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How I got started with HP calculators

Posted by Martin Pinckney on 30 Aug 2007, 1:32 p.m.

I purchased my first calculator in 1978, when I entered engineering graduate school. (Undergraduate school in the 60's was strictly slide rule and pencil & paper, with an occasional trip to the Computer Center). It was a TI-55, which cost $50. I remember seeing HP's at the store, but they were almost 3 times the price, so were never even considered. I dont remember if I was even aware of the AOS/RPN debate at that time. Anyway, I took the TI-55 home, and the first night ran out of program steps, trying to do a homework assignment (it had 32). So the next day I took it back, swallowed hard, and traded up to a TI-59 ($250).

The TI-59 was a fantastic machine, even more powerful than the HP-67, which it was positioned against. I later bought the printer cradle, and wrote many programs for it, at least one fairly sophisticated. It served me well for about 10 years, then started to go bad on me. By this time I was using PCs, so saw little need for programming calculators. I purchased a TI-36 Solar, which had your basic scientific functions, but no programming and only 3 registers. After a couple of years, it went out on me, as well.

By this time I was getting fed up with the quality of TI calculators. Over the years, it had not escaped my notice that the HP calculators used by colleagues were of a noticeably higher quality than my TIs, but I had an aversion to RPN. So after some research I was delighted to learn that HP had started making some algebraic models in the Pioneer series. I purchased an HP-20s, which I still have and use 15 years later. Over the years I added an HP-22s and HP-27s from this series.

In more recent years I began to be envious of the big screens of colleagues who used HP-48gxs, but I still did not like RPN. So I again did some research, and discovered the HP-38g. My timing was right on, because this model had passed its zenith, and people were dumping them on eBay. I got 3 of them, for $15-$20 each! The 38g may have been a marketing flop, but IMO, it is a fine calculator. Its main drawback is too little memory.

In spite of having the 3 pioneers and 3 38gs, when I learned about the new HP-35s, I had to have one. In fact, I bought two!

Well, this is a little long for an introduction. In a later post, I will present some of my impressions of my various HP calculators.


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