Is the era of the $100+ graphing calculator coming to an end?
Texas Instuments monopoly on graphing calculators may be coming to an end, Via The Hustle
Texas Instruments has enjoyed a near-monopoly on graphing calculators for nearly three decades. But new technology may be threatening the company’s empire.
In the late 1980s, electronics companies began to see a space in the education market for a calculator that could graph equations.
Though Casio (1985) and Sharp (1986) were the first to market, it wasn’t until 1990, when Texas Instruments released the TI-81, that graphing calculators really began to hit the mainstream.
TI, a semiconductor giant, sensed “an opportunity to provide some inexpensive technology that students could use every day.” But there was a problem: At the time, most students were perfectly fine with drawing graphs on paper and using simpler handheld calculators. Educators were rightfully wary of change — especially change that wasn’t yet proven to improve student performance.
So, over a 20-year period, TI set out to manufacture demand by making its calculators mandated classroom tools.
The company established partnerships with big textbook companies that integrated TI-specific exercises (complete with screenshots of buttons) into classroom curricula. It sought approval for standardized test use from administrators like the College Board. And every time a competing tech innovation came along, it lobbied to maintain its perch atop the parabola.
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