Other than Lego, I don’t think I’ve ever collected anything in my life. I've recently started collecting calculators and hope to make it a long term thing. For your viewing pleasure, I’ll post a review every time I acquire a few more, and here’s the first three. There's a couple of requirements to join the club: The calculator needs to be attractive, designed by someone notable or have an interesting feature. If it’s ugly, it’s instantly disqualified.
First is the ±0 M Calculator. M stands for “medium”. ±0 also sells S and XS models although the M model is the iconic model that you should be buying.
As you may know, ±0 products are designed by the legendary Japanese designer, Naoto Fukasawa. The M Calculator is one of the most iconic works in his portfolio so it’s of particular interest. Most notably, the display is elevated slightly towards the user in a graceful and courteous way - a classic Fukasawa move.
The calculator is made from cheap plastic but has a sense of solidity thanks to clever part-breaks. It almost looks like a seamless extruded body from some angles.
The solid appearance is achieved by moving the top and bottom part-line to the bottom of the body. For a stationary device like a calculator, it’s a great solution.
The buttons and switches have a very graphical appearance with sharp edges.
The back of the display is fished off nicely with a debossed ±0 logo. The feet feel a bit like an afterthought though.
We often get carried away thinking that premium materials and expensive processes are essential to good design. The M Calculator is a reminder to be a bit more humble.
The M Calculator’s weakness is poor key feel - it’s mushy like a 90s Ford product. The pretty looks make up for it though.
The next two calculators come from the same manufacturer, Canon. They belong to a line of calculators from the company called X Mark. I still don’t understand why Canon feels the need to sell these premium/quirky calculators. I love the madness of this undertaking though.
First, we have the X Mark I, the flagship model. There are many things that are better made/engineered than this but I don’t think there’s another calculator.
The floating keys are clearly the highlight of the design. I also like the white/silver color scheme.
The base is made from a solid piece of stamped aluminum. It’s bead blast finished and laser engraved - a very Apple aesthetic. Canon went all-out.
Although aluminum is exotic on a calculator, the execution isn’t on par with modern electronic devices like phones and tablets. Canon is crazy but not completely out of their minds.
The best calculator nobody will buy.
I love the small gap between the base and front face. Design is like music, and this gap is like a nice intermission.
The cheap plastic faux-leather case is atrocious though should never have been produced.
To make up for the lack of a backup battery, the calculator has dual solar panels. The retro inset display is pretty cool too.
The X Mark I is all about the tactility of the keys - and they feel glorious. They a have a satisfying feel that isn’t necessarily super clickly but still provides confidence. In terms of functionality as an actual calculator, this one is hard to beat.
I’ve saved the worst for last. This is the X Mark I Keypad.
Aesthetically, it comes from the same world as the X Mark I. It’s clear that it’s a class below the flagship X Mark I though. The keys have a similar floating design but seem far less evenly finished here. The cheap black finish isn’t helping either.
The base is simple painted plastic on the Keypad. Unfortunately, the calculator takes two AAA batteries so has an unappealing hump to accommodate them.
Things get a bit interesting once you look at the switches though - this is a bluetooth calculator that can act as a computer keypad.
Once you’re done with a calculation, you can press the “SEND” button and have it show up on your calculator. Not something I’d ever use but I can see why it could be useful for some people.
Like it’s bigger brother, it has a very classical inset display. I’ve gotta say, this thing is super photogenic.
Regardless of its underdog status next to the M and X Mark I, the X Mark I Keypad still feels charming. There are a few other bluetooth calculators in the market but this is easily one of the more attractive ones. Most importantly, I can never get enough of those flat floating keys.