Back in college (you can now officially take a guess at my age) I had a Rockwell 63r scientific calculator and it was the coolest thing on the planet. It had large colorful concave keys (not those little chiclet keys like all the TI calculators), a really large readout for the time, an upscale hard side leatherette case that even had a pocket in the back for the booklet with a belt loop and that really cool Rockwell logo printed right on the front.
Here is a picture of a Rockwell 63r with it’s case, booklet of helpful formulas and that fantastic keyboard with the really cool logo in the upper left.
I used this calculator to death in college. I remember having nightmares of getting to a math test and finding that I had forgot to charge up the calculator the night before ( and taking the test in my underwear with a basket of fruit on my head but that’s another story.)
My friends in college upgraded from LCD to LED calculators and then TI programmable calculator but I stubbornly stuck with my 63r and it’s nice big concave keys and massive heft. It was the bomb and it was cool!
But, alas, somewhere in college it passed away. The keyboard started to have dead keys and the display went flaky. I was devastated, I was heart broken, it was like an old friend past away. Well not really, I quickly replaced it with a Radio Shack LCD calculator (which I still have and use to this day) and prepared for the next probabilities and statistics test. Looking back I think it was the bad solders from the keyboard to the main board that did it in (more of that later).
Anyway, One day while wasting time on eBay I came across a Rockwell 63r. I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t that the calculator you had in college?’ and ‘I gotta have it.’ because everyone needs a 30 year old calculator to do, something with. As it turns out I ended up with three 63r type calculators.
The first 63r I got was the later flat button (center) kind which was not exactly like the one I had (I had the better concave button model) but it was close enough. The second I purchased was clone sold by Radio Shack, officially the EC-490 (right). Later, I finally found one like I owned, the 63r with concave keys (left).
The first one I got, the standard keys version, when I received it the thing didn’t work and had no charger. So I opened it up to see what I could do with it. Found the screws were under the adhesive feet.
Here are some pictures of the ‘innerds’.
The first thing I noticed was the device had three rechargeable batteries that were obviously dead. Since I didn’t have a charger for the 63r I replaced the rechargeable batteries with three long life alkaline batteries. The rechargeable batteries where soldered and taped together so I did the same with the alkaline batteries. I soldered two strips to the batteries to connect them in series. (If you ever try this use a low heat so as not to damage the batteries). Below is my handy work.
You can kinda make out the copper wires between the + and – of the batteries. If you are wondering, the alkaline batteries last a little over a year with average use.
So I put the calculator back together and found that the 63r sorta but not really worked. The keys worked erratically at best. I opened it up again.
Left is the main board. From top to bottom: Tube LED readout, processor, socket for plugging in the keyboard and, I think, a capacitor for the tube LED.
To the right is the bottom of the keyboard and the pins, from the keyboard, that the main board plugs into. As you can see, the pins had an issue. The design had the pins to the keyboard being held in place on it’s board with some very loose and poor solders.
Here is a closer shot.
Several of the pin connectors had came un-soldered over time due to general use. I re-soldered the pins to the board and tried again. Now the display started to have issues. I fiddled with it some more but quickly discovered this wasn’t something I could fix and went about find another 63r I could use for parts. As it turned out I found two. The concave key version and the Radio Shack version. I bashed them together to get two of the three working (the Radio Shack is a goner).
Here is the concave with it’s case, booklet and caution pamphlets.
I actually use this calculator from time to time at my desk. It beats having to use my phone and it’s imaginary buttons for calculations.