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Let's call it... HP and I

Posted by Alejandro Paz (Germany) on 12 Apr 2008, 5:46 p.m.

I first came in contact with HP products when my father got a job at HP in 1984, as Service Coordinator. That same year, I was 9 years old and my father took us to the HP conference and showing of new products and technologies... I remember playing with a HP-150 with "touch screen"... there was some kind of game where you marked few dots and polygons where drown. From that time I got a catalog of HP products 1984. Hours spent looking at all the pages, just dreaming of using some of them, calculators, power supplies especially, oscilloscopes. I somehow lost that catalog, but the pages are still in my memory.

Four years later, when in my first high-school year, I visited my father at work almost every day, for my joy, and for, sometimes, the annoyance of some coworkers, especially those working on the "Bench", the repair team. As he had everyday contact with them due to his work, I was let loose to wonder into their repair facilities, loads of instruments, loads of fun!. I used to wonder in the room where they kept they repaired machines, calcs where kept in separated plastic boxes, HP-41s the occasional HP-71B, once I saw a HP-110, I turned it on... and did not know how to turn it off!, Were times of joy, of fun, of discovery. The year before, my father got a HP-12C, I used it almost exclusively, I learned how to use it, how to program it. Beautiful machine, nice keys.

Was the time of the HP-28, and some other models that were not made to be repaired, so I got a HP-28S that had some problem, I don't know which. That machine I used a couple of years at high-school. I got a copy of the owner's manual and learned how to program it, that was a real pleasure, as I did not have a computer, that became my companion. I programmed a NIM game, with the calculator as opponent, I did not always win. I programmed so my classmates could also played, but never told them the rules the program use to evaluate the situation, you have to keep always an edge !, it was somehow nicked-named "Ella" (She), by my-self and made running joke by my classmates, well what could I do ?. That calc prompted some of them to get HPs, in a world of Casio.

As the no-serviceable calculators where popping up, a got a HP-48SX that had some missing lines in the left part of the display, a common problem at the time (1994). I opened it and trace it to a problem in the elastomer, the conductive bridge between the LCD and the PCB. Seems that the rubber part had a dilation coefficient a bit too high compared to the conductive layer. After I opened it in 1995 I went to visit the people at HP and told them how to open a 48, seems that nobody had tried that before... well they learned something from me after all I learned from them!

Some time after wards it developed two more missing lines. That somehow I fixed pressing the LCD to the PCB a bit more. That machine still works, but lays unassembled pending a memory expansion for already 8 or so years, after I got the GX (in 1996, my first bought with my money HP), I somehow left it aside. In the mean time I also got a HP-67 and a card, never got the card reader to work, maybe because of that it was dumped. That was a different machine. Something I could easily open and poke around. When I moved to Germany, it was one of the two HPs (from the 5 28s, the 48SX, a 19BII, a 45, a 65 and plenty of 33s and 38s without case that I got) that I brought with me, along the 48GX (and a TI-92 that has not been powered on for many years). They are in my desk at the uni, in my thinking desk. I just stare at them and try to find a way of reproducing them, those keys. I think I got how, let's see.

I grew up with HP way of things, and with some of their products, with they philosophy, I even read "Working at HP", the HP way. I was really saddened when they split-up the company and merged with Compaq, they lost their way. Well, the world changed, inkjet ink produces more revenue that HP-67s. The spirit lives in us.


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