Saturday, April 18, 2020

Elsi Mate EL-8048 Soro-cal

So I am sure that you always wondered if there was a calculator that combined both a calculator and a Japanese abacus called a soroban? Well, wonder no more because that object definitely exists.

It's a strange chimera, but this calculator was made for a short time and exclusively for the Japanese market from the late 1970s to early 1980s. The legend states that some Japanese calculator users would check answers from digital calculators on a soroban.

Multiplication on a soroban can be difficult and a calculator might be a nice addition.

This particular model, the Elsi Mate EL-8048, was released in January of 1979. There were just four models in the total line; EL-8148 (19 beads), the EL-808, the EL-428, and the EL-429 (solar). The EL-8048 is my favorite because of the pencil-holder.

The calculator part is not particularly accurate.  It fails a one-divide-by-nine-multiply-by-nine test with an answer of 0.9999999. An accurate calculator would return a one. The soroban part is incredibly accurate.

This example is in good shape. The bottom is a little scratched.

Is that serial number right? 147? Also is this an abacus with a calculator or a calculator with an abacus. Sharp is drawing a line in the sand with this information badge.

This is the type of object that I love. It comes from a strange liminal time when one way of thinking was trying to exist with another way of thinking. Isn't it a charming thing?


  1. Very interesting and beautiful machine. Modern technology and ancient technology. Perhaps planned for when the modern dies, the old will will still be working.

  2. Joe Van Cleave will love this :D

    Still thinking of a retro computer meet (after this craziness, of course)?

  3. I’ll bring my entire abacus collection along with the Burroughs Comptometer.