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Best money i ever spent

Posted by Dana Bingham on 6 Feb 2001, 11:29 p.m.

During an impulse trip to the book store at Ft. Devens in December, 1970, i was struck by a calculator in the case that had an unbelievable price of $395. Being a lowly corporal, the sales people had no desire to let me touch it but did show me how it worked. This was understandable, being as it was over three times my monthly salary. It is possible it was a fore-runner of the HP-35, but my memory is pretty good and it looked a lot like what my HP-35 looked like 2 years later. What would such a thing be doing on an Army base so early on? Ft. Devens was the cryptological training and operations base for the Army and NSA, and all our civilian instructors were Phd Mathematicians. I swore i would have such a calculator someday.

Back from 'nam and at the University of Texas as a EE student, in fall, 1973, our prof said we should all learn to use one of the two HP-35's in the engineering library. I went from class to the library and from there to the Co-op, where i spent my next three month's budget to buy the first one sold to an individual. $395 plus tax. My wife said it was pretty when she got home from class and then began the beginning of using Hewlitt-Packard as her favorite curse for the next 3 years. Something to do with price.

I cursed a little too, when 2 months later, HP introduced the HP-45, for $395 and dropped the price of the '35 to $295. Evidently, HP got the message, because they shortly announced that they would accept any '35 bought within 90 days and $100 for a '45. I wrote the check, the post office did the transport and my wife did the cussin'.

My '45 sits here on my desk, works good as ever, tho of course the battery pak is useless. It's serial number is 30 weeks higher than the first number in the archives here.

A few weeks later, the demo HP-65 arrived at the Co-op. It took $20, a phone number of an old high school girl friend (who was talking to me while i looked at the demo), and the threat of extreme violence to get the Co-op salesguy to promise to call me when the first 4-sale unit arrived. Got it between thanksgiving and Christmas, 1973. It sits here on my desk, works good as ever. The serial number is the same as the oldest unit here in the archive.

It was $795 and i found it wrapped up again Christmas morning with a note from Santa Claus stating that it was my Christmas present for the forseeable future and she, i mean he, could see for 30 years.

By that time i had sought out and made my friend the HP sales rep out of San Antonio. His name is Rick Dyer and i think he owns HP now. He told me that i could buy his demo '65 for 10% off, so i bought it in January and sold it to a UT engineering prof for $800 (no tax). My lovely wife financed the deal and keep the $80 in profit for some stupid thing like groceries. My friend Rick loaned me, for me to have at my home and touch and love for a week at a time, a 9830. Remember, a 9830 with minimal options was $7000, which was the price then of a 914 porsche. i just could not swing one, tho i tried. Someday, i will own a 9830, now that i have found this board.

That got me a summer job doing some programming on the 9845, which was a bigger, better 9830, and paid for my senior year.

My friendly sales clerk at the Co-op went on to first date and then marry my high school friend and i bought the first '67, '97 and '41c to hit Austin. I always seemed to know they had arrived before they were unboxed. I gave the '67 to another dear high school friend and it died in the Abilene basement, where they stuck the EE's, of the city power company during a flood. (in Abilene, so help me.) I gave the '97 to another high school buddy who had become a surveyor and swore it would make him successful, wealthy and also not ever tell my wife the story of our high school senior all-night party.

i traded the '41c to an army buddy who said he liked it. He still makes a living with the programs he wrote to do optimization of helicopter flight plans, although he has ported the code to later HP calculators.

The '67 and '97 let me understand that i was a computer science student, not an engineer, only such a thing did not exist at UT in 1977. But all was well when later on, programming on pc's came as natural as moving from a moped to a cruising bike.

i hated the '41c, i felt betrayed by the LCD display. i have never bought another calculator. Why should i, i got my '65.

I bought a '75c, cassette unit, printer, monitor adapter, etc., mainly because the '75 seemed to be of the quality of the old days. i think all of it came to around $1800. i used it for a couple of weeks and then bought one of the original ibm pc's. i have not got the fogiest idea of where or what i did with the '75c, probably gave it to a friend.

And of course, after the '41c, HP left the quality for the low price. The quality of the "classic" models is the same as my rolex, my colt, my porsche, my martin guitar, my wife. Get the best and never have to get another.

Sitting here with 3 HP pc's in my home office, i still can not forgive HP for losing the quality calculator market they created.

i am still as thrilled and overwhelmed by my HP-65 as the day i took it new out of the box. For the mere price of $795.



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