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Oh, you're not a freshman!

Posted by David Krider on 11 July 2005, 9:52 p.m.

My first HP was actually my dad's. He was an engineer, and one of his coworkers got a deal on buying several HP calculators at once. He told me that it cost $300. (We were just talking about this today.) I'm not positive, but, from looking at the pictures on this site, I'm pretty sure that it was an HP-45. I also don't remember the exact year, but I remember learning how to use it late in gradeschool, which would have made it about '77 or '78.

In high school, I remember a kid in my pre-calculus class was allowed to use his 15C to take a test. He had programmed the rule of sines into it. The teacher's thinking, he explained to us, was that the kid had to have written the program himself, and if he could do that, he could do the math. That, and, if he were actually wrong, he'd screw up his test. That satisfied everyone. Now, I had had a Commodore home computer (first a Vic-20, then a C64) since 4th grade, but the power of his calculator really fascinated me.

Two years later, when I got to college and started in engineering, (like my dad, at Purdue), I managed to convince my parents that I needed a 15C. I think it cost $100. (I was just doing some calculations with it today, now almost 18 years later.) Not long after, the 28C's became popular, and everyone forgot about the 15C. My roommate, an electrical engineer, had one, and I just couldn't get into using it. So I happily continued using the 15C straight on through.

I remember a time, as a senior, studying in the Undergrad library, a kid came up to me out of nowhere. He asked me if I had the assignment for Physics 152 (which was -- and probably still is -- the "weed-out" course for freshman engineering students). I was trying to disengage my mind from what I was reading and formulate a response when he looked down and noticed my 15C. He said, "Oh, you're not a freshman, are you?" and walked away. I just laughed.


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