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Wang 360E Calculator

The Wang 300 series brought the logarithmic calculation to a wide market and its success propelled Wang to become the leading high-end calculator maker of the 1960s. The 300 series was based on a briefcase-sized electronics package and a series of plug-in keyboards that increased in sophistication as the series developed.

The system here consists of a Wang 360E electronics package and a 362K keyboard. The electronics package has circuit board patterns dated 1966 and there is a repair record from April 1969. In the 1968 Wang catalog the 360E was priced at $1995 and the 362K at $500. A Ford pickup truck was about the same price in 1968.

The industrial design is plain and utilitarian, typical for Wang and in contrast to manufacturers such as Friden. The keyboard is constructed with generic keycaps that hold interchangable paper labels and these press on standard industrial microswitches. There has been little effort to create an aesthetic beyond that of the parts as assembled. The keys just go ‘click’ after a short and sharp moment of travel, quite unlike the tactile silkiness of the Friden keybaord. Perhaps Dr Wang was one of the first to recognise that electronic calculators would be so revolutionary that questions of visual appeal or keyboard ‘feel’ would rapidly fall by the wayside.

The user interface is similarly uncompromising and the keyboard layout is a rather terse exposure of the internal organisation of the machine. This may have been appealing and intuitive to technical users but it is likely to have been daunting to others. Two sets of “+” and “-” keys and two sets of keys marked “Clear Adder” and “Recall Adder” were likely to have caused some initial confusion.

The system was actually quite functional and efficient, once a certain learning curve had been climbed. The essential point to grasp was that there was a set of internal registers, each with specific functions:

Display Register
The display always shows the contents of this register and keyboard entry goes directly into this register. "Change Sign" changes the sign of this register only and "Clear Display" clears this register only.
Left Adder
Right Adder
These are a pair of independent accumulation registers which are not displayed. They are named "Left" and "Right" and where keys are duplicated on the keyboard, the duplicates on the left operate on the Left Adder while the duplicates on the right operate on the Right Adder. When performing calculations, the number in the display register is added to, or subtracted from, the respective adder by using the appropriate "+" or "-" keys. Two simultaneous sets of calculations can be maintained and the results can be recalled to the display register or cleared with the corresponding adder recall or clear keys.
Logarithm Register
This register was not directly displayed. "Enter" caused log(e) of the number in the display to be calculated and placed into the logarithm register. The "times" and "divide" keys triggered a sequence of operations where log(e) of the number in the display was calculated and then added to or subtracted from the value in the logarithm register and then antilog(e) of that result was transferred to the display register. Thus, a multiplication or division was performed with the logarithm of the result remaining in the logarithm register for further use if requied.