16 January 2019

Review: Clip Calculator with Magnet 2606

Novelty calculators are generally terrible, especially novelty calculators ordered on Ebay for about a dollar from China. I have yet to find myself happy with a single purchase of this type, but as a calculator collector and reviewer, I have to let the people know about them. The calculator reviewed today is no exception. It's terrible.

Clip Calculator with Magnet 2606.
The Clip Calculator with Magnet 2606 (I'm just going to call it the 2606 from now on) is a calculator, a magnet, and a clip, but is only decent at being one of those things.

The magnet is incredibly weak, probably only strong enough to support the device on a refrigerator. I suppose you could hang a sheet of paper or two with it, but you likely have other, much better magnets already.

The clip is strong. It'll hold a bag of chips shut. That's the one positive thing I have to say about this device.

Here's a picture of the calculator not working.
And finally, the calculator doesn't work. The battery is probably dead, but I only ever turned this device on once, shortly after it arrived in the mail. To get to the battery, I had to disassemble everything and that's when I found out I didn't have a battery that would fit in it. That was disappointing.

When the calculator did work, for my brief test upon receiving it, I felt nothing. I had in my hand a calculator that could keep a bag of chips closed. The buttons were too small to use comfortably, and the LCD screen was utterly unremarkable. It could do the things a simple calculator is supposed to do, and nothing more.

So that's my review of the 2606. Don't buy one.

Strong clip spring.
Clip spring removed to access internal components.

Internal components accessed.

Complete disassembly.

14 January 2019

Review: Canon P101-D

Like any vintage electronics collector, I love retrobrighting and restoration videos. They are a huge part of what got me into it in the first place. Seeing a device that would normally be thrown into the trash restored to its former glory is extremely satisfying, and a high that I've been chasing for a while. Here are a few of my favorites:

Extreme Refurb: Atari 800XL | Refurbish This! - Perifractic's Retro Recipes

Commodore 64 left outside for over a decade! Could it still work?? - Adrian Black

Commodore PET Repair and Restore - The 8-Bit Guy

These people are much better than I am at restorations and creating videos, but they have inspired me to be a part of this subculture that tries to keep old electronics working for people to appreciate. 
Canon P101-D.
That being said, I have utterly failed to retrobright or restore the Canon P101-D that I recently purchased at Goodwill for $10. When I first laid my eyes on it, I was thrilled to see a device with such a bold orange color. This was the kind of desktop calculator that would turn heads at any cubicle farm. I was going to make other calculator collectors salivate over my unique find. I needed this after learning that a fellow collector owns a Curta. 

Proof that I talked to a person.
This was followed up by an image of what the calculator is supposed to look like:

Source: not me.
Needless to say, I was devastated. But I also saw an opportunity to attempt my first retrobright. The video attached to this review shows my process, and I'm trying to get more views, so if you're interested in seeing how that went, check it out. To quickly summarize, it didn't work at all.

The Canon P101-D is a fantastic desktop calculator regardless. It's quite large but doesn't feel like it's wasting space. The numeral and operation buttons all press like mechanical keys with instantaneous responses. The exception is the "paper feed" button, but not at all in a bad way. It has its own sort of deliberate feel when pressed.

Very sturdy and reliable internal components.
When using the printer, every calculation is loud and mechanical, and it's awesome. It feels like a large cash register when this thing really gets going. It's hard to explain, but while loud and mechanical might seem annoying, it feels more like a reminder that this device will probably continue working forever. 

And of course all of this leads up to the absolutely gorgeous green LED display. Even with a cracked display cover (my fault), numbers have never looked better. This is simply a beautiful, solid calculator that I will proudly keep on display. 

I'm tempted to leave it in the sun for a bit to even out the discoloration, but there's a possibility I'll be revisiting this device in the future with another retrobrighting attempt. 

I have contacted Canon customer support to try to find the release year for this model, but they were unable to provide me with an answer. I've searched around for the answer and have found nothing so far. If you have any information about the release year, please let me know so that I can update this review.
Cracked screen (my fault). Still looks great though.
The bottom of the calculator, if you're into that sort of thing.
Bottom of internal components. Excellent materials all around.

Inside view with keys removed.

Every key is made of a nice thick plastic.

View of the LED screen without protective (and broken) cover.

The power switch.

Serial plate and outlet.

Plastic shell.

11 January 2019

Review: Texas Instruments 108

I like to begin each calculator review with a brief paragraph about something other than calculators, then segue seamlessly into the review. It gives each review its own sort of personality and keeps things fresh.

If you've never seen or heard of the TI-108, it means you haven't been inside a school since 1986. These things are everywhere. You can buy them in packs of 10 for like $30 on Ebay. But just because something is common and used by everyone doesn't mean it's necessarily good.

Yet the 108 is one of the best calculators ever created. Sure, it lacks any unique features, and can only perform basic operations, but just look at it. Seriously, find the nearest kid and take their backpack and dig through it until you find one. You most likely won't find a scratch on it, and it's definitely going to work. Texas Instruments made an extremely durable calculator that even a child would struggle to ruin.

The buttons are colorful and coordinated, have a great tactile feel, and everything is right where it should be. Not that it's needed, but they included a solid cover for added protection. It's impossible to tell how old a given TI-108 is because these things don't age. The solar cell works perfectly every time, so there's no need for a battery.

I really tried to find something to dislike about this calculator, and maybe nostalgia plays a role, but the TI-108 is simply perfection. These have been widely available since 1986 and will probably be used in elementary schools for at least the next thousand years. I got mine on Ebay for $4.

Older and newer variations.

* * * UPDATE * * *
The above was the initial Facebook review, but I have since learned that the TI-108 has at least two variations, both of which are discussed in the video review. The older version runs on pure solar energy while the newer is dual-powered. They also have slightly different external colors. Internally, they look like completely different devices.

Regardless of the variation you get, you won't be disappointed with the TI-108.
The TI-108 comes standard with a sturdy cover.
Internal components removed from old version.
Face plate of old version exposed.
Top: Old version interior.
Bottom: New version interior.

09 January 2019

Review: Unknown Curved Calculator

Hi fans of calculator reviews! It's been a while, I know. This has been an eventful past few weeks, but now I'm back to my boring life so the most interesting thing going on for me will be taking apart and reviewing calculators. Thanks for being patient with this free content.
Unknown Curved Calculator.
For the first time in my calculator collecting and research, I am unable to find the origins of a particular device. I don't know who made this calculator, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to figure it out. What I can do is hope that someone comes across this blog who might have some information. Until then, this device will be referred to as the Unknown Curved Calculator, or UCC.

I found the first UCC at Goodwill a while ago with some company's label on it. It looked like a decent enough calculator with its silver face plate, nicely contrasted black keys, and a relatively large, tilting LCD display. That tilting display is vital because if you intend to use this as a desk calculator, the curved design would otherwise prevent easy viewing. It is kind of strange that the designer created their own problem to solve, but the curve is quite nice.

The tilted screen solves the problem it creates.
While the buttons look great, they're quite unsatisfying to press. They work consistently, but there is practically zero tactile feedback. It's hard to explain, so if you happen to be in the area, we can meet up and I'll let you feel them. Just don't make it weird.

I did find and purchase two of these devices, and the first one was destroyed during the disassembly phase of this review. It's all well-documented in the provided video, but to summarize, the internal components are actually very nice, with the exception of the ribbon connecting the main board to the display. It's incredibly fragile, so it broke and I killed the calculator.
The first device had a battery access panel, but the second did not.
This creates a predicament for me as a reviewer. Yes, it is my fault that the calculator no longer functions. The device has an access panel for the battery, so most people wouldn't bother taking it completely apart. However, the second calculator I purchased, while nearly identical, has no such access panel. To change the battery, I would have to disassemble it in the same way I took apart the previous calculator. I have not taken this one apart because I'm worried I'll destroy it, so when the battery dies, I'm not sure how I will handle that.

These are promotional calculators, as indicated by the irrelevant labels on them. Most promotional calculators are designed with less consideration for the end user, and this device is no exception. It looks great, but you're way better off getting something more reliable. It's a shame because I don't typically see curved calculators. This device stands out aesthetically so I'd love to find a more quality device going for the same look.

I found both of these at Goodwill for about $2 each.

Internal components, front.

Internal components, back.