The Differences Between a Ten Key Calculator and Other Calculators

What Is a Ten Key Calculator?

A ten key calculator is often also called a desktop calculator or a printing calculator (some models do and some don't). A ten-key is a basic electronic calculator that usually has 10 numeric keys (0-9) (sometimes there are 11—the double zero). It's primary function is addition and substraction, but it usually has multiplication and division keys, too.

These calculators are commonly used for basic arithmetic calculations in offices, retail stores, and other businesses for tasks such as balancing a cash register or calculating invoices. They're useful for a home office, too. Especially when it comes tax time and you need to double check totals for all those receipts you really should have been tracking in some kind of software, but invariably never got around to doing. ;)

A Printing Calculator Is Usually a Ten Key But a Ten Key Isn't Always a Printing Calculator

This one doesn't need much explanation. A printing calculator is a calculator that has a built-in printer that prints out the calculations as they are entered. These calculators are commonly used by accountants, bookkeepers, and other professionals who need a record of their calculations. Printing calculators typically have a larger display and can print out both the input and output of the calculation.

The main difference between a basic ten key calculator and a printing calculator is that the printing calculator has the ability to print out calculations, making it a more suitable tool for those who need to keep a record of their work. However, printers add to the cost, so printing calculators are typically more expensive than basic ten key calculators.

Here's a picture of a ten key printing calculator.
Sharp EL-1801V is a printing calculator that is also a ten key calculator

The Difference Between a Ten Key Calculator and a Scientific Calculator

A scientific calculator is often a pocket calculator (fits in my purse or in the back pocket of my jeans, depending on the model and the array of features). It's a more advanced type of calculator than a ten-key that's designed to perform complex mathematical calculations.

Here's a picture of a basic scientific calculator.
Basic scientific calculator from Sharp

Scientific calculators typically have a larger number of buttons, including specialized keys for trigonometric functions (such as sine, cosine, and tangent), logarithms, exponents, and other mathematical operations. These calculators can also perform statistical calculations, matrix operations, and other advanced functions that are not available on a ten key calculator.

Students usually go through several models between high school and college, and they're a basic necessity for anyone in the math department. They need access to these advanced functions so they don't fail. What they don't need is a glorified adding machine—unless they're an accounting major. ;)

Favorite Printing Calculator

Recommended Printing Ten Key Calculator

The SHARP EL-1801PIII is actually sitting on my desk at this very moment. I haven't used a better printing calculator. In fact, I have two of these babies (if you drop the little III at the end). One at the office (1801P) and one in my home office (1801PIII).


Read a short history of adding machines at Wikipedia®

A ten-key calculator is better

...when you need to add or subtract long columns of numbers

...for doing your checkbook

...if you want to add or subtract sales tax from something

...on Fridays

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