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HP Mystique

Posted by Terry Nielsen on 2 Apr 2000, 9:56 p.m.

There has always been a mystique about HP calculators. The look of it, the feel of the buttons - they have never been equalled.

I was first introduced to the HP in the mid seventies by an eccentric high school math teacher. Among his idiosyncrasies was a fondness for having inattentive students stand in the wastepaper basket. He was the very prototype of the mad genius - wild hair penetrating eyes, and throughout my entire schooling I never saw him in anything other than a gray turtle-neck sweater and black pants. His two contemporary vices?- A classic grey Corvette, and his HP calculator.

Mr. 'H' showed me how to use his calculator one day, and I was hooked. I very quickly took to RPN. It felt more natural to me. I found that it was particularly adept at handling equations with multiple bracket levels.

And what did I like most about RPN? - nobody ever wanted to borrow my calculator! The phrase "where's the 'equals' key?" is probably familiar to anyone who has ever owned an HP.

Since I couldn't afford an HP, I had to settle for another brand that used RPN. It eventually broke, so just before I entered university, my parents bought me my first HP. It couldn't have been better timing, since in those days engineering students wore their HP's on their belts much like peacock feathers.

Unfortunately my HP was stolen and I haven't had a working one since. I do have one a friend gave me with a wonky display....I must fix it one day.

By the way, my most vivid memory of my HP? - Opening up a university math exam, gearing up to tackle the first question, turning on my HP and watching those little red LED digits fade to black from a dead battery. Battery packs! Probably the most universal grumble any HP owner ever had...but somehow it was easy to forgive.

Terry Nielsen, Maple Ridge, B.C. Canada


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