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Posted by Steve on 22 Apr 2000, 10:39 a.m.

Back in the days of steam radio (before the IBM PC) I was working in the Computing section of a large mining company. This company used HP computers (minis as well as smaller devices like 9845's) because of their remote location and HP's dedication to service. HP was the only company that would provide on-site servicing.

When HP brought out their HP-150this company bought a large number of them. Mostly on the strength of their usefulness as a terminal, but with the added capability of doing local word processing (anyone remember HPWord?).

Well, a particularly far sighted individual saw that there was the possibility of using these PC's to do some of the manual computations done by the Timekeepers who were responsible for paying the large wages workforce.

A short time later I was brought into the project. The program initially used text files for storing data, and the method of manupulating them was Wordstar!!!

These were very slow to read and write, so I converted the program to write binary files (as the slow part was conversions of numeric to text and back). This increaced the speed of the system dramatically, but meant that we could no longer use WS to edit files. The new tool was DEBUG.

However, we now had to work with hexadecimal, and the hand computation of hex to decimal, and calculation of offsets was a little cumbersome. We consulted with HP, and they suggested that the HP-16C would be what we needed.

So an HP-16C was bought for me. I never even knew it was programmable. I never read the manual. But for the numerous conversions it was a dream.

Unfortunatly the data files grew beyond 64K and the use of debug grew even harder, and so we developed a program that could edit the files (and it was GREAT). But the HP-16C fell into disuse.

The program developed further, and eventually found its way onto an Vectra (an HP version of the IBM PC -- a 386/20).

I continued to marvel at the HP-16C. I still hadn't figured out how to program it, but it was just a great tool. Looked great, worked great, unobtrusive. I carried it around because it was useful, stylish, and was still going on the original batteries :-)

One sad day I thought it was stolen. It eventually turned up in a suit pocket .

The next time I left it somewhere, it was inside a car in summer. When I returned, the calculator was warped, the enter key was about 70% of its original size, and it _really_ looked dead.

Well, it was close to dead. It couldn't be used in any normal sense any more, as the kees that still worked (almost all of them) required large to huge force to operate. But amazingly the LCD screen was unaffected!

The calculator was put away (I could not bring myself to discard it). Over the years, and the several moves, it has been lost, probably discarded somewhere. :-(

It was a great calculator, a great tool, and I miss it. I'm amazed that I formed an emotional relationship with a calculator. Am I that strange?

R.I.P. HP-16C


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