The Museum of HP Calculators

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Full Name (family, given): Corbel, Régis
Location: Lannion, Brittany (western part of France)
Entered: 5 Aug 2003, 9:37 a.m.

Born in 1969, I discovered HP calculators with a friend of my parents, around 1978. He explained to me what these machines were, and why they were so...special. That day, HP became a symbol of excellence in my mind.

In 1981, this same friend borrowed an up-to-date Commodore PET-80 and showed it to us - it was one of the very first personal computers ! To please me, he entered a master-mind program in this nice machine. I played against it. That day, I knew I'd be a computer scientist sooner or later, after having been beaten by the Commodore during a whole evening. But Hewlett-Packard was still on my mind, and I was regularly asking my parents for buying a calc.

In 1985, two days before Christmas, a brand new HP-11C became mine ! At last ! It's still there today, but retired on the shelves, although in near-perfect condition (don't want to overuse it). It stayed with me during all of my studies, which ended in 1992, when I finally became a computer scientist, specialized in, guess what, computer architecture (Von Neumann's and massively parallel systems). My 11C was in my bag when I received the diploma from the Université of Paris-Sud XI in Orsay.

In 1994, I entered France Telecom's CNET (Centre National d'Etudes des Télécommunications, that is National Center for Telecom Studies, the "little workshop" that created ATM, for instance). HP systems were everywhere in the labs : desktop computers, big servers, electronic devices like oscillos, and so on. Between 1994 and 2002, not a single HP system caused me a deception of any sort. Not a single one. Symbol of excellence...

Today, electronic devices I personally own are almost exclusively HP's : the five Voyager brothers (including my precious 11C), a 32E (Spice Series), a 32SII (a Nardo, which is my everyday's calc), a low-end 3400C scanner, and a big, powerful Pavilion with a nice F50S flat screen.

What has become the "symbol of excellence" in my mind ? I think HP is not anymore was it used to be. The Calculator Division seems to be a ghost. Since the 32SII and the 42S, no true creation of their own. Devices of all sort are built in Far-East countries, at low costs, and the quality is obviously getting lower and lower. Have you ever compared a '82 HP-12C against a '99 malaysian 12C ?? don't even talk about the Platinum flavor. Here at my office, Vectra PCs sometimes fail : motherboard dead, power supply dead...more and more frequently. Well, you all know that, as you know too that Jornada systems were not conceived nor developed by HP. Carly Fiorina wants to transform HP into a service and "calculus energy" provider company. Maybe she's right when she talks about "the new HP". Apparently not a lot in common with the old reliable HP. But who knows ? I'm pretty convinced that HP culture of excellence won't die tomorrow. We need reliable devices, and they still know how to build them ! :)



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