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Racy Machines

Posted by Palmer O. Hanson, Jr. on 11 Dec 2003, 3:15 a.m.

The Pioneer models were just coming on the market back in early 1988. Descriptions in the Educalc Mail Store's catalog #41 included the words "New vertical design with the Sleek Lines of a New German Car" for the HP-22S (page 41) and "New vertical design with the Sleek Efficiency of a New German Car" for the HP-32S (page 42). The ".... the sleek lines of a new German car" description was also included in the descriptions for the HP-17B (page 12) and HP-27S (page 45). I wondered what that was all about.

I was even more bemused by the tie-in with automobile design when the "Technically Speaking" column in the July 1988 issue of IEEE Spectrum discussed the use of the term "real time four-wheel drive" in the decal on a Honda Civic wagon and asked readers to submit other "examples of high-technology terms used out of context with bewildering or humorous results." I submitted the "New German car" descriptions for consideration. The item "Racy Machines" in the "Technically Speaking" column on page 19 the November 1988 issue of IEEE Spectrum stated

After reading about the application by Honda of the computer-processing term "real time" to a car's four-wheel drive system, Palmer O. Hanson, Jr., of Largo, Fla., sent in an example of the reverse -- using automobile terminology to describe a calculator. In an advertisement for four different Hewlett Packard calculators in the EduCALC Mail Store's 1988 catalog, the machines are described as having "the sleek lines of a new German car." "Comparing calculator packaging to automobile body design seems to be stretching a point," wrote Hanson. But "one point seems clear -- there is someone writing advertising copy for HP who really likes his German car."

Subsequent issues of the EduCALC catalog continued to use the "New German Car" description in advertisements for Pioneer models. The #70 catalog from 1995, seven years after the introduction of the Pioneers, used the "sleek lines of a new German car" phrase in the description of the HP-17BII (page 37) and the "Sleek Efficiency of a New German Car" iin the description of the HP-32SII (page 45).


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