In the confrontation between the book and the calculator, it was the hardback that emerged victorious. It was the book that took the dive though, straight from the edge of the counter onto the desktop where the machine suffered the full force of the blow.
It was no knockout. Still, it was a solid jab, one that took out the little Casio’s zero key completely. Alas – the machine was unable to continue and had to be carried from the bout.
A career-ending blow.
And it was an old book, throwing its weight around. Didn’t even suffer a scratch.
I mention the loss of a (fairly) cheap calculator, because it doesn’t happen often to me. Having had office supplies for most of my adult life, I’ve managed to keep most of the mechanical things functional. The stapler at the front desk has served me well for more years than I’d care to admit.
Replacing the calculator, of course, is a snap. They are so commonplace these days that they can be found anywhere for a few bucks. The new one cost a dollar. Plus tax.
That’s a far cry from the beastie sitting on the display shelf in the shop. That machine is huge by today’s standards and features an electrical plug identical to that monstrous thing that wound out from the back of that old computer you used to own. Before the tablet. Before the smartphone. They called them “computer towers” back then. I believe they refer to them as “boat anchors” now.
A guest popped in the shop while I was swapping out the devices and I mentioned the fact that I’d just replaced my calculator for a dollar, and pointed to the Beast.
“Paid over a hundred dollars for that one,” I told him. It shocks me to even say that out loud, even though it is the truth. When they were first offered, the electronic versions of the “adding machine” were expensive. And the Beast is a name-brand: NCR.
I joked that it was so old that I expected the Smithsonian to drop by any day now, to acquire it for their collection of antiquities. On a whim, I checked eBay to see if any were being offered at auction. None. Not one.
So I jumped into Google-mode and typed in some keywords: NCR, calculator, class 18-22. (The class thing was stamped on the serial number plate on the back.) Out of the entire internet-universe of possibilities, the total sum of digitized and archived data and obscure information dating to the dawn of man, there were six results.
Two came from one website, and two from another. One was errant result.
The top of the list?
The second reference? Calcuseum: a website museum in Belgium dedicated to old technology.
There came a point that I chose not to use the thing any longer, but I could have. It still works, still adds and subtracts. Multiplies. You can see (in the image) that I use it mostly to display family photos, but I never thought of it as something that should be shuffled off to a museum.
On the bright side – next time I hear talk about the old relic in the bookstore I can imagine they’re talking about the NCR and not me.
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