Threepio, R2 and Calculator Watches

Electronics GeekMom
My Star Wars Watch, Image: Nicole Wakelin

Once upon a time I dreamed of owning a watch that would not only tell time, but have multiple alarms and a calculator that had more functions than I could hope to understand. I remember when calculator watches first appeared and I remember the first kid in school that showed up with one after Christmas. His name was Billy and he rolled his sleeves up just so everyone could see the wonder of his watch. We all crowded around his desk while he showed us how he could easily do complex math. Okay, it was grade school so the math wasn’t that complex, but it was cool.

The buttons on this watch were impractically small for his fingers, even as a kid, so I can’t imagine how a grown man used one of those things. Pushing tiny buttons is tricky business and the buttons on these watches were even smaller than what you have to deal with on phones. Billy eventually resorted to pushing them with the eraser end of his pencil.

As impractical as this watch was, it was ridiculously popular and I wanted one more than anything.  No, I didn’t need help with math and I can’t recall a single moment as a kid when I truly needed a calculator at the ready. It didn’t matter. The thing was the latest and greatest and I wanted one.  Badly.

I never did get one. I did have a very cool Star Wars watch with Threepio and R2 which made me very happy, but it didn’t do anything but tell time. Meh. You’d think, given the fact that calculator watches were so large they were sort of like two panels that bent in the middle to accommodate the curve of your wrist, that they would have been abandoned within minutes of launch, but their popularity lasted from the late seventies all through the eighties. Even Marty McFly sported one in Back to the Future so you know they were a big thing.

Now, these watches are incredibly nerdy. So much so that they may actually make pocket protectors look cool. We all have phones that do more than our watch, phone, TV, typewriter, and calculators combined did twenty years ago so we don’t really need calculator wristwatches. Even Bill Gates, he of Nerd Royalty, couldn’t bring them back despite a valiant effort.

Microsoft’s SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) included an over sized watch that was supposed to keep you connected with news, weather and sports. It came out in 2004 and would have made the eighties version of me absolutely giddy. It would have secured the top spot on my Christmas list and it would have made Billy’s stupid calculator watch look totally lame.

Alas, the attempt to revive the glory days of the overcomplicated watch have failed. Production of the watch ended a few years ago and those who own one found it useless as of January 1, 2012 when all support for the service ended.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if there’s another cool gadget watch in the future. I know, we all have phones that do it all anyway  But you have to put your phone in your pocket and then take it out and hold it to do anything  I still want a gadget on my wrist.  One that will add and subtract and possibly activate my jet-pack. Is that really too much to ask?

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1 thought on “Threepio, R2 and Calculator Watches

  1. Funny you mention the smart phone replacing the watch — even though it’s kept in our pockets.

    More and more of my friends now forgo the watch in favor of the smart phone in their pockets. I don’t understand that….I want a watch!

    I’ve had the same gold/silver Seiko on my wrist since May 1995 — a college graduation gift.

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