Picture of the Sharp EL-620 Elsi Mate Talking Calculator, front close-up view of keyboard.

Sharp Elsi Mate Vintage Talking Calculator EL-620 Review




This vintage 1980 Sharp EL-620 Elsi Mate Talking Calculator speaks the numbers and math operations quite clearly for the times.



Not only did it help springboard synthesized speech into consumer home electronics, but also introduced the now-ubiquitous LCD display.   While the EL-620 does not offer many scientific functions (SIN, COS, TAN, et al), this portable talking calculator features basic functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as square root).  The Elsi Mate offers a single memory, two speech volume levels, and features multi-tone speech heard in numerous other vintage talking devices of the 1980s era.

Picture of the Sharp EL-620 Elsi Mate Voice Synthesized Calculator, open case, front view.
Sharp EL-620 Elsi Mate Voice Synthesized Calculator, open case, front view

 

Keyboard Layout

Next, find a list of the keyboard keys, as read from left to right, then top to bottom.

  • Mode, CM, RM, M-, M+, OFF
  • 7, 8, 9, /, C.CE
  • 4, 5, 6, X, SQRT
  • 1, 2, 3, -, READ
  • 0, ., %, +, =

There’s also a two-position volume HI / LO switch on the right side of the calculator, immediately beside the C.CE key.

The following key abbreviation definitions apply:

  • CM –> Clear Memory
  • RM –> Recall Memory
  • M- –> Subtract from Memory
  • M+ –> Add to Memory
  • OFF –> Turns the calculator OFF.
  • C.CE –> Clear, Clear Entry.  Turns the calculator ON if pressed while the calculator is OFF.
  • SQRT –> Square Root Function
  • READ –> The voice reads aloud what’s currently displayed on the LCD readout.




Performing the Math Operations

Here are several scenarios that illustrate how to use the Sharp EL-620 Voice Synthesized Calculator.

  • Turn the calculator ON: Press the CE.C key.
  • Turn the calculator OFF: Press the OFF key.
  • Turn Speech On: Press C.CE, MODE, RM.
  • Turn Speech Off: Press C.CE, MODE, CM.
  • Speak what’s on the display: Press the READ button.
  • Add 9 and 7: Press C.CE, 9, +, 7, =.
  • Subtract 3 from 6: Press C.CE, 6, -, 3, =.
  • Multiply 9 by 8: Press C.CE, 9, X, 8, =.
  • Divide 2 by 0: Press C.CE, 2, /, 0, =.
  • Find the square root of 9: Press C.CE, 9, SQRT.
  • Reset the display to zero: Press the C.CE key.
Picture of the Sharp EL-620 Elsi Mate Voice Synthesized Calculator, Back View, with battery cover removed, showing batteries and information plaque.
Sharp EL-620 Elsi Mate Voice Synthesized Calculator, Back View, with battery cover removed, showing batteries and information plaque.



Benefits, Pros, Features, and Advantages

Clear speech.  Far from monotonous, this speech offers some higher and lower inflections.

Long lasting batteries. The LR9 (or equivalent) watch batteries can last several months through normal use.

Automatic shutoff.  Times out and powers off after approximately ten minutes of inactivity at the keyboard.

LCD display.  Shows eight digits.  Reasonably high contrast black digits on a light background.  Not backlit however.

Memory functions.  These include add, minus, recall, and clear memory operations.

Switchable ON / OFF speech.  To turn speech ON or OFF, press the MODE key, followed by the CM key.  The MODE key overrides the default memory key functions with speech control operations when pressed.

Well-spaced keys.  All keys, except for possibly those in the top (MODE) row, have plenty of space between them for rapid yet accurate actuation.

Power adapter jack.  Use AC adapter part number EA-11H, if you’re lucky enough to find one.  If not, the batteries work well, for long periods.

Picture of the front of the closed case on the Sharp El-620 Elsi Mate Talking Calculator.
Sharp EL-620 Elsi Mate Voice Synthesized Calculator, closed case, front view.



Disadvantages, Cons, Problems, Concerns, and Limitations

Requires hard-to-find batteries.  We checked several stores locally without success.  However, we did find the three button batteries online.  The required battery part numbers follow: L1560, 625A, PX625A, V625U, LR9, PX625, or PX13.  We found ours on eBay for roughly $1.62 apiece.

AC adapter hard to find.  The EA-11H adapter appears to supply 4 volts DC output at 0.2 watts (50 milliamps) minimum, through a 2.5mm male plug; the mating jack is located on the top of this calculator.  Will post the polarity once we acquire the appropriate plug and run needed tests.

Vintage.  Not made anymore.  Regrettably, this low vision calculator is no longer manufactured by Sharp.  However, fortunately, there are still many of them around and can be had for under $75 if strongly motivated to get one.

 

Picture of the open battery compartment of the Sharp El-620 Elsi Mate Talking Calculator, showing proper battery installation. The + sign should be visible on all three batteries.
Sharp El-620 Elsi Mate Talking Calculator, Back View, showing correct battery installation. The + sign should be visible on all three batteries.

Our Rating

We just do not understand why the EL-620 remained popular for just a short time in the 1980s, because even today, we find it quite useful as a desktop or backpack talking calculator.  It’s light, simple to operate, easy to read and hear, and offers all the elementary math functions you need for conducting typical daily business.  It need be no smaller, as it’s already little enough to fit larger shirt pockets, purse pouches, and can be stowed in most any briefcase. The Elsi Mate enables blind and vision impaired users nearly complete access to its math functions.  While it’s true that you can nowadays replicate its talking calculator functions on most any touch tablet computer, having a vintage dedicated talking calculator that you can quickly pull out and turn on, is handy also.  We rate this device at 98 out of 100.



Related Posts

References

Revision History

  • 2017-02-24: Revised the tags list.
  • 2016-01-26: Originally posted.