The Chen-culator

In 1916 my great grandfather Sun Ming, came from China to the US with hopes of a better future. He quickly enrolled in an English correspondence class. Armed only with an Underwood typewriter and lots of determination, he learned how to read and write.


I sketched this relic and admired its charm. Its keys are heavy. The mechanisms are sluggish and janky. And it's evident to me how spoiled we are these days and want instant gratification for everything. Upon successful completion of his course on July 31, 1919, Sun Ming received his diploma in “Good English.”


But he didn’t stop there. His inquisitive mind drove him to invent a precursor to the modern graphing calculator which he called the “Chen-culator.” Using the Underwood he created charts and spreadsheets with figures and an instruction manual. It's absolutely insane. It took 20 years to get a patent but he finally received one for his mad invention.

Instructions on how to use the “Chenculator”

Instructions on how to use the “Chenculator”

The force with which you have to apply on the Underwood's keys echoes the hard work you had to put into leaving your mark on society in that era. Sun Ming certainly left his mark, and generations to come are able to live a better life because of his journey.