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A Miniature 9100

Posted by Adams Douglas on 2 Apr 2000, 10:13 p.m.

The summer before I started college, I went to an electronics trade show. Then, as now, I just loved to look at the wonderful new gadgets carefully demonstrated by enthusiastic salespeople. Of course I couldn't buy anything then, at 16. But it was fun to look.

At this particular show I was suddenly riveted by the HP booth. There was a handheld calculator, the HP-35, with apparently all the functions of the HP 9100A, also on display! After questioning the sales person, I found it wasn't programmable like the 9100, but so what? It was better than any slide rule or other calculating tool available at the time. But, of course, I couldn't afford it. So I gathered all the brochures, and occasionally looked at them wistfully.

Fast forward to 1974. I'm in my second year of college and browsing the magazines in the library. I come across a full page ad in _Technology_Review_ for the HP-65. Now this _did_ look like a miniature 9100. Right down to the magnetic cards! And this time I _did_ have the money. My mother had sent me money for expenses every month which was actually in excess of what I needed, so by then I had quite a surplus. I literally tore out a piece of notebook paper and wrote "Please send one HP-65 calculator." I added my name and address and quickly wrote out a check for $795. This I sent off to the address for Hewlett Packed in the ad.

I'll always be grateful to HP that they took my somewhat unusual order in stride. After a quick reply confirming my order, I was told it was backordered due to the incredible demand. I settled down to wait. Summer came and no HP.

At the end of that summer, I returned to college the night before it was due to reopen. Parking on the dark campus, I looked through the glass doors of the College Center where I could see the mail slots. On the table was a package, and I could just discern the blue HP logo on the mailing label. Knowing it was inches away was too much to wait longer for. I got a coat hanger and pulled the locked door open by hooking over the inside pushbar, I scooped up my package making sure it was indeed for me and carefully relocked the door (I'm glad my little college didn't have burglar alarms back then).

I stayed up all that night learning about my new HP. I started that semester itching for every new math and physics assignment just to experience the joy of how fast I could compute the answers--as I did for the rest of my college life and for my professional career. Since that day, I've always had an HP calculator handy, whatever the best one was at the time.


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