Jan van de Veen, Nijkerk, The Netherlands
|The WANG desktop calculators (1966-1978)|
|WANG introduced the
first programmable desktop calculator in 1966, called the 300 series. Later
extension came in 1968 and special machines where made for special tasks.
So, for a construction engineer a 360 would be the best choice, for other
purposes there was the 370 or 380.
Calculations where done by taking the logarithm of a number. If you would like to make a division, the logarithm of the second number was subtracted from the first and by taking the antilog, the decimal number would be shown on the display.
If you would like to know more about the 300 series, please visit the
|In December, 1968,
WANG Labs announced the
new 700-series calculator to compete directly with HP's 9100
calculators. As many people who know high-tech industry understand, the
announcement of a product doesn't necessarily mean it exists. Even back
in late 1968, the notion of "vaporware" existed, and
of the 700-series was just that. Even though the product had been
announced, shipments weren't promised to begin until mid-1969, which, as
it turned out, was a milestone that WANG missed by a few months. In
February of 1969, McGraw-Hill Publishing's Product Engineering magazine
published a cover-story on the new (and not yet available)
featuring a proud, cigar-toting Dr. Wang surrounded by a number of
300-series keyboard/display units and his new baby, a prototype
One of the biggest problems WANG had with the early 700-series calculators was cooling. The electronics were really designed to be in a computer cabinet rather than a comparatively small desktop calculator. As such, the early 700-Series calculators had some pretty serious problems with overheating. Originally, the machines were designed for convection cooling, with vents in the base of the chassis and top of the cabinet. This didn't work well at all. In fact, WANG salespeople had to adopt an interesting, if bit misleading strategy to prevent potential customers from realizing that WANG had a problem with the cooling of the calculators. Salespeople demonstrating the machine at trade shows or customer sites learned quickly that the early 700-series demo calculators would start to exhibit strange symptoms after operating for around 15 minutes because they would overheat. So, they would demonstrate the amazing capabilities of the calculator for about ten minutes, then they would turn the machine off and pull off the top cabinet (fortunately, it was very easy to remove), showing off the high-tech innards of the machine, conviently allowing the machine to cool off while they were explaining the wonders of WANG's use of integrated circuit technology. After a few minutes of showing off the insides of the machine, the machine cooled enough for the electronics to be happy again, the cover went back on, and the salesperson started the spiel all over again. It soon became clear that real customers wouldn't relish having to operate their machines without the cover, so a production change was implemented, involving the addition of a good-sized fan mounted on the back of the cabinet. The fan provided forced-air cooling for the electronics, eliminating the cooling problems, but somewhat corrupting the lines of the machine, not to mention adding fan noise to what before was a silent instrument.
In 1972 the Institute
I worked for had a need for
more calculation power so they could perform more complex analyses without using
time-sharing. They bought a WANG 720C in 1972, together
with a program to do Multiple Regression Analyses.
|Is soon learned to program the 720 and still today
more than 40 years later, I know almost all the codes by head. A program would look like this: (it stores the value
of zero in the first 100 data registers)
A 720 has a X and Y register so you can step through the program and see it happen right in front of you.
If you would like to have a look into the
manual that came with the 700,
please click on this link
|The machine that gave the most
trouble was the dual cassette drive. The tapes were not formatted and you could store
blocks of 1 byte up to 256 bytes in sequential order. In practice you would always use 256
byte blocks, but still there where too many problems.
The tapes where stored in albums, 12 data-tapes in an album. I still have several of these albums.
In 1974 we bought a Memorex dual 8 inch floppy-drive and a Centronix high-speed impact printer
|This is the same 720C, still running
perfectly, with the Memorex dual floppy drive (740-2) and the 709 tape drive.
You can clearly see the X and Y register with the nixie-tubes. The floppy drive was a wonderful extension. It was fast and reliable and gave us the possibility to do much more with the 720. Soon we had a herd-management program running for our breeding sows, hens, dairy cattle and so on. Certainly the management program for the sows must have been one of the first in the world. I later on developed a commercial sow-management program for the 2200 and this is still widely used by thousand of farmers in the Netherlands. But, the basic idea was born on this 720 !.
In my opinion the 720C was more a desk-top computer then just a calculator.
The 720 series needed an output device. The IBM selectric was converted to work with the 720. Amazingly there is no on/off button, it can only be switched on by sending an special code from the 720 !. It is a wonderful piece of engineering with an incredible speed and print quality. The ball shaped typing head spins around like mad. I have made two small clips with the selectric in action. In close up, the image could not keep up with the speed of the typing head but the sound is real !. Without the cover and from a further distance you can see the typing head moving along, but in less detail. It is typing the famous sentence "Now the time has come to see the quick brown fox jump over the lazy dog"
(Courtesy Mdm Föllmi, Heemstede)
|The 720 came in 3
models, A, B and C. This was the normal policy of
WANG, a simple machine and also more sophisticated models.
These were expensive machines and it took not long before new, cheaper models were introduced.
If I am correct the next model was the 600, later followed by the 500 and even the 400 series.
The model on the image is a 500 with a printer on top. It has only one row of nixie tubes. The 500 is not in the museum, but I do have a number of spare boards for these machines.
|This is a recently acquired C50
It has a so-called left and right calculator that do work
It was even possible to link an IBM punch card reader to make small programs.
The C serie came in different configurations with or without the possibility to make small programs.
|The manual is very well made. It is
simple and clear and within 20 minutes you know how to work on the C50.
( Courtesy Mr Palache)
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Jan van de Veen