A Favorite Childhood Memory – the Bowmar Brain

I don’t know why this commercial from the early 1970s always stuck with me. Here is link to a web site that has the video:


I still remember most of the dialogue:

“I was a real dummy. I couldn’t add. I couldn’t subtract. I couldn’t multiply. I couldn’t divide. Percentages made my head spin. Then they gave me America’s number one selling personal calculator, the Bowmar Brain. 

Thanks to the Bowmar Brain, I’m no dummy anymore, knock on wood.

The Bowmar Brain. The perfect gift for the little dummy in all of us.”

I remember really wanting one of those calculators. Here were the specs:

… the Bowmar 901B (popularly termed The Bowmar Brain), measuring 5.2 by 3.0 by 1.5 inches, came out in the Autumn of 1971, with four functions and an eight-digit red LED display, for $240.

By the end of the decade, similar calculators were selling for about $6.

We’ve come a long way since then. I’ve been using a financial calculator in class the past few days, the TI Business Analyst II Plus. Here are its specs:

  • Easy-to-read, 10-digit display. Prompted display shows current variable label and values.
  • Solves time-value-of-money calculations such as annuities, mortgages, leases, savings, and more
  • Generates amortization schedules
  • Performs cash-flow analysis for up to 24 uneven cash flows with up to four-digit frequencies; computes NPV and IRR
  • Choose from two day-count methods (actual/actual or 30/360) to calculate bond price or yield to maturity or to call
  • Four methods for calculating depreciation, book value, and remaining depreciable amount: SL, SYD, DB, DB with SL cross-over
  • Depreciation Schedules
  • Bond prices and yield to call or maturity
  • Prompted display guides you through financial calculations showing current variable and label
  • BGN/END payment setting
  • Partial years
  • Ten user memories
  • Ten-digit display
  • List-based one- and two-variable statistics with four regression options: linear, logarithmic, exponential and power
  • Math functions include trigonometric calculations, natural logarithms, and powers

Its cost is about $30.

But despite the technical wonders of the BA II Plus, I’ve never seen a commercial for it, and even if there was, I doubt it would evoke the same emotion that the Bowmar Brain did.

2 thoughts on “A Favorite Childhood Memory – the Bowmar Brain

  1. I remember the Bowmar Brain commercial which used cavemen. It uses the same male voice over as this ad and the others. The tag line I recall is “but they were dumb” I cannot find this commercial anywhere. Do you recall the advertising I remember?


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