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Posted by Mik Butler on 2 Apr 2000, 10:06 p.m.
My first sight of an HP calculator was in 1974 when I started studying 'O'-level physics at school. On the wall, locked in a tiny steel cage to prevent it being "borrowed" was this strange-looking calculator with far too many buttons. Instead of the usual 16 that most calculators had on them, this had 35! And where was the = key?
We were given a short lecture on using this strange beast, and while I could then usually get the right answers out of it, I didn't feel very confident pushing its buttons.
So after a couple of weeks I got up the courage to ask the physics teacher, Eric L. Green(*) if I could take it and the manual home for a weekend and really understand how to use it. Eric told me that the school had paid 175 pounds for this calculator, so I'd better not break it.
By Monday morning I was the class "know-it-all", which meant that I was then expected to help and teach others how to use it. No problem...
When I went to University in 1978 I bought a Commodore as I couldn't afford an HP. The Commodore was pretty good, but where was the ENTER key?
During my first year physics exams I knocked the Commodore off the table and unlike an HP it didn't survive the 3-foot fall. Luckily for me I still had my old slide rule with me, so as far as I know I'm the last person to use a slide rule in a physics exam at Durham University (June 1979).
It wasn't until 1984 when I joined HP that I bought my first HP calculator, an HP-16C which got a lot of use when I worked on HP's MPE machines. The 16C is in great condition and is still used when I'm debugging machine code. Since then I've bought both HP 50th anniversary calculators, and for those difficult sums I use an HP-48SX. I did have an HP-28S, but sold it :-(
I've still got and use the slide rule I used at university, although its getting a bit worn out now. I must buy a new one, or maybe replace it with one of those strange-looking calculators with 35 keys.
HP Development Alliances Lab
(*) I never did find out what the L. stood for. Eric would never say, but he hinted it might be Lucifer. If you're out there Eric, send me email!
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