A Throwback to My First Watch: The Casio CA-53W Databank Calculator Watch
Who Hasn’t Had or Seen One Of These Casio Calculator Watches?
Growing up, I can distinctly recall two watches that I used to wear: an ancient Timex digital that had Indiglo and a stopwatch, and my absolute favorite, the Casio Databank CA-53W calculator watch.
The calculator watch was the ultimate in cool for a geeky eight year old. In my case, being well read on the best the early-90’s had to offer, from Darkwing Duck to the legendary Calvin & Hobbes, I was aware of the awesome potential for academic abuse I had on my wrist.
It was a time before smartphones obsoletified everything, and when a calculator watch could make someone feel like a superhero. After all, when hasn’t a calculator come in handy?
What Can a Casio CA-53W Databank Do?
Send You on a Nostalgia Trip
The CA-53W Databank, circa 1994 (when eight year old me had one), is an all plastic/rubber affair. It’s as stylish as you’d expect a calculator on your wrist would be, and if style is your concern, there is a slightly more expensive and much sleeker updated version that you can buy. Even still, a calculator watch is never going to look stylish, but it can still look good.
The Databank, with its cheesy computer script logo and late-80’s styling, is a good looking watch. Its design is logical and easy to use, intuitive enough that most people learn how to use it just a few seconds after putting it on. For an eight-year-old me, it’s also the coolest thing I own.
It’s funny that in 2016 you can still buy the Databank. This isn’t my watch that I had when I was a kid, but it’s definitely the watch I had when I was a kid.
As a small wearable calculator from the late-80’s should, the CA-53W Databank comes loaded with some pretty useful features. Obviously, there’s an eight-digit calculator, so as long as you’re calculating things with a result under 99,999,999, the Databank has got you covered.
The calculator supports addition, substraction, multiplication, and division. So no, you won’t be calculating your taxes using it, but it’s still useful for most day to day stuff.
There’s also other functions, including a dual-time function that you’ll never really understand, a daily alarm that you’ll never figure out how to disable, and a stopwatch with lap timer that’ll never make sense no matter how many times you tap the bottom button. It’s all mighty useful – probably more so in 1994 – but still useful today if your phone is dead, your tablet is missing, and you can’t login to your computer.
Rocking a Calculator Watch in 2016
I decided to mix it up a bit and use the Databank as it was intended. For a week, instead of my smartphone for alarms, timers, and most importantly, calculating, I decided that the Databank was going to be my go-to appliance.
The long and the short of it is that I gave up on that idea pretty bloody quick. In fact, after just the first day, the concept was old and totally uninteresting. I mean, it was interesting, but it was really just a reminder that the world is very different today than it was back then.
Sure, you just push a single button and then you’re in calculator town, but good luck using it quickly with your fat adult fingers. The time you “save” vs. opening a smartphone app is easily redacted in fiddling with the buttons since thirty year old you has fingers that are at least 50% wider than eight year old you. Eight year old me thought this thing was amazing; thirty year old me can barely use it.
Let’s also address the usability concern by saying something that 22 years ago wouldn’t have even been a thought in anyones mind: the fact that I can’t thumb-swipe my way through the Databank, like I can single-handedly on my phone, drives me bonkers. I totally understand that the Databank just isn’t and couldn’t have been designed that way, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am.
Thanks to the proliferation of touch screen devices, using a tactile interface is slow, clunky, and totally inefficient. I have been programmed to understand finger swipes and double taps.
But, there’s still a big novelty to it. I can trash-talk how dumb it is to use until I’m blue in the face, but the bottom line is that this watch was designed like, I don’t know, thirty years ago and is still in mass production today. For kids, or people that like the idea of a calculator on their wrist, the Databank fills a certain niche that newer calculator watches try – and fail – to do.
Lots of calculator watches have been designed over the years, and some of them are a hell of a lot more fancy than this one, but yet when you think of a calculator watch you always come back to Casio’s legendary calculator watch, the Databank CA-53W. It’s synonymous with calculator watches and is the modern de-facto choice when you need or want one.
Adult me doesn’t see the point to it; eight year old me can’t get enough of it.
Casio’s Databank Makes a Great Gift for the Kid in All Of Us
For an adult, I can’t think of any reason aside from novelty that you’d purchase a Databank. For a kid, I think the Databank is a great gift.
I remember my first Databank well. Every time I put it on I felt like a big shot: I was an eight year old, and with the Databank on my wrist, I was absolutely useful. At the grocery store, gas station, and especially when at school, the CA-53W Databak proved its usefulness more times than I could count.
It’s cool, especially today. It’s different from what most kids will have, and it’s cool today in a completely retro way. It feels useful and functional, and for a young child with an imagination, it can help make them feel useful and as if they have some part to play in whatever you’ve got going on. For an enterprising parent, the Databank is also an unconventional but undeniably effective way to get a child interested in math… in that sense it definitely worked on me.
I knew then as I know now that the Databank is just a cheesy novelty, but it’s one that I really enjoy taking part in.