Texas Instruments celebrates the 35th anniversary of its invention of the calculator

Business distances from "the C word" and puts computer capabilities in students' hands with new generation of products

DALLAS, August 15, 2002

Thirty-five years ago Texas Instruments invented the electronic handheld calculator - a product that has since been adapted for various audiences including engineering, finance, real estate, education and general purpose. Ironically, after becoming the household name for calculators, the company is actively encouraging customers and employees to call their products something else.

"The majority of our business is now with educational handhelds," said Tom Ferrio, vice president, Education Technology, TI. "These are generations removed from what most people think of when they say 'calculator.' Our educational handhelds have their own microprocessors; their operating systems can be upgraded electronically as new versions are released; and they can be customized with different Handheld Software Applications (Apps) to add functionality for different curricular areas, or general purpose needs."

TI's business focus is on the use of educational handhelds in learning and teaching. The company provides more educational handhelds to schools and students across the nation than any other educational technology provider. Originally used primarily in math and science, Apps are now making it possible for other subjects to take advantage of the pervasiveness of this tool.

"Referring to them as calculators does the technology an injustice because they provide a much greater value than simple computation," said Ava Warren, K-12 Math Specialist in Hamilton City, Tennessee. "They extend deductive reasoning and expand critical thinking for my students. The kids see their educational handhelds as one-to-one computing tools that are not only fundamental for their learning, but are also 'cool' and essential to their lifestyles. Not to mention they're completely upgradeable and they can be customized with various applications."

"While we offer some simpler educational products that are still called calculators, we are actively changing the way that we, and our customers, refer to our more advanced educational handhelds," said Ferrio. "Use of 'the c-word' is discouraged. And while it might sound simplistic, our customers tell us they now have a better understanding of the power and functionality these tools bring to teaching and learning."

Key dates in the evolution from handheld electronic calculator to educational handheld


1967 - First handheld electronic calculator invented at TI

1972 - First commercial calculator, TI-2500 introduced.

1976 - Educational toy, The Little Professor introduced.

1977 - TI-58 and TI-59 programmable calculators introduced. Advanced scientific calculators have plug-in interchangeable Solid State modules containing prewritten programs in math, statistics, finance and other areas.

1978 - Ohio State Students use programmable calculators.

1982 - The TI-30 SLR introduced. TI's first solar-powered "slide-rule calculator" helped math and science students eliminate the expense of batteries.

1987 - TI-12 Math Explorer, the first TI product designed with the help of teachers, introduced. The practice of involving educators in product development became a priority after its success.

1990 - The first graphing calculator/handheld, TI-81, makes its debut, providing secondary students new tools for better understanding math and science.

1994 - CBL data collection system introduced. Using the CBL, students can gather a variety of real-world data and transfer it directly to a TI graphing handheld to generate graphs and analyze the results of their experiments virtually anytime and anywhere.

1996 - The TI-83, for use in math, science and statistics introduced. Significant feature improvements to its predecessor, the TI-82, based on extensive educator involvement.

1998 - TI introduces the TI-73, its first educational handheld with Flash memory technology, making the unit electronically upgradable and allowing it to be customized with Apps.

1999 - TI upgrades its most popular model, the TI-83, with the TI-83 Plus which added Flash capability, and a new set of pre-loaded applications.

2001 - TI-83 Plus Silver Edition, with greater memory and speed capabilities launched. Translucent casing and a library of pre-loaded apps for educational and lifestyle use included.

with pernission