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Contex Model 55, c.1970 
The firm of "Carlsen Brothers" from Gentoft in Denmark built two interesting and innovative lines of mechanical calculators under the "Contex" brand name. A simple halfkeyboard adding machine was first introduced in 1946, with a styling update in the early 1950s. A range of tenkey nonprinting calculators was introduced in 1957. The Contex machines were produced in significant quantities, and were exported to over 100 countries. The halfkeyboard machines were very popular in Australia during the 1950s and 60s.
The first Contex line was a keydriven adding machine in the general style of the Comptometer, with an abbreviated ("half") keyboard and a greatly simplified internal mechanism. The machine was unusual in that most of the internal components were made from pressed fibreboard rather than sheet metal. In spite of their unorthodox construction, these machines were simple and reliable, and many are still found in good working order.
Contex halfkeyboard adders were sold in both Sterling and decimal versions in Australia, generally dating from either side of the change to decimal currency in 1966. The Sterling models originally had keys for quarterpence (farthings) and halfpence (ha'pennys), but these were deleted by the mid1950s as ha'pennys fell out of general use. (Farthings were never issued as Australian currency).
The "Model A" designation refers to the machines in onepiece moulded bakelite cases which were manufactured from 1946. A restyled Model B was introduced in the early 1950s, with a twopiece plastic case and a heavy metal baseplate. Model A machines are relatively rare in Australia now, as most of them were exchanged (at Government expense) for Model B decimal machines during the currency conversion in 1966.
Original advertising brochures claim that 10,000 Contex machines had been sold in Australia by the mid1950s, 18,000 by the early 60s, and over 30,000 following the decimal currency conversion.
Click on the photos below for larger illustrations.
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model A, S/N 130161
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Sterling currency, with Farthings
Dimensions: 225W x 220D x 70H
Weight: 1.28kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 194650s
A Contex "Model A" calculator for Sterling currency, in a black moulded case. The keytops are colourcoded for Pounds (grouped by thousands), Shillings, and Pence.
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model A, S/N 131698
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Sterling currency, with Farthings
Dimensions: 225W x 220D x 70H
Weight: 1.28kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 194650s
A Contex calculator for Sterling currency, in an unusual cream moulded case. The narrow label across the front of the machine is from the Australian distributors, Chartres Business Service (later Remington Rand Chartres).
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model A, S/N 124773
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Sterling currency, without Farthings
Dimensions: 225W x 220D x 70H
Weight: 1.28kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 194650s
Another version of the Sterlingcurrency machine, with an additional Pounds column on the left replacing the Farthings column on the right. Note that the keytops in the righthand Pounds columns are grouped by hundreds rather than thousands, so that they can also be used for decimal currency calculations in dollars and cents.
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model A, S/N 73053
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Decimal currency
Dimensions: 225W x 220D x 70H
Weight: 1.28kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 194650s
An early Contex decimal machine, with keytops colourcoded in groups of 332 to suit decimal currency calculations. The base is stamped with the serial number and "Patents Pending". (The first US patent for the Contex mechanism was filed in 1945 and issued in 1949).
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model A, S/N 158589
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Decimal, grouped by thousands
Dimensions: 225W x 220D x 70H
Weight: 1.28kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 194650s
Another version of the Contex decimal machine with the keytops in the rightmost columns grouped by thousands (233) rather than hundreds (332).
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model B, S/N 911428
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Sterling currency, with Farthings
Dimensions: 235W x 235D x 70H
Weight: 1.69kg
Price: £24150 Australian
Manufactured: Denmark, 1950s60s
The exterior design of the halfkeyboard machine was updated with the introduction of the Model B in the early 1950s. The mechanism is basically identical to that of the earlier models, but the new styling makes a remarkable difference to its appearance.
The underside of this machine still carries the original price ticket from over 40 years ago.
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model B, S/N 137386
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Sterling currency, without Farthings
Dimensions: 235W x 235D x 70H
Weight: 1.69kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 1950s60s
This Sterlingcurrency Model B has replaced the farthings column on the right with an additional pounds column on the left. Otherwise, it is identical to the previous examples.
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model B, S/N 411 017 042
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Decimal currency
Dimensions: 235W x 235D x 70H
Weight: 1.69kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 1950s60s
Somewhere around 1960 the Contex serial numbers were changed to a 9digit code, with the first three digits as a model number.
This latemodel alldecimal machine has eight identical columns, with the keys and numerals colourcoded for decimal currency.
"Contex" Halfkeyboard Adder, Model B, S/N 411 024 875
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator
Decimal currency
Dimensions: 235W x 235D x 70H
Weight: 1.69kg
Manufactured: Denmark, 1950s60s
This Contex B has never been used. It still has its original box and vinyl carry case, exactly as it came from the dealer in the mid1960s. The box measures 250x250x80mm and weighs 2.1kg. Note the thick cardboard packing strip across the keyboard. The strip tucks under the edges of the case at each side and holds all the keys fully depressed, to stop them bouncing while the machine is in transit.
The elderly lady who provided this machine told me its story: "My husband bought it for our business back in the 1960s. I used to do the books, but I never used the machine. I just packed it away  I much preferred to use my brain".
The machine is still in perfect working order sixty years later, which seems to confirm the advice that the Contex fibreboard mechanism should not be lubricated.
The second Contex line was a series of four "tenkey" calculators in which the Comptometerstyle keyboard was replaced by the nowfamiliar numeric keypad. These were quite ingenious machines which were directly capable of all four arithmetic functions. The different models were all built around the same basic mechanism, but varied in their levels of automation. Even the simplest manual Model 10 provided for semiautomatic division. Model 20 added an electric motor, Model 30 provided automatic multiplication, and Model 55 added fullyautomatic division. A concise instruction sheet was provided on the underside of each machine.
The tenkey mechanism was predominantly of sheetmetal construction, but it also used a number of new synthetic materials in critical areas. Two of these materials (polyurethane and nylon) were the wonders of their age, but have since proven to be unstable in the long term. As a result, these attractive and ingenious machines are generally inoperable, and will eventually become unrepairable.
"Contex" Model 10, S/N 434 005 097
Functions: ASMD, manual operation, semiautomatic division
Digits: 10 keyboard, 11 accumulator, 1 counter
Dimensions: 200W x 255D x 100H
Weight: 2.67kg
Price: £42/0/0 Australian in 1965
Manufactured: Carlsen Bros, Denmark, 1957
The manuallyoperated "Contex 10" from 1957 is the simplest machine in the tenkey range. The operating handle is a shortstroke plunger which falls naturally under the right hand after pressing the keys. The handle can be locked down when the machine is covered after use, or when it is to be stored in its carrying case.
The machine has only a singledigit counter register, visible in the shaded area on the right of the accumulator register. The counter is marked with two sets of complementary numbers, in black and red for multiplication and division. Multiplier digits are entered from the least significant (ie, right to left) in the usual fashion.
The process of division is semiautomatic, with the machine taking care of the underflow and correction. After setting up the dividend and divisor, the operator simply pumps the handle repeatedly until it locks. The red digit showing in the counter window is the first digit of the quotient. This is written down as soon as it is generated, the carriage is shifted to the right, and the process is repeated for as many digits as required.
"Contex" Model 20, S/N 453 012 430
Functions: ASMD, electric operation, semiautomatic division
Digits: 10 keyboard, 11 accumulator, 1 counter
Dimensions: 200W x 255D x 100H
Weight: 3.17kg
Manufactured: Carlsen Bros, Denmark, 1961
The Contex 20 from 1961 replaced the manual operating handle with a pushbutton controlling a small inductionmotor drive. The machine is otherwise identical to the Model 10, although the example illustrated has an early brownandyellow colour scheme.
The "Remington" label visible above the keys was applied by the Australian distributors. Remington absorbed the original distributors (Chartres Business Systems) and went through several reincarnations, with machines variously labelled as Chartres, Remington, Remington Rand or Remington Rand Chartres. By the time the Contex 55 arrived in 1968 it was the Remington division of Sperry Rand.
"Contex" Model 30, S/N 473 022 492
Functions: ASMD, electric, automatic multiplication, semiautomatic division
Digits: 10 keyboard, 11 accumulator, 1 counter
Dimensions: 200W x 255D x 100H
Weight: 3.21kg
Price: £98/10/0 Australian
Manufactured: Carlsen Bros, Denmark, 1965
The Contex 30 from 1965 extended the functions of the Model 20 by providing automatic multiplication, implemented through an ingenious cycle counting mechanism built into the numeric keypad.
Once the first number (the multiplicand) has been entered, the operator presses the "X" key to change the keypad into cyclecounting mode. When the first (ie, least significant) digit of the multiplier is pressed, the machine will perform the required number of addition cycles and shift the pin carriage one place to the left. The process is repeated as subsequent digits are entered. The keypad returns to its normal function when the machine is cleared.
The counter register continues to operate during multiplication, but the mechanism does not provide a means for clearing it between digits. Hence the black digit on the counter register is meaningless, so it is simply masked from view by the cutout in the register escutcheon.
"Contex" Model 55, S/N 493 011 463
Functions: ASMD, electric, automatic multiplication and division
Digits: 10 keyboard, 11 accumulator, 10 quotient
Dimensions: 205W x 290D x 120H
Weight: 4.30kg
Manufactured: Carlsen Bros, Denmark, 19681970s.
The Contex 55 extended the functions of the Model 30 by fully automating the division process and providing a full 10digit quotient register. A "Division Stop" key was added so that the operator could halt the process after the required number of digits.
The quotient register is a simple but ingenious mechanism which counts the subtraction cycles in each digit position. It is mounted as an "addon" above the existing accumulator register. The singledigit counter register is no longer required for either multiplication or division, and so has been deleted.
Although the new quotient register only raises the height of the mechanism by half an inch, the revised styling makes the machine look much larger than the other models in the series.
A firm in Sydney provided custombuilt carry cases to suit the
Contex A and B calculators. The timber cases were covered with
leatherette (a type of coated cloth, with an embossed leathergrain
pattern), and were lined with baize or felt  green for the Model A,
red for the Model B. The machine could be used without removing it
from the case, or the lid could be removed completely via the
detachable hinges. The case cost £2150 in the 1950s, or just
over 10% of the cost of the machine.
Case illustration from Contex brochure
Case maker's label
The timber cases were "modernised" in the late 1950s to suit the new tenkey machines.
Original Contex 10key Carrying Case
This is an original "Made in Denmark" moulded plastic case to suit the three smaller tenkey machines. It is rare to find original manufacturers' cases in Australia. Until the 1970s many local industries (and especially the furniture trades) were protected by heavy import tarrifs, which made items such as carrying cases prohibitively expensive. As a result, local purchasers were denied the matching cases for their stylish new Contex machines and had to make do with the rather ordinary timber cases above.
Speedee "AddaMatic" HalfKeyboard Adder
Digits: 8 keyboard, 9 accumulator, decimal
Dimensions: 280W x 225D x 85H
Weight: 1.40kg
Manufactured: Japan, 1972
The Speedee "AddaMatic" is a Japanese version of the Danish "Contex" machines (above). Although there is a Britishlooking coat of arms with the inscription "CM Inc, Chadwick" moulded into the top of the case, the base is clearly stamped "Made in Japan  Patent Pend". The fine print on the original box indicates that the machine was manufactured in Japan for Chadwick Miller Inc of Boston. The original owner has dated this machine "24/4/72".
The mechanism of the "AddaMatic" is identical to the "Contex" in
design, although cheapened somewhat in materials and construction. A
similar machine with a different housing but the same internal
mechanism was sold by Commodore Business Machines, who later achieved
fame in computers with the Commodore PET, VIC20, and Commodore 64.