Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's
08-25-2015, 10:31 PM
Post: #1
 Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013
Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's
I got my first electronic calculator in 1972. I saw an ad in a magazine for the Victor MEC/2 (MEC = miniature electronic calculator). This was not a scientific calculator, it was designed for the businessman. And it was not cheap; I think I paid $319. But it was beautiful and I used it for years until it died one day (I think I must have left it sit on the charging cradle without plugging the cradle in, contrary to what the manual said). Two years ago I acquired another MEC/2 on Ebay, then recently I acquired two additional MEC calcualtors that were successors to the MEC/2. These are beautiful machines and the fact that they still work after 43 years is testimony to how they were built--to last. Same as HP calculators, my favorite of which is my 65, about 41 years old now. classics 08-25-2015, 11:02 PM (This post was last modified: 08-25-2015 11:03 PM by Brad Barton.) Post: #2  Brad Barton Member Posts: 189 Joined: Jan 2014 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's Very nice! I love the display. It almost looks like a Nixie display. I see there's another on TAS right now. Thanks for sharing. This might be a hit in the "First Handheld" thread too. Brad 08-25-2015, 11:25 PM Post: #3  Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-25-2015 11:02 PM)Brad Barton Wrote: Very nice! I love the display. It almost looks like a Nixie display. Thanks Brad. I think it's called a VFD, or vacuum fluorescent display. Wikipedia explains it, but I just enjoy looking at it. 08-26-2015, 12:27 AM Post: #4  Katie Wasserman Super Moderator Posts: 631 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-25-2015 11:25 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: (08-25-2015 11:02 PM)Brad Barton Wrote: Very nice! I love the display. It almost looks like a Nixie display. Thanks Brad. I think it's called a VFD, or vacuum fluorescent display. Wikipedia explains it, but I just enjoy looking at it. I'm pretty sure that these are Panaplex displays. The same type used in the HP 9815, in the Compucorp/Monroe 3XX series and several other calculators from mid 1970's. -katie 08-26-2015, 01:25 AM Post: #5  rprosperi Senior Member Posts: 5,008 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-25-2015 10:31 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: These are beautiful machines and the fact that they still work after 43 years is testimony to how they were built--to last. Nice looking machines, thanks for sharing and posting the pics Don. Although one can see the 70's in the design (especially the Orange/Red scheme), there is also something timeless about the clean, clear design and excellent display. How is the keyboard design? Do they feel much the same, unit to unit? What is the "SET" function - number of decimal places to display? Lastly, no factorial?? --Bob Prosperi 08-26-2015, 02:47 AM Post: #6  Gerson W. Barbosa Senior Member Posts: 1,419 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-25-2015 10:31 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: These are beautiful machines and the fact that they still work after 43 years is testimony to how they were built--to last. Same as HP calculators, my favorite of which is my 65, about 41 years old now. classics Indeed! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures -- or even more if we consider 24 frames per second times the number of seconds :-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTwWUAFa2sE Thank you for both! Gerson. 08-26-2015, 11:54 AM Post: #7  Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-26-2015 01:25 AM)rprosperi Wrote: (08-25-2015 10:31 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: These are beautiful machines and the fact that they still work after 43 years is testimony to how they were built--to last. Nice looking machines, thanks for sharing and posting the pics Don. Although one can see the 70's in the design (especially the Orange/Red scheme), there is also something timeless about the clean, clear design and excellent display. How is the keyboard design? Do they feel much the same, unit to unit? What is the "SET" function - number of decimal places to display? Lastly, no factorial?? Thanks Bob. Yes, the keyboard layout and design is essentially the same from unit to unit. There is no click to the keys, but they are easy to press and register 100% of the time. These three models have a memory where you can store intermediate results. There are other MEC models that don't have the memory, and they were cheaper originally. On those models, the memory keys on the right-hand side just have a plastic cap (from the pictures I have seen). Except for the MEC/2, the key in the lower right-hand corner is interesting. It combines the two functions of the equals key and the memory+ key into a single key. This is very useful if you are extending invoice line items and want a grand total. You will notice that the key is labelled += on one model and =+ on the other. At first I thought this was a change by Victor during their production runs, but Katie dispelled that notion (I'll let her explain, if she wants, why they are different). The SET key with the curve is for setting the number of decimal places in the display, from 0 to 9, and rounding to that decimal place. No factorial. I guess Victor didn't think that was necessary in a businessman's calculator in the 1970s. There is no raise-to-a-power key either, although 3 to the 4th power would just be 3 X = = =. Interestingly, the equals key is only used for multiplication and division, not for addition and subtraction, like most calculators of that era. A seller on Ebay sold one of these for parts only because she thought the equals key did not work; she keyed in something like 2 + 3 = and the display showed 0. I wrote her and told her that the equals key probably works fine, you just don't use it for addition and subtraction. I like the simplicity and classic good looks of these models. 08-26-2015, 11:57 AM Post: #8  Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-26-2015 02:47 AM)Gerson W. Barbosa Wrote: (08-25-2015 10:31 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: These are beautiful machines and the fact that they still work after 43 years is testimony to how they were built--to last. Same as HP calculators, my favorite of which is my 65, about 41 years old now. classics Indeed! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures -- or even more if we consider 24 frames per second times the number of seconds :-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTwWUAFa2sE Thank you for both! Gerson. Thanks Gerson. Yeah, I did that Youtube video about a year ago I think. I had never done a Youtube video before I bought my Enigma replica in 2014, so I did 2 videos related to the Enigma and then I did one for the MEC/2. 08-26-2015, 03:31 PM Post: #9  Gene Moderator Posts: 1,198 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's These are my two favorite Victor handhelds. Scientific! This is the Victor 107. I also have a Victor 106 (or 104 - can't remember at the moment) that has a similar set of functions. Had seen these ONLY in an old Olympic Sales Catalog for years until I found them on ebay. Look through the whole catalog, but the Victors are on pages 31-33 or so. Olympic Sales catalog 08-26-2015, 04:03 PM (This post was last modified: 08-29-2015 06:13 PM by Don Shepherd.) Post: #10  Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's Ah, for the engineers! I saw one like this on Ebay recently but can't find it now. Wait, here it is I have no interest in this auction. Great looking calculator. 08-29-2015, 05:45 PM (This post was last modified: 08-29-2015 06:00 PM by Don Shepherd.) Post: #11  Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-26-2015 12:27 AM)Katie Wasserman Wrote: (08-25-2015 11:25 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: Thanks Brad. I think it's called a VFD, or vacuum fluorescent display. Wikipedia explains it, but I just enjoy looking at it. I'm pretty sure that these are Panaplex displays. The same type used in the HP 9815, in the Compucorp/Monroe 3XX series and several other calculators from mid 1970's. Thanks Katie, I think you are right. This guy called it a Panaplex display, but this other guy called it a VFD, but he didn't even know what keys it had, so I should not have believed him for display type. Ah, the Internet ... 08-29-2015, 06:23 PM Post: #12  Gene Moderator Posts: 1,198 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-26-2015 04:03 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: Ah, for the engineers! I saw one like this on Ebay recently but can't find it now. Wait, here it is I have no interest in this auction. Great looking calculator. Here's a version that's green. Notice the column of missing buttons! Green MEC And, again, as Don said, I have no interest to buy or sell this unit. 08-29-2015, 06:58 PM Post: #13  Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013 RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's (08-29-2015 06:23 PM)Gene Wrote: (08-26-2015 04:03 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote: Ah, for the engineers! I saw one like this on Ebay recently but can't find it now. Wait, here it is I have no interest in this auction. Great looking calculator. Here's a version that's green. Notice the column of missing buttons! Green MEC And, again, as Don said, I have no interest to buy or sell this unit. Yeah Gene, I saw that one. That's the model without memory. It is interesting that Victor decided to keep the same production format for both machines (memory and non-memory), but just put caps over the places where the memory keys are on the non-memory model. Which raises the question, if you removed the caps and put something you could press in their place, would the memory functions then work (in other words, maybe both use the same firmware)? I'm tempted to buy it and find out, but I won't. I got the pictured MEC/225 from that seller and she offered to throw that green one in for$5, but I declined since the battery terminal was broken.
08-29-2015, 10:20 PM
Post: #14
 Duane Hess Member Posts: 121 Joined: Mar 2014
RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's
(08-29-2015 06:58 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote:
(08-29-2015 06:23 PM)Gene Wrote:  Here's a version that's green. Notice the column of missing buttons!

Yeah Gene, I saw that one. That's the model without memory.
....................... Which raises the question, if you removed the caps and put something you could press in their place, would the memory functions then work (in other words, maybe both use the same firmware)? ......................................

Interesting question. With the high price of memory in '72 it could be doubtful.

For example, if the program/data memory used in the machine had leftover capacity for the microcode and register, possibly. You'd think blank keycaps would save production costs over using different PCB/components just to market a lower-cost model. Adding memory in order to make the internals between models identical in order to save production line costs seems unlikely.

My feeble recollection of calculators in the early 70's is a calc with a "big brother" simply adding a memory register could easily cost $50-$150 more, retail. Assumption being with no real/significant manufacturing costs some manufacturer would sell big brother for the same price and watch them sell like hotcakes. At least until other vendors decided to follow suit.

Other vendors jumping on the band-wagon might not have readily occured. People were delighted with these new "wonder tools" but electronics were foreign to the every-day-joe. Seems I remember a general attitude of mistrust due to "I don't understand how they work." So vendors who catered to traditional sales channels, like office equipment stores (remember those?) with a polished, in a suit salesman claiming higher cost due to better quality, lasts longer, etc. might have charged more with no manufacturing cost variance. With the relatively high price of calcs back then who'd want to spend "that kind of money" on something cheap. I remember sales pitches like those. Probably meaning they weren't selling their new (came out by the month) models until they there was some older inventory reduction.

However, your question is still interesting. I'm no memory expert but memory internals was often configured in "page" sizes, with 1 to N number of pages per memory unit. i.e. memory manufacturing wasn't down to order by the bit; be it separate chips or onboard memory of some sort.

Would be interesting what someone older & wiser than me would have to say.
08-29-2015, 11:26 PM
Post: #15
 Don Shepherd Senior Member Posts: 745 Joined: Dec 2013
RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's
(08-29-2015 10:20 PM)Duane Hess Wrote:  office equipment stores (remember those?)

Yes, Duane, that's where I bought the MEC/2, at an office equipment store, long since gone out of business. As I recall, I saw the ad in a magazine, thought that the calculator looked way cool, borrowed \$300 from my credit union (I was a 22-year-old university student working part-time at a Kroger grocery store at the time) and showed up at the office equipment store that carried Victor products. I think they were rather surprised at a walk-in person buying an expensive product like that, but not too surprised to make the sale!
09-04-2015, 03:52 AM
Post: #16
 Adam Vaughn Junior Member Posts: 26 Joined: Jan 2014
RE: Victor MEC calculators from the early 1970's
(08-29-2015 05:45 PM)Don Shepherd Wrote:
(08-26-2015 12:27 AM)Katie Wasserman Wrote:  I'm pretty sure that these are Panaplex displays. The same type used in the HP 9815, in the Compucorp/Monroe 3XX series and several other calculators from mid 1970's.

Thanks Katie, I think you are right.

This guy called it a Panaplex display, but this other guy called it a VFD, but he didn't even know what keys it had, so I should not have believed him for display type.

Ah, the Internet ...

Yep, the three calculators in the OP are definitely Panaplex-based. About the only other display technology they could be based around would be Numitron, but I don't think those were too widely used in calculators, for some reason.