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"I think we're still on that topic, still trying to figure out what computers are, how they change us, why we use them."
- Neal Stephenson

Calculator Pad  
  Used to make psychohistoric calculations  

Everyone uses smartphones or tablet computers that are basically just a thin slab faced with glass. The idea was somewhat more exotic in 1951, when the only computers were room-sized, and the first computer terminal had only been invented a few years before.

Seldon removed his calculator pad from the pouch at his belt. Men said he kept one beneath his pillow for use in moments of wakefulness. Its gray, glossy finish was slightly worn by use. Seldon's nimble fingers, spotted now with age, played along the hard plastic that rimmed it. Red symbols glowed out from the gray...

"That represents the condition of the empire at present."

From Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.
Published by Doubleday in 1951
Additional resources -

I have a Cassiopeia Pocket PC; its gray, glossy finish is also slightly worn by use (written in 2003!). Just to give you some material for comparison, in 1951 the big news in computers was the use of vacuum tubes. CBS purchased a Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC) for use in predicting results in the 1952 presidential elections; it took up most of a 15'x15' room.

Note that Seldon's pocket computer was no mere calculator, also at it did not use the touch screen interface now all the rage in computing. (As it happens, I'm making this addition to the text on this web page using a iPad, another descendant of this idea.)

Bypassing the present, you might want to see the future view of this kind of device - the Control-Face, from William Gibson's Idoru. Compare to the blue optic plate from EM Forster's 1910 The Machine Stops.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Foundation
  More Ideas and Technology by Isaac Asimov
  Tech news articles related to Foundation
  Tech news articles related to works by Isaac Asimov

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