A modern scientific calculator with a
dot matrix LCD.
An electronic calculator is a small, portable
electronic device used to perform
calculations, ranging from basic
arithmetic to complex
mathematics.
The first
solid state electronic calculator was created in the 1960s, building on the extensive history of tools such as the
abacus (developed around 2000 BC), and the
mechanical calculator (developed in the 17th century AD). It was developed in parallel with the
analog computers of the day.
The pocket sized devices became available in the 1970s, especially after the first
microprocessor, the
Intel 4004, developed by
Intel for the Japanese calculator company
Busicom. They later became used commonly within the
petroleum industry (oil and gas).
Modern
electronic calculators vary: from cheap, give-away,
credit-card-sized models to sturdy desktop models with built-in printers. They became popular in the mid-1970s (as
integrated circuits made their size and cost small). By the end of that decade, calculator prices had reduced to a point where a basic calculator was affordable to most and they became common in
schools.
Computer
operating systems as far back as
early Unix have included interactive calculator
programs such as
dc and
hoc, and calculator functions are included in almost all
personal digital assistant (PDA) type devices (save a few dedicated address book and dictionary devices).
In addition to general purpose calculators, there are those designed for specific
markets. For example, there are
scientific calculators which include
trigonometric and
statistical calculations. Some calculators even have the ability to do
computer algebra.
Graphing calculators can be used to graph functions defined on the real line, or higher-dimensional
Euclidean space. As of 2016^{}, basic calculators cost little, but the
scientific and
graphing models tend to cost more.
In 1986, calculators still represented an estimated 41% of the world's general-purpose hardware capacity to compute information. By 2007, this diminished to less than 0.05%.^{
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