Mr. Merryman was one of three men credited with inventing the handheld calculator while working at Dallas-based Texas Instruments. The team was led by Jack Kilby, who made way for today’s computers with the invention of the integrated circuit and won the Nobel Prize. The prototype built by the team, which also included James Van Tassel, is at the Smithsonian Institution.
“It was late 1965 and Jack Kilby, my boss, presented the idea of a calculator,” Mr. Merryman told NPR in 2013. “He called some people in his office. He says, ‘We’d like to have some sort of computing device, perhaps to replace the slide rule. It would be nice if it were as small as this little book that I have in my hand.’ ”
Mr. Merryman added, “Silly me, I thought we were just making a calculator, but we were creating an electronic revolution.”
The Smithsonian says the three had made enough progress by September 1967 to apply for a patent, which was revised before the final application in June 1974.
Jerry Dale Merryman was born on June 17, 1932, and grew up in Hearne, Tex. By the age of 11 or so, he had become the radio repairman for the town.
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“He’d scrape together a few cents to go to the movies in the afternoons and evenings and the police would come get him out . . . because their radios would break and he had to fix them,” said Mr. Merryman’s wife, Phyllis.
He attended Texas A&M University, then worked at the university’s department of oceanography and meteorology. Before long, he was measuring the force of hurricane winds on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. He started at Texas Instruments in 1963 and retired in 1994.
His friends and family said he was always creating something. His daughter Melissa Merryman recalled him making his own tuning fork for their piano. She said she asked him how he made it out of that “hunk of metal,” and he told her: “It was easy, I just took away all the parts that were not an F sharp.”
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