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HP Forum Archive 11

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Nostalgic HP-34C Story
Message #1 Posted by Norm Hill on 11 Mar 2003, 4:59 a.m.

Probably belongs on the 'stories forum' but I'll put it here so the Texas Math Teacher spots it:

Before my story, yeah, I'm that advocate of HP-34C. It has the best cosmetics of all the units and the red LED display is crisper and more intriguing than the bland LCD's. It had a very rare quality... you could actually learn ALL of its functions and feel that you had mastered something at the end. This is not the case with 48G+ or even 41C. You never get to the bottom of it. With HP-34C you do. I like that a lot about anything..... a toaster, a TV set, a stereo. I don't want to keep learning about it forever. Yes, 34C drained batteries too fast.

***************** STORY ***************

I always will have the finest memory in high school mathematics class (I was in the 'advanced' calculus program). The time was 1980. At the time, the HP Calculators were around, but very expensive. Schools would encourage you to purchase a TI-30 for trig and calculus. People knew about the HP but refrained ("ugh, for Einsten, and there's no eeekwulz button). I was interested in the superior unit and had earned the money and bought one. I had been told how RPN would make the calculator work better than a TI-30 and I had mastered the 34C and really liked it. It was a fine fine complement to going thru teenager trig and calculus classes. (later I used it thru college).

The high school math teacher was skeptical. That was "Mr. Hilton" out near Lynnwood, WA. He preferred the 'one with the eekwulz button'. He was probably intimidated that I had bought this extremely expensive HP calculator that he couldn't afford on teacher's pay and would not know how to use. (HP calc cost a LOT of income at the time). And some of the students had noticed it and were wondering just what I was up to; was it worthwhile.

The TI-30 the schools & teachers recommended is pretty much useless for doing anything more complex than 2+2=4 . If you think about it, a calculator is for things more complicated than what an 8 year old can do in his head. RPN supports that complexity. An 'eeekwulz' button does not.

AND SO, we were going thru the calculus class one day and dealing with a problem. We had actual numbers to plug into a big formula, the teacher wanted to get a numerical answer.

EXACTLY the situation for which RPN existed. So, we've set the stage for something humorous.


The teacher pulled out his "Texas Instruments" pile of crap, the one with the eekwulz button.

He started pushing buttons, trying to use the memory (this plus this, eekwulz, I'll store this..... EQUALS, OOPS, got to start over, EQUALS, mumble mumble, store this, DARN, rats) yeah, he was carrying on like that because the formula was kind of complicated.

Like a relaxed sharpshooter, I reached down to the book-pile on the floor at my high school desk........ I pulled up the HP-34C (in its fancy fur-padded pouch).

I removed it from the pouch. I began typing the formula, ONE TIME ONLY, without hurrying, and in seconds I had the answer.

The teacher was still mumbling and saying 'eekwulz, recall that, eekwulz, store this, eekwulz, OOPS', and then, I stated the answer to him.

He simply put away his TI-30 calculator and wrote the answer on the board.

He said 'Norm has one of those expensive HP calculators. It uses a system called RPN which is supposed to make it more practical to use on difficult formulas like this. I don't know if its true...... well...... maybe it is".

"We'll just trust him on this answer".


Savored the moment to this day.

Re: Nostalgic HP-34C Story
Message #2 Posted by John K. (US) on 11 Mar 2003, 7:14 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm Hill

Neat story -- definitely belongs in the Memories forum. :^)

Hmm. Lynnwood, huh? Still live in the area? I'm from Bremerton.

Re: Nostalgic HP-34C Story
Message #3 Posted by Mike (Stgt) on 11 Mar 2003, 7:40 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm Hill


Had an experience close to yours too: The teacher showed the class how to calculate the volume of a sphere in the 4th dimension. While he wrote on the bord and explained this an that I used "my" HP-41 and the Romberg Integration in the PPC-ROM. Quite a while before the teacher I had the numeric answer - alas, numeric only. But - of cause! - the same as the teacher found in thermes of PI.


something like that
Message #4 Posted by Norm Hill on 11 Mar 2003, 3:15 p.m.,
in response to message #3 by Mike (Stgt)

Yes, it was something like that, some formula sort of like volumes or areas. Might've been integrating some geometric problem with a goat on a rope eating grass in a pen and the rope wraps around a peg (or some such). The teacher never did get any sort of answer with the TI-30. At that moment in time, that was where the proving ground for RPN and non-RPN, calculators like TI-30 vs. HP-34C. Like comparing a tricycle to a formula one racer.

Re: Nostalgic HP-34C Story (TI-30)
Message #5 Posted by Karl Schneider on 12 Mar 2003, 3:26 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm Hill

Norm Hill wrote:

"The TI-30 the schools & teachers recommended is pretty much useless for doing anything more complex than 2+2=4"

That's a bit harsh. It also had trigs, logarithms, exponents, square root and square -- certainly enough for basic schoolwork, and quite a good value for the time. It certainly had its limitations, though, with only one memory and no programmability.

The TI-30 was my first calc in 1978 or so, and I was quite glad to get it for Christmas. It lasted me for a few years until yet another disposable 9V battery started to die in electronics class in 1981 (its rechargeable 9V had crapped out long ago). I hooked it up to a DC power supply set to an indicated 9.0 V. The display quickly went screwy, and it was toasted. (Darn those LED's!)

I received a LCD Casio a few months later, but couldn't afford an HP until 1983 -- an HP-15C, which I chose over the HP-34C still available at the time.

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