Restoring a Vintage Calculator





Introduction: Restoring a Vintage Calculator

About: I love creating value, and discovering new things! I take things apart to see how they work, spend too much time learning about irrelevant things, and love making cool stuff, like Robots, electronic projects...

One day, I was browsing Goodwill, and something caught my eye from a bin of electronics. It was a Commodore Minuteman 3 calculator (Yep, same Commodore as the C64). With an awesome color scheme, a super cool looking retro LED bubble display, and Commodore branding, it was an ultimate goodwill find.

Of course it didn't work, but I was pretty sure it was a simple matter of getting it new batteries. So, I happily bought my find, and started delving into it once I got home.

Step 1: Evaluation

The first thing to do is figure out why it won't work. So, as I do with almost every device I get (especially the non-working ones), I opened it up. As I suspected, there was battery corrosion everywhere, and the batteries needed replacing.

At this point, you can test it, if you want. I tested mine by desoldering the power wires from the battery, and hooking them up to my Arduino Uno's +5V and GND pins acting as a power supply.

Step 2: Parts and Materials

You should have everything you need around the house already, besides the batteries.

  • Infinity * Cotton Swabs (Maybe not that many, but you'll need a lot)
  • Paper Towel
  • A screwdriver for taking it apart
  • Rubbing alcohol, AKA isopropyl alcohol
  • New batteries

Your calculator may use different batteries, but mine used 4 2/3 AA batteries. They're plentiful and cheap on eBay. Also, if your calculator has batteries in series- Make sure the ones you get have little tabs for soldering to. It will make constructing the new battery pack much easier.

Step 3: Cleaning It Up

Before cleaning, I took it apart as much as I could. I'd recommend doing the same, just don't remove anything glued, or otherwise somewhat permanently attached (besides the batteries).

To clean the case, I used paper towel and Cotton Swabs wetted with rubbing alcohol. I also rinsed it in water a few times, but you'll want to be careful of any labels. Another thing to note is that rubbing alcohol may do something to your plastic or make it less yellow (Which may or may not be desired). Test it carefully on a small area before cleaning everything with it.

The electronics and power jack I cleaned as best I could with some rubbing alcohol on numerous Cotton Swabs. A annoying thing about cotton swabs and electronics is how the cotton will catch on any leads poking through the board, so you could also use a rag or paper towel dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Note: Make sure to take a picture of what wires went where before desoldering the batteries- My calculator has the negative side of a capacitor hooked to the power, for some reason, and if I hadn't had a picture to check on I would have hooked it up to the ground side.

Step 4: Making the New Battery Pack

The old batteries in my calculator were arranged in series to provide 4.8V. I arranged the new batteries the same way, and arranged the tabs as shown in the pictures. Then I soldered the tabs connecting the batteries together (Make sure to get a proper solder joint!) and folded them over.

Step 5: Reassembly

Now you can put everything back together!

It might help to take pictures during the disassembly process so that you can see what went where.

Since the old batteries had multiple wires going into one tab of the battery pack, I had to widen the holes on the new tabs some to fit all the wires. I did this by twisting a tiny Phillips head screwdriver around in them. Be careful not to twist the tab too much, though!

One other thing to be aware of, if your old batteries leaked very much- The wires that connected to the batteries can get corroded and not be making any sort of electrical or solder connection. You'll need to cut the ends off and strip some more insulation off before resoldering them, if that's the case.

Step 6: Finish!

If everything goes well, at this point you should have a working, retro calculator. Now you can show it off to people, and use it!

I brought it to my Robotics club a few times and people thought it was super cool (One of the coaches said she was waiting for George Jetson to appear XD). As for charging the batteries, as there's absolutely no way to tell when it's fully charged, I just leave it on the charger I have for about a day and then it seems to last a few weeks with moderate use.



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    8 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Great project. I like doing the same things. One way to rid the battery corrosion on such things is to take some vinegar and salt and mix up a solution of them. The ratio isn't that important. Then place the item in the solution, or swab it on via cotton swabs and allow it to sit for about a few minutes. Then use a solution of baking soda and water to neutralize that vinegar/salt solution followed by rinsing with water and all the corrosion will be gone. I have rejuvenated a lot of battery corroded things that way. Surprising how well that works. Nice instructable!

    2 replies

    Thanks for the tip! I'll have to try it on something sometime.

    Yep! And DIP packages, too!

    Oh - and thanks for the pics. I never got a real good one until now. ;)

    1 reply

    No problem- The instructable is under the CC Attribution liscense, so go ahead and do whatever you want with them XD

    Oh, man! Sudden severe nostalgia attack! <wipes tears>. That, my friend, is my very first calculator - the exact model! Constant feature and everything. They're almost impossible to find. I know, I've tried. Good luck! Treat her kindly, she's an old lady... <sniff>.

    2 replies

    Wow, that's cool! If you want one, I looked and there's one exactly like it on eBay for $25 plus about $4 shipping, with a case and manual! More than mine came with! (Though I payed about $3 for it XD)

    Ignore what I said about there being one on eBay- Just looked closer and it's not the same one. Pretty similair, not the same :P