[Return to the Index ]
[ Previous | Next ]
Full Name (family, given): Brian Haren
Account Name: brianh
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Entered: 10 June 2007, 8:27 a.m.
I recently turned 50 and suddenly realized I have been using (and accumulating) HP calculators for almost 30 years!
My exposure to calculators began with my father, who traded in his slide rule for an early 4-function TI calculator. Dad was a chemical engineer at a plastics plant and would bring home piles of paperwork to grind through each night. I clearly remember his excitement when he went down to the local J.C. Penney and paid well over $100 for this TI four-banger.
My exposure to HPs and RPN began with my older brother who worked at a materials testing lab. He regularly brought home one of the lab's HPs (I don't remember the model, but it could have been an HP35) and we played with it endlessly. Even my dad got in on the action and ended up giving me a short course on RPN. It didn't take long for a math idiot like me to figure out that RPN was much faster and more efficient than the algebraic system used by most everyone else.
I was a geology major in college and my calculator needs were pretty light so I made do with a series of TI models - I simply couldn't afford the entry price of an HP (although I made regular trips to the campus book store to drool over the HP selection - good thing they were water resistant).
On graduation I went into the Army as an Engineer officer. Pretty soon I found myself at the Defense Mapping School in their mapping, charting and geodesy course. The Defense Mapping School was an HP-pure institution. On day one they issued us HP 31Es and spent a half day going over RPN then tossed us into the deep end of the pool - least squares adjustment and geodetic survey strength of network analysis. My head was hurting but the HP helped me keep my noggin (barely) above water. By this time I had some coin in my pocket and I went out and bought my first HP - a 32E. I wanted the better stats functions built into the machine.
Over my 20+ year career with the Army I accumulated a fair number of HPs. Most I purchased, but a few 'fell' into my lap as they were classified as excess or unserviceable. Most of the unserviceable ones simply had bad batteries. For example, one day in 1999 I saw a soldier carrying a box to the dumpster. I casually asked him what was being tossed. He commented, "just some old calculators the supply sergeant told me to get rid of." I looked in the box and was shocked to see two HP 97s still in their original boxes and an HP 32 that was a little worn but still perfectly serviceable! Needless to say, I had him drop that box in my office and told him to bring me anything marked 'HP' that is headed to the trash.
As software applications became more sophisticated I found less and less day-to-day need for a calculator. However, there are still those times... I recently took a job with a major airport and had to do some quick X,Y shift evaluation on a survey network. A co-worker commented "well, I guess we could come up with an Excel spreadsheet to do the work". I just smiled, pulled out my 48gx and started banging on keys.
My HP collection includes a 32E, 34E, 97, 11C, 32S, 41C, 42S, 48GX, 33S and a 50G. All work except (sadly) the 41C. If I had to pick a single calculator that got the most use because of its combination of features and format it would be, without a doubt, the 32S. It has been a daily companion since the early 90's and gets pulled out whenever numbers need to be crunched. I was hoping that the new 33S would be a worthy successor, but when I look at that cluttered, goofy keyboard all I can think is "just what the heck was HP thinking?!" The 33S is a classic example of capability being overshadowed by poor design. Like all of you I am eagerly awaiting the release of the HP35s anniversary model.
[ Return to the Biography Index ]
Go back to the main exhibit hall