi, or Toshiba. I tend to believe that the chips in the hybrid packages were made by NEC, as there are a significant number of conventionally-packaged NEC-made integrated circuits used in the calculator along with the hybrid IC modules.

The Omron 1210 uses a total of six of these hybrid circuit modules. Four of the devices are larger, with the other two devices being considerably smaller. Of the four large devices, it appears that two provide storage elements for working registers of the calculator, and the other two provide the memory register storage capability. It is unclear what function the smaller hybrid modules perform, but a guess would be that they are involved in generating the display rendition from the internal numeric representation used in the calculating logic. All of this information relating to the function of these hybrid devices is a guess at this point, as the museum does not have an example of this machine to study to gain more information on these amazing hybrid devices. It is for the understanding of these devices that the museum is so interested in acquiring one of these machines in hopes of positively identifying the function of these devices.

Long-time OEM customer of Omron, Triumph-Adler in West Germany marketed a version on this calculator with somewhat different cabinetry and keyboard as the Triumph-Adler 1210. The Old Calculator Museum would be interested in acquiring the Triumph-Adler version of this calculator.

If anyone reading this has any information on these hybrid devices used in the Omron/Answer & Triumph-Adler 1210 calculators, please contact the museum by clicking the EMail button at the top of this page. Of course, if you have an Omron, "Answer", or Triumph-Adler 1210 calculator, working or not, gathering dust and would like to make arrangements for your calculator to become a part of the Old Calculator Museum's collection, please get in touch with us right away. We would be most interested in discussing terms to acquire the calculator.