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HP 35/45 competing with a main frame computer

Posted by Jan (Switzerland) on 6 Dec 2002, 10:21 a.m.

It was in the 70ís. As a young student of engineering I had to undergo a 3-month practical training in a well-known Swiss machine building company.

My assignment was to investigate why same machine parts revealed different properties after a heat treatment and what the relevant parameters were. Pretty soon I have figured out, that I would require a multiple linear regression.

So I gathered quite large number of data, tabulated them carefully on a big sheet of paper and went to the COMPUTER CENTER to have the regression calculated.

I entered a new and different world and was deeply impressed by the rows of tape machines moving back and forward their large tape-wheels, by the busy men and women moving from one to the other terminals, by the many blinking lights and noisy printers. I felt small, behind the large windows.

Then I presented my tabulation to the man, who served as an interface between us the common engineers and the higher caste of the people who understood and could even talk to computers. After 5 minutes, I had to realize, that my humble request really insulted the man. He explained me in the precise language of a computer expert, how I was supposed to present my case in order to get a chance to be considered for a calculation. I did not understand a word of what he was saying in his computer language, so left the place with deep admiration for a world from which I would remain excluded for the rest of my life.

Still I had to run my regression. I took my HP-35 and went around and collected another 11 calculators from other engineers, some of them HP35 and some the latest and spectacular HP45. I arranged them on a large table around my data sheet. And, 3-4 hours later my regression was calculated and double-checked.

I would not need that again, but this experience helped me a lot in my later career.

Jan (Switzerland)

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