HaHa Bird
HaHa Bird

8 Calculator Watch Facts to Nerd Out Over

HaHa Bird
HaHa Bird

Last week, I stumbled into this very retro calculator watch from artist Nathan Bird of the wonderful site HahaBird. I don’t know why I want this watch so much. It doesn’t tell time. I don’t know how to use an abacus, and I don’t generally like things dangling from my wrist. Yet, somehow, it’s just nerdy enough that I want to clasp it to my arm and wave it in front of anyone who was ever on a math team (full disclosure: I was on the math team). Nathan’s got an instructional on his site here, if you’d like to make a similar abacus watch for yourself. But ever since seeing the post, I’ve been wanting to look up more facts about calculator watches. Here’s a little of what I found: 

1. No One Trusted Calculators


It may seem strange today, but digital calculators had to earn the public's trust. When the first Japanese pocket calculators debuted in a big way, people were so skeptical of the tiny machines' accuracy that Sharp Electronics bolted an abacus to the calculators so that users could check their work. The site Retrocalculators shows four different models that were produced up until 1985. 

2. The First Calculator Watches Were Sold At Tiffany…

Crazy Watches

The first Pulsar calculator watches debuted in 1975. They were solid gold and retailed for $3950 (nearly $18,000 in today’s money; tuition at Harvard was $3740 a year back then). But you couldn’t just pop over to a local Radio Shack to pick up a watch. According to the New York Times, the limited edition of 100 watches were only available at Tiffany, Nieman-Marcus and Marshall Field. 

3. … and Every Watch Came with a Free Pen!

Pocket Watch Show

Like an early stylus, the first editions came with a pocket pen to help those with clumsy fingers navigate the keypad. The pens also functioned to help note down answers since the early calculators didn’t have memory keys and could only read 6 digits across. 

4. The Circuit Boards Were Gorgeous

Crazy Watches

The folks at Crazy Watches took a peek inside the Pulsar 901 to reveal this beautiful circuitry (h/t Medium). The watch matches the Steve Jobs ideal of making sure that even the parts you don’t see are still aesthetically pleasing. 

5. Math for the People

It didn’t take long for the company to churn out an “economy” version. For $400 (just $2000 in today’s cash) you could pick up a steel version of the same calculator. By the early 1980s, the competition had driven down prices on cheaper models to under $20.  

6. A Watch for Closet Nerds

Casio Ad, 1985

Casio soon figured out how to add all sorts of features to the basic calculator watch. For people who didn’t want to look like the sort of people who need a calculator on their wrist at all times, Casio introduced an “invisible” feature in 1985, where users could swipe numbers and symbols across the watch face with their fingers. Answers would display in the subtle band above the standard watch face. For those who were more comfortable with their Atari-loving selves, the company added a “Space Invader Game” to complement calendar and alarm functions. 

7. It’s One Thing that Sting and Michael J. Fox Could Agree On

I don’t know what else belongs on the Venn diagram where their interests overlap, but in the 1980s, both idols sported calculator watches proudly. 

8. This Might Be the Best One

Pocket Watch Show

With 41 buttons around the watch face and all your trigonometric needs fulfilled (there are sin and cos buttons!), this Citizen Quartz watch is probably my favorite old timey calculator watch. Well, other than the abacus watch above. 

For a whole lot more on the history and evolution of calculator watches, be sure to check out this wonderful Medium story. And for a stunning gallery of Nerd Watches, be sure to poke around the Pocket Calculator Show and Crazy Watches collections. 

Live Smarter
How to Remove Dents From Your Car Without Doing Further Damage

Car dents aren't pretty, and DIY methods for getting rid of them can leave entirely new eyesores in their place. In The Know Innovation has spotted a tool that erases unsightly dents without damaging your vehicle's paint job—no trip to the auto body shop required.

The Sealey RE101 Air Suction Dent Puller is a tool that attaches to your vehicle. To use it, stick the suction cup over the dented area and and open the air valve on the handle to seal it tight. A few pumps of the slide hammer are enough to restore your car to its original, dent-free glory.

There are plenty of at-home remedies out there for minor car dents, some of which involve boiling water, hair dryers, and dry ice. While it's always best to get your car looked at by a professional after any type of accident, especially if the damage is covered by your insurance, a dent puller at least won't do any additional harm to your vehicle (or your hands).

You can order a Sealey Dent Puller of your own online for $166.

[h/t In The Know Innovation]

Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.


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