Bigger is Better: Andy Aaron's Handmade Calculators

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When vintage-inspired craftsperson Andy Aaron noticed a bunch of modern calculators placed next to a bunch of old, rusty aircraft switches, the juxtaposition compelled his take on calculators. He chose to debunk the common reception that “smaller is better:

“There is a relentless drive to shrink everything, to make it thinner and lighter, but doing so almost always comes at the expense of ruggedness. While tiny plastic buttons have the advantage of fitting in your pocket, they aren’t designed to last forever.

This led him to “deconstruct the calculator and consider its essentials:

“The purpose of a tiny button on a miniature electronic calculator, or any button, is to connect two wires. But that function could just as easily be taken over by a great big, hulking, ancient, steel toggle switch the size of a golf ball. So I scooped up a few dozen of the toggle switches, bought and disassembled a digital calculator, and set about completely re-making it using bulky antique switches mounted in a beat-up old wooden box.

Small buttons are replaced with bigger, more tactile, versions. A small container is replaced with a bigger, more resilient, version. Aaron’s version of a calculator is streamlined in a big way”a calculator focused on basic functions and demonstrating durability, like the enduring aircraft switches.

The object’s increased scale makes its operations all the more inviting. The amped-up romantic presence of Aaron’s machines compels me to not only add but also subtract, multiply and divide.

Nate Burgos

Photographs by Andy Aaron

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