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You Could Have Bought A Good Used Car For That!

Posted by Mike Morrow on 2 Apr 2000, 10:15 p.m.

I first saw an HP ad for the HP-35 in "Scientific American" in Spring, 1972. I was an EE undergrad at Ga. Tech, and I still remember the storm of interest that this model caused. I remember discussing with a fellow student the "HP Journal" article that described the cordic algorithms the HP-35 used. We couldn't imagine why it would be important to worry much about fast algorithms for a calculator, since it would give answers faster than one could use them no matter what method was used. I also remember a friend purchasing an HP-45 for $400 in 1973. We taunted him with comments like "you could have bought a good used car for that!" Envy makes a person say things like that.

By the time I graduated in 1974, the only calculator I could afford was a four function Bomar 901. My Dietzgen slide rule still carried most of the load, and continued to do so through the Navy officers' nuclear power school I attended. There calculators were prohibited and part of the math training involved the best course in slide rule usage I've ever had.

My first HP calculator was the HP-67. While reactor controls officer on a submarine, I programmed it to carry out the set of moving average calculations required for the nuclear power plant calorimetric procedure, in which thermal data is collected while at high power operation and used to compute an adjustment to the nuclear power level instrumentation. This cut the time required to perform this procedure by 50 percent. I also used the HP-67 when I was officer of the deck to enter radar range and distance data and compute a time and closest point of approach to other sea traffic when we operated on the surface. An HP-97 was eventually purchased with government funds.

During this time I toyed with the latest TI machine, the TI-59. This calculator was actually faster and more powerful than my HP-67, but I never could keep one working for more than a few months.

I've continued to use HPs in my civilian engineering career. I've used the -41CX, -15C, -28S, 48GX, and many other HPs, since I now collect them. This began in 1978 when I traded a TI-58 for an old HP-35, which turned out to be one of the very earliest "red-dot" models. In an echo of one of your other correspondents, I am most attached to the HP42S, the best pre-RPL calculator ever made. Were HP interested, I could certainly give them some suggestions for enhancing and reintroducing this excellent machine (not likely, sadly).

Thanks for the wonderful information you've assembled at MoHPC. Now if only I could find a polynomial root-finding program optimized for the HP42S somewhere on the net...I just don't have time to write such stuff anymore!


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