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My personal history with calculators

Posted by hecube on 9 Aug 2009, 1:12 a.m.

I have moderate skills in mathematics. I briefly studied mathematics and then computer science at the university.

My involvement with calculators, as far as I can remember, goes back to this, a "magic-brain" mechanical calculator:

It belonged to my aunt and I briefly got to play with it. That was the very early seventies.

Then I remember going to an uncle (must have been around 1974). He had an electronic calculator (+ - * /) with glowing green numbers. I remember typing on the calculator and not knowing very much what to do with it except get hypnotized...

Speaking of hypnotized... I must have spent countless hours just looking closely at the bright green leds of early Radio Shack calculators behind their delicate screens. We had a couple of these in the house...

Then I got interested in computers in the late 70s and the only way to learn to program was with a programmable calculator. I got a Sharp PC-1201 for Christmas which had 128 steps available and a "mysterious" port in the battery compartment. That was a beautiful machine. I don't know what happened to it because it stayed in the family but we lost track of it.

The following Christmas I got a Radio-Shack TRS-80 Pocket Computer on which I invented circuit-bending ( 25 years before such a thing even existed.

Then, reading french science magazine Science & Vie, I stumbled upon a series of article ("La calculette de l'astronome") related to solving astronomy problems with pocket programmable calculators. All Programs were either for TI or HP calculators. This is the source of my interests in HP calculators.

An article in Science & Vie pitted, if I remember correctly, a HP-41CV against a TI-59, a HP-67 and a Sharp PC-1211. The test was computing a certain number of decimals of Pi and the 41 was declared the winner, being the fastest.

From that moment, I had to have a 41. I saved all my money, which I gave to a neighbor who often went to the US and he brought me back the 41. That was in 1982. The box was so beautiful...

While at the University, not many colleagues had HP calculators but I remember seeing some 15, a 28S and possibly a 16. The 28S impressed me very much but I was pretty much broke at the time.

I finally got out of computer science and decided on a music education instead and got even more broke...

In the mid-90s, I found a HP-48SX in excellent condition for 20 dollars.

Up to a month ago, that was the extent of my collection. It seems however that I got hit by a bug recently because I acquired, in rapid succession, a HP-97, a HP-21, a HP-28S, a HP-25 and a HP-10bII and I'm constantly looking at auctions on eBay...

It should be noted that, even though I've become active on this website in the past few weeks only, I've been coming to the website for several years, possibly as early as 1996 (HP calculators must have been one of my earliest search topics when I got internet access for the first time).

One last thing. The HP-41CV is so deeply wired in my brain that, each time I read a book (any book), getting to page 319 holds some significance to me :-)

Edited: 9 Aug 2009, 1:24 a.m.


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