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Persistence pays off!

Posted by Grant Henson on 4 Nov 2002, 11:30 a.m.

I've been fascinated with HP calculators ever since I used to hang around the lab where my dad worked when I was a kid, some 25 years ago. The scientists there had several of the old 9800 series, and the cryptic program listings and paper storage tapes had me champing at the bit to get an HP, any HP. I also had a hardback 1980 edition HP catalog which I looked through like a normal kid would look through a Sears catalog in December.

I got my first HP, a 28C, as a high school graduation gift from my parents. Used it through four years of engineering school, until it disappeared one day. Then I got a 42S, which remains my favorite "modern" HP, but it too disappeared soon after I took my first job...strange how HPs have a habit of vanishing when other engineers are around.

I then got a 48S (too cheap to spring for expandability), and still have it; used it up to about a year ago when I picked up a 48GX, which I use for most everyday stuff now.

But what I really wanted was a classic HP! The last place I worked had evidently bought a bunch of 97's, because you'd see one every so often on an old-timer's desk. I kept my eyes open and finally located one in a box, under a bunch of junk, complete with owner's manual, AC adapter, thermal paper, and a stack of blank magnetic cards. Paydirt! I got permission to take it home, and played with it briefly...but when I turned on the printer switch, I experienced the dreaded crumbly printer gear! The printer ran and ran, and of course the display froze, but when I turned the printer switch off, the freaking switch broke! I tried fixing the switch, but I am not an electrician. It was something non-obvious deep in the circuitry that was wrong. I made a feeble attempt to cast a replacement printer gear out of epoxy, but of course could not get the teeth to come out very well. So my HP-97 dreams were dashed... my new job, I discovered a surplus warehouse. Decided to take a stroll over there one lunch hour...and...paydirt again! A 97, a 34C, and a 55, sitting on a shelf. All I had to do was sign my name and they are mine! The 97 works very well, although I have not tested the card reader yet. The 34C and the 55 had leaky battery packs, but the damage appears superficial. I now have the 97 on my desk, and I use it for simple calculations because I like the bright display and big keys. It also has a certain conversational value. The other day, my office mate looked at it and said "What is that...THING on your desk?" Which I think is the reaction we all like to hear :)


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