The Corema Portative is a relatively small and lightweight full keyboard calculator. It was made by Corema S.A. in Geneva, Switzerland. It was also sold under other names, for example in Germany it was sold as Simeca, and in the USA as Corexa.
This calculator has an 8-digit register at the top, covered by a rectangular plastic lens that magnifies it for easier reading. The keyboard is a bit like a Comptometer, with 8 columns each containing nine keys from 1 to 9. A transparent overlay sheet on the keyboard shows vertical white lines that separate the key columns in groups of 3+3+2 (e.g. for money calculations involving cents), or you can turn over the sheet to separate them in groups as 2+3+3.
There is a large button on a lever at the front right, and while it would seem like you'd need to press that lever to perform each addition or subtraction, it is not quite so clear cut which makes this a rather confusing machine to operate. There is a full description of how to use the machine below. To the right of the keyboard are four buttons, marked 0 (to clear the register), C (for corrections), - (to subtract) and = (to give the result of a subtraction). Above these is the repeater dial, a small dial which can be set to positions marked A, the digits 2 to 9, or R.
The Corema Portative was designed by Chi Liang Cho, and was first made in 1945. This version did not have the repeater dial. The MC15 with the dial was made from around 1952 or so, but I do not know when production ended or how many were made. The serial number on my machine is 23128.
The machine comes with its own small suitcase box, for storage and transport. The large plunger button has to be rotated inwards to allow it to fit inside the box. It seems that this button can break off when not handled properly, and mine has been broken and glued at some point in the past.
Here is a video where I demonstrate the Corema Portative MC15.
The French instruction booklet that came with my machine is in poor condition, but seems to be complete. You can download a scanned version of it (PDF, 3.77 MB). Note that the diagram on the first page of that file actually folds out from the rear page of the manual so that it can be kept visible while reading the text.
Here is my own short set of instructions. On most other machines that have a big lever like this one, the lever is pushed to actually perform the addition/subtraction operation. The oddity of this machine is that the lever is mostly pushed beforehand to prime the mechanism, and the operation is then done as you push the buttons on the keyboard.
Preparing for use: Pull apart the lever and its button so that the
button can be rotated until it points forward. Then push down the lever
fully so that it springs back up. Fold out the two legs at the rear to
tilt the machine towards you.
Preparing for storage: Press the C button to lock the keyboard. Fold in the legs (push them sideways towards each other to unlock them and then fold them down). Pull apart the lever and its button so that the button can be rotated until it points backwards towards the keyboard. Then push down the lever as far as the twisted button allows.
Addition: Set the repeater dial to A (for Addition). Push down the lever to prime the mechanism. Type the number you want to add, and each digit you type is immediately added to the register. The typed keys remain depressed. To add another number, push down the lever (which also clears the keyboard) and type the next number.
Clearing: To clear the register, press the button marked 0. Push the lever to prime the mechanism before you can start your next calculation.
Correction: If you have entered the wrong number, press C. The entered number is cleared, and the register reset to the value before the number was entered. You will have to push the lever again to prime the mechanism before you can enter the next number.
Subtraction: Set the repeater dial to A (just like addition). Push down the lever to prime the mechanism. Press the button marked with a minus sign '-'. Type the number you want to subtract. Note that unlike addition, the register does not yet show the result as you type. When you have finished entering the number, press the '=' key to display the result. This will also release the keys, but you will have to push down the lever before you can do any further calculation. Note that you cannot perform a correction after you have pressed the '=' key.
Negative numbers: If you subtract a large number from a smaller number, the resulting negative number cannot be displayed normally as the register will underflow. To work out what negative number is being displayed, you have to find out what to add to make the register show zero, which can be done as follows. Push down the lever to prime the mechanism. Starting from the right column, look at the digit being displayed, and if it is non-zero, press the button which when added makes it ten. Do this with each column in turn from right to left until the register shows only zeroes. The pressed keys in the keyboard now show the negation of the number that was displayed.
Simple Multiplication: Suppose you want to multiply a number by a
single digit. Push down the lever to prime the mechanism. Type the number
you want to multiply, and each digit you type is immediately added to the
register. Set the repeater dial to the digit you want to multiply the
entered number by. Repeatedly push down the lever. Each time you do so,
the entered number is added again to the register, and the repeater dial
is rotated to the next smaller digit. On the last addition the repeater
dial turns from 2 to A, so the next push on the lever will clear the keyboard
(and no longer change the register), ready for the next operation.
Instead of multiplying by a fixed single digit, you can set the repeater dial to R (for Repeat). Enter a number, which gets added to the register, and push down on the lever however many further times you want the number to be added. When done, turn the repeater dial back to A yourself, and push the lever to prepare for the next operation.
Advanced multiplication: Multiplication by a number of more than one digit is done by splitting it into single-digit multiplications. For example, suppose you want to multiply a number by 56. First multiply it by 6 as described above, i.e. push the lever, enter the number and set the repeater dial to 6, push the lever 5 more times to do the multiplication, and push the lever once more to clear the keyboard. Now we have to do the multiplication by the second digit. Enter the number on the keyboard again but shifted one column to the left. Set the repeater dial to 5 (the next digit of the number you want to multiply by), and pump the lever 4 more times to complete the multiplication, and once more to clear the keyboard.
Division: As subtraction is mechanically done differently to addition,
it is not possible the use the repeater dial or the correction key with it.
It is therefore not possible on this machine to perform division as repeated
subtraction. A method was divised that uses repeated addition instead, with the
repeater dial set to R as described above. The example in the manual is 4476
divided by 12.
The result will be 3 digits long, so reserve the rightmost 3 columns for it (i.e. columns 6, 7, 8 when numbered from left to right). The first four columns (columns 1 to 4) will be used to build 4476 from multiples of 12.
Enter 12 in columns 1 and 2, and a 1 in column 6, so the register shows 12000100. Press the lever repeatedly until the first two digits of the register exceed 44 (which will be after 3 lever presses). Press the Cancel button to clear the keyboard and undo the last addition. The register displays 36000300, so the first digit of the answer is 3.
Enter 12 in columns 2 and 3, and a 1 in column 7, all one column to the right sompared to the above. Press the lever repeatedly until the first three digits of the register exceed 447 (which will be after 7 lever presses). Press the Cancel button to clear the keyboard and undo the last addition. The register displays 44400370, so the second digit of the answer is 7.
Enter 12 in columns 3 and 4, and a 1 in column 8. Press the lever repeatedly until the first four digits of the register reach 4476 (which will be after 2 lever presses). The register displays 44760373, so the answer is that 4476/12 = 373.
The small article in the Journal de Geneve proves that the first version of the Corema
already appeared in 1945, four years earlier than most other sources claim, though it
may have taken a while before full production started.
I found a few ads in Dutch and Swiss newspaper archives, including personnel ads. The 1952 Swiss ad clearly shows a picture of the MC 15 though that model name is not used in the text.
There is only one Swiss patent assigned to Corema S.A. that can be easily found in the European patent database, as well as two patents by Chi Liang Cho. There must be some more patents for aspects of this machine - for example in the manual even the transparent overlay for the column markings is said to be patented.
|Patent||Filing date||Publish date||Name||Description|
|CH 263,699||10-09-1947||01-12-1949||Corema S.A.||Keyboard locking mechanism|
|CH 265,242||22-03-1944||30-11-1949||Chi Liang Cho||Adding and subtracting machine
See also: CA 514,948, DE 903,999, DK 73,682 C, ES 173,808, FR 927,192, US 2,623,695.
|CH 272,863||28-03-1947||15-01-1951||Chi Liang Cho||Multiplier digit|
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