History of Calculators » Bowmar - First Electronic Calculator Made In USA

First Electronic Calculator Made In USA

Bowmar was a small company specialising in high technology components for the space programmes and produced a hand-held calculator as a demonstration device for its Light Emitting Diode (LED) displays - "funny red numbers that are almost illegible". So good was the reception to the Bowmar 901B calculator, fondly called the Bowmar Brain, that in September 1971 it moved into large scale calculator production. This model (the 901B) was also produced for other companies including Craig (model 4501) and Commodore (C110).

The Bowmar 901B had 4 functions - add, subtract, multiply and divide - and that was all it does. The can only display up to 8 digits. It sold for about USD $200.

By 1974, Bowmar was the largest manufacturer of hand-held calculators in the world. Bowmar’s total sales increased from $3m in 1971 to $64m in 1973.

With the dramatic fall in calculator prices in the mid-1970s, Bowmar decided that it needed to manufacture its own integrated circuits to remain competitive and in 1974 invested in a semiconductor plant. However, prices continued to plummet and Bowmar had to file for bankruptcy protection early in 1975.

Updated On: 18.11.13

  1. On 30-Dec-2020, Just The Facts wrote: 
    The Bowmar 901 is hardly the first electronic calculator made in the USA. That distinction goes to the Mathatronics Mathatron 4-24 and 8-48 calculators, introduced in 1963. That is nearly 8 years before the Bowmar 901 came out. The 901 was perhaps the first shirt-pocketable battery powered electronic calculator made inthe USA, as clearly the 80-pound Mathatron, and other US made electronic calculators made with discrete transistor circuitry prior to 1971, like the Friden EC-130/132, Monroe EPIC 2000/3000, Wang Labs LOCI 1 & 2, and 300-Series, Wyle Labs WS-01/WS-02 and many others, would hardly fit in a shirt pocket, much less be battery-powered.
    Your reply to Just The Facts

  2. On 09-Dec-2020, Anonymous wrote: 
    Mine still works after 46 years.
    LEDs all light.
    Case is in. Fair condition.
    Not sure what it would be worth to a collector.
    Your reply to Anonymous

  3. On 11-Aug-2020, Gratian wrote: 
    I have a Bowmar model 90506. I lost the charger many years ago. Does anybody know the voltage required? It has three re-chargeable cells in it so maybe it is 4.5V. I'd like to see if it still works after all these years.
    Your reply to Gratian

  4. On 26-Jan-2019, Canuck wrote: 
    In 1971, I worked for a business machine company, repairing calculators. I was given a 901B to open up and determine repair ability. There, etched into the corner of the display circuit board, was the logo of a certain famous magazine bunny!
    Your reply to Canuck
    • On 27-Jan-2019, Anonymous replied: 
      Good to know that tech designers those day were able to leave signatures behind in their work.
      Your reply to Anonymous

  5. On 27-Nov-2018, Robert wrote: 
    I worked at Bowmar/Ali in Acton Mass., we also made a wire distance measuring device for the phone company and a stable (Mil spec) electronic device for the Sargent York weapons platform...
    Your reply to Robert
    • On 13-Feb-2020, Glenn Zorpette replied: 
      I am executive editor of IEEE Spectrum, and I am planning an article on the Bowmar 901B calculator. I would love to hear your recollections. I can be contacted at g.zorpette@ieee.org
      Your reply to Glenn Zorpette
    • On 24-Mar-2020, Anonymous replied: 
      Did u know my dad Jim feeney
      Your reply to Anonymous

  6. On 12-May-2018, Pierre Montpetit wrote: 
    I have a 901C which is not listed on this page or anywhere else. Any info about this? I have the case and instruction manual, all in excellent condition. Anyone interested in buying it. Made in Canada, serial # 40686. I do not have the charging wire.
    Your reply to Pierre Montpetit
    • On 07-Aug-2020, Dean replied: 
      I'm interested in your 901C.....what is your asking price?
      Your reply to Dean

  7. On 06-Jun-2017, Dean Winter wrote: 
    Still looking to purchase a Bowmar 901b Calculator with a low serial number, preferred below 16,000.
    Your reply to Dean Winter
    • On 07-Aug-2020, Dean replied: 
      Yes, do you have one with serial number below 16K....if so, what is your asking price?
      Your reply to Dean

  8. On 22-Mar-2017, Mr.Dean wrote: 
    Does anyone have a low serial number (i.e. below 10,000) that they would like to sell? Original packaging, with all accessories preferred.
    Your reply to Mr.Dean
    • On 01-Apr-2017, JP replied: 
      Hello, Mr. Dean
      While I do not have a Model 901, if you are a Bowmar collector, you may be interested in what I believe to be an exceedingly rare Bowmar model. Rare, because I have never found this model listed or described, or any photos of it in any of the web calculator museums - or anywhere else for that matter. It is a slim, brushed aluminum cased, 25 key scientific calc. with blue/green fluorescent display.
      Bowmar actually labeled it "The Brain", not to be confused with mod. MX120 which is called the "Super Brain", nor is it Bowmar's other scientific model the "Count". It was made in Taiwan, probably in 1976.
      If you are curious, I can provide pictures.
      Thanks and regards,
      Your reply to JP
    • On 14-May-2017, Elrick replied: 
      Your reply to Elrick
      • On 06-Jun-2017, Dean Winter replied: 
        Any luck in finding the calculator? (Reply)

  9. On 14-Dec-2016, Crotalus wrote: 
    I bought mine as soon as it was available in the Bay Area. It replaced my K&E and wouldn't snag out of a shirt pocket. Often useless because of my colorblindness, if I was in bright conditions.
    My first PC was an AppleLisa.
    Your reply to Crotalus

  10. On 08-Mar-2016, R Theisen wrote: 
    I bought the Model 901 in 1972 to help me do my electrical engineering work. It was a welcome addition to my K&E slide rule. I worked in Aerospace & Defense and was able to help develop over 30 Defense related systems during 45 years in engineering.
    Your reply to R Theisen

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