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HP Calculators in movies ??
Message #1 Posted by Norm on 23 Aug 2003, 3:58 a.m.

Are there many HP calculators seen in Hollywood movies ??

Probably not, its kind of like spotting an HP microwave network analyzer in a movie ......

HOWEVER I know of at least one such, its "Andromeda Strain".

This is a classic "engineers movie" from when engineers ruled the earth (not MBA's) U know that early 1970's timeframe, when even the average 12-year old knew his algebra (now they just watch beevis & butthead) .

Now, help me out here folks, but along with all the spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, electron microscopes, and chemical equipment featured in "Andromeda Strain" did U not clearly spot the outlines of a "classic" HP scientific calculator in the white Ford econoline van (the one with the radar dish on top, near the beginning).

U know, one of those calculators the size of a suitcase. No, I dont know the model number, maybe somebody else does?

Heyyyyy which movie has got an HP-34C in it ????? With Reeeeeeed LEEEEEEED's ........ oooo aaaaahh hubba hubba

Re: HP Calculators in movies ??
Message #2 Posted by Richard Garner on 23 Aug 2003, 10:16 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm

It's not a calculator but the movie "Real Genus" showed the HP-71B. It was used by the backstabbing suck-up Kent. I you ever watched any of the first episodes of "This Old House", Bob Villa used an HP-35.

Re: HP Calculators in movies ??
Message #3 Posted by Ed Martin on 23 Aug 2003, 11:37 a.m.,
in response to message #2 by Richard Garner

I need to watch it again to be 100% sure, but in "Two Weeks Notice", when Sandra Bullock cleans out her office after quitting, at the top of her box appears to be a silver bezel Voyager. My question is, what would an attorney be doing with a 10C/11C/15C ???

- Ed

Message #4 Posted by bill platt on 23 Aug 2003, 12:49 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm

Norm, you are a genius. Just when we have all gotten off track, worrying about a bunch of new trash coming out of carly-copaq-land, you put us back to our roots. I remember when I saw a HAM radio station in a movie--that was totally cool---(being a HAM you soemtimes wonder if the WHOLE world thinks you are a commitable nerd). Now for calculators.

Next time we go to Blockbuster to rent a movie, I am going to override my wife's choices. We are on the hunt!


Message #5 Posted by Norm on 23 Aug 2003, 1:57 p.m.,
in response to message #4 by bill platt

you would not likely find "Andromeda Strain" at a Blockbuster, they only have got modern dumb stuff like Vin Diesel starring in "XXX" etc etc

However U can get anything U want on eBay .....

DONT watch "Solaris" dumbest piece of modern trash I ever seen in my life, dumber even than Tom Cruise in "Vanilla Sky".

LETS WRITE A SCRIPT for our own movie......

"KICK 'EM OUT" starring Norm, gang of angry teeth-gnashing HP calculator users storms Carly Fiorina's board of directors. We pelt the board of directors with rocks and bottles and old HP calculator parts, they run from the building, we kick back in the chairs and drink from beer bottles to celebrate our victory.......

script needs to feature a hp calculator
Message #6 Posted by hugh on 23 Aug 2003, 3:08 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by Norm

scientists discover an asteroid on COLLISION course with the earth and no one can stop it. world leaders cant agree on a solution so scientists get together all over the world to think of something themselves.

after some subplots and a love triangle (goes here) the scientists come up with a missile that could deflect it, if programmed correcltly.

however, microelectronics today is too small and would be hit by cosmic rays in space and malfunction. norm, our hero, in a long shot but it might just work fashion, programs his own hp 34c whose large retro electronic could withstand the rays to guide the missile and fits it inside the unit just in time to save the world.

Message #7 Posted by Hans Brueggemann [GER ] on 23 Aug 2003, 3:28 p.m.,
in response to message #6 by hugh has been a long time waiting for the sequel to plan 9: PLAN 34. (lord, help us & let's go for it)

cheers hans

Re: script needs to feature a hp calculator
Message #8 Posted by db(martinez,california) on 23 Aug 2003, 6:51 p.m.,
in response to message #6 by hugh

In the book "Lucifers Hammer" by Jerry Pournell, which is about that same asteroid, some U.S. and Soviet astronauts have a short discussion about algebraic vs rpn calculators. btw: The author is some kind of engineer who worked at the JPL among other early high tech places in southern California.

Re: script needs to feature a hp calculator
Message #9 Posted by r. d. bärtschiger. on 23 Aug 2003, 8:49 p.m.,
in response to message #8 by db(martinez,california)

Jerry Pournell also wrote a column for 'Byte' Magazine for a number of years.


Jerry Pournelle
Message #10 Posted by Andrés C. Rodríguez (Argentina) on 24 Aug 2003, 2:43 p.m.,
in response to message #9 by r. d. bärtschiger.

Indeed, apart from many Sci-Fi books, Jerry Pournelle wrote the monthly "Users Column", later renamed as "Computing at Chaos Manor", for many years in Byte magazine (I think he still publishes a column at

/ is where to read lots of Jerry
Message #11 Posted by Gene on 24 Aug 2003, 9:19 p.m.,
in response to message #10 by Andrés C. Rodríguez (Argentina)

One of my regular sites to visit.

Confusing at Catastrophy manor (Parody of Pournelle's Chaos Manor)
Message #12 Posted by Vassilis Prevelakis on 27 Aug 2003, 7:46 a.m.,
in response to message #11 by Gene

Since this is a forum for collectors, I thought I'd post this message posted to the net.micro newsgroup in 1985. (notice the .UUCP address and the references to 6502 vs 68000 -- ah, those were the days :-)

It parodies Gerry's column in Byte Magazine (then called User's Column).


From: garey@ut-ngp.UUCP (riggs, austen)
Newsgroups: net.micro
Subject: Confusing at Catastrophy manor
Message-ID: <1530@ut-ngp.UUCP>
Date: 31 Mar 85 06:03:52 GMT
Article-I.D.: ut-ngp.1530
Posted: Sun Mar 31 00:03:52 1985
Date-Received: 5 Apr 85 02:40:37 GMT
Organization: U.Texas Computation Center, Austin, Texas
Lines: 63

I ran across this in the April issue of Microcornucopeia:

Confusing at Catastrophy Manor

Alas, it has been yet another sleepless month here at Catastrophy Manor. My faithful Z80, Beulah, began spitting out 'not ready' errors two weeks ago and my in-house technician didn't discover until yesterday that I had not put a disk in the drive.

During that time I was forced to use Zimblefield J. Rothschild, the Cray 1 that normally monitors the odor level from the kitty box. What a frustrating machine! I certainly wish someone would enlighten the Cray people on how to design a proper keyboard. The left shift key is positioned at least a sixteenth of an inch from the standard position on the Selectric! I call their customer service department to complain but it doesn't do any good. This is the fit}ih Cray they've given me, and they still haven't gotten the left shift right.


Now that my latest novel, 'Stumblefeet' is completed, I have refocused my attention on eating, and insulting anyone who markets a product I have not already recommended in my column, along with those who program in anything other than Pascal or Modula-2.

This month I received a program for the IBM-PC that guarentees to find enough tax loopholes to reduce your income tax to nothing. Every year. How ludricous. I have never seen that in my column. I even went back and looked (plus, I paid taxes last year, so I must not have reviewed it). To make things even more ridiculous, it is written in C. And they expect me to open the box? Come now fellows, how much effort do you expect me to make?


I have been saying for years that the only way for a computer company to be successful is to design a Timex-Sinclair compatible S-100 board. I must have said that to at least 50 people. Nobody listened. But finally, Say Co. Computers came out with exactly what I have been waiting for, and it is truly a tribute to high technology. It can add 200 numbers (some of them large) in under a second, it has a real time display, and it is water resistant.

I am considering using one here at Catastrophy Manor to replace the Crays if something isn't done about that appalling keyboard.


A while back I was thunbing through the truckloads of mail, free copies of Burpo Pascal and free Honkubro hardware that all of us famous overweight computer columnists get, when I found a request for another incredible Modula-2 Star Trek game. Since I don't want to write another Star Trek game, and I don't reallu pay any attention to my mail anyway, I decided to write a Pascal to Lisp translator.

I have been laboring over it for several months and it is finally done. I was planning on selling it for $99.95 through The Software Foolworks, but due to a momentary affliction of divine benevolence, I have decided to publish it here in the hallowed pages of OVERBYTE.

This translator avoids all the usual problems of converting infix to prefix notation and of moving from the domain of a sequential language to that of a procedural language. In fact, my translator is very unusual because its output precisly mimics the original Pascal (The process is known as LISP Sync).

My son Smartalex doesn't think that anyone WANTS to convert Pascal to Lisp (but then he thinks that the 68000 is more powerful than the 6502).


(As compiled by Laine Stump)

Re: Confusing at Catastrophy manor (Parody of Pournelle's Chaos Manor)
Message #13 Posted by Wayne Brown on 27 Aug 2003, 9:23 a.m.,
in response to message #12 by Vassilis Prevelakis


Very good! I used to read Pournelle's column way back in the "Olden Days" :-) and this captures the flavor nicely. The only thing missing is a smug reference to some "inside info" he read on ARPANET or, in later columns, complaints about losing his (unauthorized) ARPANET account.

Intentional use of HP gadget on screen, number one
Message #14 Posted by Frank Wales on 25 Aug 2003, 2:50 p.m.,
in response to message #6 by hugh

There is an episode of 'The Six Million Dollar Man' where, following an unexpected problem with an experimental aircraft he is test-flying, Steve Austin is fooled into thinking that he has accidentally travelled into the future.

How did the bad guys persuade Our Hero? While he was unconscious after the aircraft problem, they altered his HP-01 to show that the year was 1984 instead of 1978. Steve seems happy to believe that, somehow, his HP-01 would detect time travel, and keep its clock accurate, and so he goes along with the deception for most of the episode.

Now, is this a good or a bad use of an HP gadget? On the one hand, it's a testament to the watch's durability and engineering that a test pilot trusts it over common sense. On the other hand, it shows that an HP product can be abused for nefarious purposes, making Our Hero look like a dork.

Re: Intentional use of HP gadget on screen, number one
Message #15 Posted by David Smith on 25 Aug 2003, 7:00 p.m.,
in response to message #14 by Frank Wales

Ahh, but Stevie WAS a dork...

True cost of $6e06 man
Message #16 Posted by Tom (UK) on 26 Aug 2003, 2:34 p.m.,
in response to message #14 by Frank Wales

Was the cost of the HP01 taken into consideration when they calculated the 6 million dollars? Should he be the 5.998 million dollar man? Perhaps the $6 million was partly to fund the HP01 so is he more like the 4 million dollar man?


Message #17 Posted by S. Spielberg on 23 Aug 2003, 4:14 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm


This is to inform you that private information belonging to myself, my associates, and/or affiliated companies, has been disclosed to this forum. You are notified that any further transmission or usage of such information is declared illegal and perpetrators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Thank you , please keep watching movies and buying merchadising products. Do not forget your popcorn/soda combo.

Message #18 Posted by G. Lucas on 23 Aug 2003, 6:11 p.m.,
in response to message #17 by S. Spielberg

This material was all my idea to begin with.

Jealousy is a green monster.

What about Mars ?
Message #19 Posted by Norm on 24 Aug 2003, 12:14 a.m.,
in response to message #18 by G. Lucas

Mars is supposed to be about as bright as it gets, on August 27th. Like, the brightest in recorded history ???? Your next chance is in about 225 years and by then U might be getting old and have to squint.

Maybe the movie should be like this: the asteroid came from Mars and we were going to send a missile, but all the MBA's had smashed and destroyed all the engineering and technician's equipment, so we could not launch any missiles and the earth was destroyed and everybody dies. The end.

HEY SERIOUS now, why is it that the whole space program (brainchild of Werner Von Braun) is in ruins and got by replaced by a national agenda of illegal Mexicans with nail guns pounding together 6000 sq. ft. homes (on small lots) for the MBA's ???

As a result, nobody goin' to Mars ?? Hell we can't even make a decent MOVIE about goin' to Mars, much less actually go there......... what's wrong with this picture.....

Re: Rubbish
Message #20 Posted by S.S. on 26 Aug 2003, 8:37 a.m.,
in response to message #18 by G. Lucas

HAHAHA. It is a known fact that you steal ideas. The readers at this forum know for a long time that the idea for the weird talk of Master Yoda was stolen from the weird usage of HP calculators.

Re: HP Calculators in movies ??
Message #21 Posted by Silvio on 24 Aug 2003, 12:41 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm

I know of at least two movies where an HP-41 has some brief part. Unfortunately I can’t remember the names of the movies or any actor, but the plots go something like....

Movie 1: A British movie, very early 80’s. A guy works in Life Insurance and has tons of statistical data on accidental deaths. He finds out that the most common way to 40 years old women to die is to slip on the tub, after trying to pull themselves up using the small bar so common on many tubs. He kills his wife with the help of a computer (I can’t remember how the computer could control things in the real world, but…) At the end, the guy is committed to a hospital for mentally unstable people. A reporter finds out the whole plan and confronts him, telling that the story will go public the next day. The last scene is her car exploding at the hospital’s gates, after a count down on a calculator the mad guy has on its hands gets to ZERO. Well, the calculator is a 41C, with a program to count down to zero. I’m just about 80% sure about this movie, because I did not own a 41 at the time.

Movie 2: An American movie, mid 80’s. A group of Engineering Students develop a computerized system to break a Casino. They use what I believe is the first Wearable Computer, the main player has a 41 (C/CV/CX???) on his pocket, connected to an electric device on his shoes, and he receives the numbers by electric impulses on the shoe, as it would be illegal to look at the calculator’s results while playing the Roulette. I don’t remember if the calculator was used to predict the results, or if it just received the values from another computer by microwaves or something like it. I’m 100% sure about this HP 41 appearance.


Re: HP Calculators in movies ??
Message #22 Posted by M Currie on 24 Aug 2003, 11:50 p.m.,
in response to message #21 by Silvio

The second movie sounds like a fictionalized version of the story told in "The Eudaemonic Pie," by Thomas Bass. An interesting read.

Re: HP Calculators in movies ??
Message #23 Posted by Bert K on 24 Aug 2003, 5:08 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm

I spotted a team member in Junkyard Wars calculating his way out of trouble using a Voyager.

Voyager in a Junkyard?
Message #24 Posted by Patrick on 24 Aug 2003, 12:31 p.m.,
in response to message #23 by Bert K

It was probably a 10C and he probably found it there! ;-)

Re: Voyager in a Junkyard?
Message #25 Posted by Bert K on 26 Aug 2003, 3:49 a.m.,
in response to message #24 by Patrick

No it wasn't a 10C, it had yellow and blue shift keys. The 10C (I have one) only has a yellow shift key.

Sorry Norm
Message #26 Posted by Michael F. Coyle on 24 Aug 2003, 11:54 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm

The Andromeda Strain came out in 1970, predating the HP-35. But the props guys should have gotten a 9100 + plotter -- that would have been nice.

It's probably the only movie where an ASR-33 Teletype played a small but crucial role.

Interesting thread though...Bob Vila used an HP-35???? Cool!

- Michael

It must've been an HP-9100
Message #27 Posted by NH on 24 Aug 2003, 12:47 p.m.,
in response to message #26 by Michael F. Coyle

It' must've been an HP-9100 in the white ford Van in "Andromeda Strain".

It says that calculator was 1968; you say the movie came out in 1970 .

If you check this, better do it with a DVD (not VHS) because you will need the extra resolution to decide.

Re: It must've been an HP-9100
Message #28 Posted by Ellis Easley on 26 Aug 2003, 4:31 a.m.,
in response to message #27 by NH

I don't remember the scene, but I think there was a 9100 in Andromeda Strain because of the display that is shown - three rows of digits painted on a green CRT. It seems like the display belonged to a system that determined the location of something.

Message #29 Posted by Tizedes Csaba on 24 Aug 2003, 4:18 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm

I'm not sure, but I think, in The Specialist Stallone's got a HP48 on the table, when he making a bomb in half-darkness...


Stallone ... The Specialist
Message #30 Posted by Norm on 25 Aug 2003, 12:34 a.m.,
in response to message #29 by Tizedes Csaba

Is that a good movie ???

I like to collect good movies. How good is Stallone in "The specialist"......

U can get anything on eBay ..... maybe I should get a copy?

Sly and Dallas
Message #31 Posted by Tizedes Csaba on 25 Aug 2003, 1:44 a.m.,
in response to message #30 by Norm

>Is that a good movie ??? >How good is Stallone in "The specialist"...... >..... maybe I should get a copy?

I'm wash one's hands of about it... :) I just saw it about 7-8 years ago...

The calc was great not Stallone ;) !


Ps.: The Ewings never used a financial calc?

Re: Calculators in movies ??
Message #32 Posted by Paul Brogger on 25 Aug 2003, 11:09 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Norm

I remember one wasted moment (among many) watching a probably-made-for-TV movie about some hotshot rocket scientist. During character development, in order to demonstrate just how far this guy was beyond his peers, some situation arose with a presumably nuclear-tipped missile on a collision course with New York (or whatever), the anti-missile is launched, and it is off course, and the ground-based course correction computer won't work. (Cue the tense, dramatic background music . . . )

The protagonist goes to work on a (Litronix, I think) four-banger, keying in values and operators in fast-forward at a rate the calculator's key de-bouncing algorithm would render all but meaningless. After the requisite delay until the final possible second, he announces the course correction value, the anti-missle hits the warhead, and the world is saved!

What a tragic waste of youthful minutes of consciousness (and potential for real drama), and of aging, ever-diminished memory!

Re: Calculators in movies ?? - Jonesy
Message #33 Posted by Juan J on 25 Aug 2003, 5:31 p.m.,
in response to message #32 by Paul Brogger

In The Hunt for Red October, the book, Jones, aka Jonesy, the sonar officer, after doing some unusual signal processing of the Red October's caterpillar drive acoustic signature, plotted the curse in a map (which contained the Soviet submarines known patrol courses that he kept on the Dallas for security reasons) and calculated the Red October's probable course through subsea canyons and then to North America. When he presented his results to Captain Mancuso he pulled out an HP calculator. Alas, Tom Clancy did not mention the model, and the calculator was omitted in the movie. But since Jones is a very smart character, it was probably a 41.

There are also some references to series 9000 computers for submarine officers' traiuning in The Sum of All Fears.

Re: Calculators in movies ?? HP-71B
Message #34 Posted by Michael Meyer on 26 Aug 2003, 1:12 a.m.,
in response to message #33 by Juan J

There's some movie my kids were watching on disney about a genious kid invited to go to college. They end up building some laser system.

Anyway, the engineering guys are using an HP-71B as a calculator.


Re: Calculators in movies ?? - Jonesy
Message #35 Posted by Happy Holden on 26 Aug 2003, 1:09 p.m.,
in response to message #33 by Juan J

Tom Clancy was just relaying an old secret known by all nuclear sub and Orion P3 Sonar men...That their final backup on identifiying Soviet Nuclear subs' fourier-series accoustic signatures was a group of magnetic program cards for their HP67 calculators. I have a set of the cards that I picked up off the floor of the HP Print Lab in Palo Alto in 1978. These were defective and unprogrammed, but the good ones soon would be headed for the only "spy-froof room (is it Tempest?)" HP had at the time to be programmed by a Navy DOD officer. I doubt many people knew about the number of HP67 calculators in critical Government roles including the Apollo Program. Astronauts had a "HP Pocket" for their 67 on the moon program-they could run the capsule from the HP67 and the magnetic cards if the $50 million triple-backup computer aboard failed.

HP and Apollo
Message #36 Posted by Grant Goodes on 26 Aug 2003, 1:27 p.m.,
in response to message #35 by Happy Holden

As the HP-67 came out in 76, it is not likely that it was used on Apollo missions! AFAIK, the HP-65 _was_ part of the Apollo/Soyuz (ASTP) mission, and HP-35's were present on Skylab, but the moon missions did NOT use any of these calculators.

The first significant "integration" if you will of an HP calculator and a manned NASA program was the well-known (to us!) use of the HP-41C for backup landing software on the early Shuttle (and for all I know, to this day).

Cool information about the HP-67 in sub detection!


Re: HP the Military
Message #37 Posted by bill platt on 26 Aug 2003, 3:27 p.m.,
in response to message #36 by Grant Goodes

A few months ago I was on a commercial flight out of Ft walton Beach, and happened to share the aisle with an active duty KC-130 navigator on his way home from Afganistan and Iraq. He saw my HP-48 and so at some point we did discuss navigation and computing and yes, it was quite common to have an HP-41 on board, though less often now. I do not remember whether or not it was a govt issue or official tool.

Re: HP the Military
Message #38 Posted by Joshua Belsky on 28 Aug 2003, 2:37 p.m.,
in response to message #37 by bill platt

It is my understanding that the USMA issued HP48GXs to cadets until about four years ago. Now they get TI-92s or something along those lines.


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