Now that Foxconn bough Sharp for $3.5 Billion (a straw), many of the Sharp aficionados feel like an era has ended. You may not know it, but until very recently, one could still buy a Sharp pocket computer. The cherry on the cake, these ultimate machines were natively programmable in C language! Well, I guess that Foxconn will not pursue this route.
The story of Sharp and pocket computers goes way back into the ’70s. In 1977, the PC-1200 (first programmable calculator of the brand to be labeled Pocket Computer – or PC) was introduced. A year later, the PC-1300(S) was introduced, also as a pocket computer, but this time with a mini-FORTRAN programming language (more on that later). In 1980, Sharp dropped its bomb with the PC-1210 (PC-1211 and PC-1212 shortly), the first pocket computers programmable in BASIC. In less than 5 years, Sharp wrote the pocket computer history. Ok, there was a serious competitive landscape with Casio on one side of the Pacific Ocean, and TI & HP on its other one.
But regardless, Sharp arguably led the pack. This week, I am pleased to share a few pictures of the PC-1300S I recently acquired. This machine is remarkable in many aspects. First, although it is battery powered, it is not a pocket computer – try to fit this beast in your pocket! Besides this sizable detail, it is programmable and therefore qualifies as a computer. Even better, it is said to be programmable in mini-FORTRAN. I believe that if this ever has been claimed by the company, it must have been done by a marketing genius. Nothing in the manuals speaks FORTRAN, and the use of **, DO and CNT is an argument pulled by the hair.
What it really is, is a keystroke programmable calculator with good support for tests, branching, and subroutines. The VFD display is really nice – a bit weak from a brightness point of view and has no way of adjusting it – with alpha capability (a big step-up from the segments only VFD of the PC-1200). The magnetic card reader (to read and write programs and data) is the jewel of the crown to me. Circa 79, one could find a similar feature in the TI-58/59, HP-65/67 and the Casio Pro fx1 for the most known. A with the latter, the user had to swipe the card thru the reader of the Sharp. These solid plastic cards’ (same for the Casio – although not the same cards) edges exhibit high-contrast markings used as a time synchronization mechanism.
No need for motors and wheels, and overall, this system aged better. In the same package, a small thermal printer was also available. It used the well recognizable silver thermal paper and was great to keep a trace of the programs and the computations. Beware though, prints on this media tend to vanish over time. Not too shabby for a ~38-year-old computer! As a collector, I also appreciate the low serial number of my model (995). Not sure how many of them were made, but the sticker has more space for digits… I could not resist also share a few family pics. Enjoy!
13 thoughts on “End of an Era”
Are you planning to scan the instruction manual someday, by any chance? The language is not complicated, but I still have a feeling that I missed something.
Dmitry Sobolev maybe 🙂 right now it is not my priority. But if it happens, I se no reason why I could not share it.
A big shame about Sharp. In the 1980s they were big enough to sponsor one of the UKs biggest Football teams (Manchester United). From Microwave ovens to Camcorders they were the market leader. They also led the world in LCD TV research. Sometime in the early 1990s I went to an AV show and they were exhibiting a 20″ Colour TFT LCD TV. At that point the largest LCD anyone had seen were poor quality 12″ Dual Scan LCDs on expensive laptops. It was years before I saw anything comparable in the shops. The problem for Sharp was that once they did appear prices fell rapidly. Down from £1000 for a 15″ LCD TV to £200 for a 22″ one in just three or four years. Therefore, I doubt if Sharp ever got the money they invested in the worlds most advanced LCD factory back.
Nice introduction !
Greetings from Austria.
Yes a scan from the manual ( or where to get a PDF ) would be helpful.
Merry christmas and happy new year to all !
Thank you for your kind comments, Peter. Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and your beloved!
Thank you very much !
The start was ok so far 🙂 Let us see where it goes…..
Do you have excidently 2 ( or more ) magnetic cards for the PC-1300S to sell.
Best regards !
I am happy to read you are doing well. I don’t have space card. You may find some occasionally on Yahoo auctions in Japan. Sometimes, the price + shipping (+ tax depending on where you are based) can be a good option vs. eBay prices – if you can find them. If you decide to explore that route, you can use a deputy service such as Rinkya. They allow you to bid and buy-out items (for a fee), but in an easy way. I hope it helps.
Have a great day,
Wonderful pictures Jamel! It’s a superb calculator.
You are lucky, you have a full PC-1300S set.
I too have a PC-1300S but I’m missing the User’s Manual and I’ve some troubles to read and write magnetic cards. Would you mind sharing how to do it? Ideally if you could also take a few pictures of the manual pages describing the magnetic card Read/Write and Check process that would be perfect.
Hi Didier! Thank you so much for your interest and kind words. Next weekend I should be able to drop by my storage space. I will use the opportunity to find the user guide so I can take a few pics of the pages you are interested in. In the meantime, have a fantastic WE!
Thanks Jamel, have a great weekend too !
Hi Didier, you can find a quick & dirty scan here: https://jameltayeb.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Sharp-PC-1300S-Card-Manual-Section.pdf
Great !! Many thanks Jamel, I will translate it and will share the results.
Can you measure the cards?
I’m wondering if they can be made from some cards with magnetic stripes on them, like the Casio PRO fx-1