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Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
03-08-2017, 11:41 PM
Post: #1
Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
Some examples to clarify the title.

If I use my calculator to compute solutions while I study engineering, the usage is pretty math related, because mathematics is one core knowledge of engineering.

The same is valid if I study, well, mathematics, computer science, economics, physics, a bit less biology but still the observation is valid, and in short all the STEM fields.

The same applies if I use the calculator at work in a STEM related field.

What I mean for "not really math related" is some application where normally a computing machine is not used.

For example since I love to use my calculators (primarly the sharp el 506w and the hp50g) but I do not really engage in activities suitable for them, I realized that I could use them in other activities.

- I used a calculator to simulate a dice for board games, especially when the table was small and I could not throw 2 or more dices without messing up the board. (using a computer would not be feasible too clumsy, while existing applications for smartphones are not as flexible as an homemade program)
- In developing a board wargame, with hex and counters, I employed formulas to assess unit damage that were pretty long (using up to 14 digits for intermediate results), and I automated the results through a calculator. Again, a calculator was pretty neat to use due to its physical format and effectiveness.
- In existing boardgames like fortress america, axis and allies, Risk, battles with napoleon forces, etc. ; I automated the computation dice and casualties, that otherwise may be tedious with large clashes.
- I used it for gamifying activities, counting scores according to time spent in them, in real time (In this case using the busy wait on the hp 50g was not so neat for the battery life).

What are your "uncommon" usages for a calculator instead?

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03-09-2017, 05:20 AM
Post: #2
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
I have used my HP48GX for a lot of non-math things. I used it quite extensively in high school to tinker, to learn programming, and to goof off. I have used it
  • as a remote control: http://www.hpcalc.org/details/2314 Every classroom had a TV which we used for "morning news" (our students produced a morning news channel) to switch to "better" programming (or just turn it off).
  • as an address/phone book: http://www.hpcalc.org/details/50 I kept a lot of friends' contact information on it.
  • as a metronome when practicing on my guitar
  • as an alarm clock and stopwatch
  • as a pocket video game device (plenty of games for it)
  • as a digital set of flash cards

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03-09-2017, 05:37 AM
Post: #3
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
In 1981, I started with the TI-58c, and soon after, the 59, initially for calculating things that required looping and iterative processes that were a prohibitive amount of work to do by hand. But in 1983, at my job, I got introduced to, and interested in, lab instrumentation that could be controlled by computer, and in this case, a calculator. TI's could not control any equipment or take data automatically. Essentially the only I/O was the keyboard, display, and printer. It really was a calculator, not a hand-held computer like my friend's HP-41cv. So I got an HP-41cx and quite a complement of modules and other equipment, and right away began using it with the HP82169A HPIL-to-IEEE488 interface adapter to connect to equipment on the workbench at work to automate the repetitive jobs of taking certain readings through the DMM, and controlling programmable signal generators, relay boxes, power supplies, and so on.

In small but quick steps, the tiny company I was working for got into a product line that required a lot of testing that was totally impractical to do by hand. Not realizing how quickly this situation was going to escalate, I set up automated testing, using my HP-41 as the controller. Especially back then in the late 80's, people would be absolutely stunned to see a large rack of instrumentation controlled by something that would fit in a pocket. It gradually got to where I didn't get to use my HP-41 much anymore. Production test operators were using it all day to test our aircraft headsets in a small anechoic chamber. In fact, the first two million dollars' worth were tested by this HP-41cx and a 20-page program. Later, the control was transferred to a 68000-based HP series 9000 computer. Interestingly, it was not even twice as fast as the HP-41, because much of the time was spent giving filters time to settle and waiting for readings to come back from the equipment.

Now I still use the 41cx every day—not much as a controller anymore, but as a calculator, timer, alarm clock, a daytimer that reminds me of upcoming appointments upon turn-on, calendar, tracker for how much time I spend working on different accounts for my clients, and occasional notepad and phone directory. (The slowness of its text editor limits the scope of the last two.) As you might guess from this, I don't have, or want, a smartphone.

http://WilsonMinesCo.com (Lots of HP-41 links at the bottom of the links page, http://wilsonminesco.com/links.html )
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03-09-2017, 05:58 AM
Post: #4
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
Besides the Alarms and phone directory, here are two uses that are definitely non-math related:

Translator: Englsh<>Spanish Dictionary

Geography: Country Capitals

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ÁM
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03-09-2017, 07:15 AM (This post was last modified: 03-09-2017 07:15 AM by pier4r.)
Post: #5
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 05:20 AM)Han Wrote:  .

Oh, flash cards seems a nice idea, especially with the algorithm that decides the next item to show. Neat input thanks.

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03-09-2017, 07:22 AM
Post: #6
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 05:37 AM)Garth Wilson Wrote:  Now I still use the 41cx every day—not much as a controller anymore, but as a calculator, timer, alarm clock, a daytimer that reminds me of upcoming appointments upon turn-on, calendar, tracker for how much time I spend working on different accounts for my clients, and occasional notepad and phone directory. (The slowness of its text editor limits the scope of the last two.) As you might guess from this, I don't have, or want, a smartphone.

Thanks for sharing, interesting read. One question though, has the 41cv got a busy wait to compute expired time, like the hp 50g? If yes, how do you limit the battery usage?

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03-09-2017, 09:48 AM
Post: #7
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
I don't quite know if this is math-related or not, but here goes. One really simple thing I use my HP50G for is to keep a list of V1/Vr/V2/Vfr speeds in an array which I feed with table data, i.e. I look up the weight and flaps from a paper table, get speeds, put them into the array. Trying to automate that is considerably beyond me and my current programming skills on UserRPL (practically non-existent).

Does anyone have any suggestions for that? I've got all the relevant data, I'm even prepared to input the whole lot into the calculator, but what I don't know how to do is to correlate that for input values of weight, flaps, altitude and temperature. The way I would have done it in bash (a scripting language) would have been to create large arrays and simply report which value matches most closely. On a stack-based language, that's a bit more difficult.

(Post 56)

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HP-50g |Casio fx-9750G+ |Casio fx-9750GII (SH4a)
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03-09-2017, 09:55 AM
Post: #8
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 07:22 AM)pier4r Wrote:  Thanks for sharing, interesting read. One question though, has the 41cv got a busy wait to compute expired time, like the hp 50g? If yes, how do you limit the battery usage?

I'm not sure what you're asking. Originally I was getting a couple of years on a set of alkaline batteries, except when the 41 was being used for production testing all day every day. During that time, the batteries would last maybe a couple of months; and the program tested the low-battery flag at the beginning of each headset test and if it found the flag true (meaning the low-battery warning in the display was also on), it would beep and stop and tell the operator to change the batteries, and then would turn itself off after a few seconds to see the message. That way they couldn't just keep procrastinating until the batteries leaked. After I got the double extended memory module, the battery life dropped from two years of my regular usage to six or eight months.

Regardless, you could also have your program watch the run time if you wanted to limit it. The 41cx has the time module and extra time functions built in. It can also set multiple alarms of different types, which can turn the calc back on when it's time to do something. One of many things I've used that feature for was to test battery life. I set up eight or so batteries of different types (NiCd, alkaline, carbon-zinc, zinc chloride) with the typical load that one of our products presented, then have the calc wake itself up every half hour and read the voltage of each battery and print the line with all eight and the elapsed time, and put itself back to sleep. I let it run all weekend while I was gone. I could have still used the calc during that time, as long as its HPIL was still connected to the data-acquisition unit when the times came due to take the next set of readings.

http://WilsonMinesCo.com (Lots of HP-41 links at the bottom of the links page, http://wilsonminesco.com/links.html )
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03-09-2017, 12:16 PM
Post: #9
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
I used for a while a bunch of 41's (with related zippered case) in place of a bookend on my desktop, no one of the books related with STEM fields, mostly novels Smile Smile

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03-09-2017, 03:09 PM
Post: #10
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
The HP46G - using its alarm and BEEP functionalities make a fine audible alarm clock.

I've written some code snippets that audibly announce the hour and minutes (5 minute resolution) that audibly 'announce' the time. FWIW, I wear glasses - obviously NOT while I'm sleeping, so to have the alarm clock give me an audible message is quite helpful. (I suppose that even if you are not visually impaired that an audible alarm is much less disruptive than having to move to look at the conventional alarm clock). Then merely reaching over and hit the keyboard will 'snooze' it until the alarm recurs.

I have not checked the sound level output of the 48S series yet, but I have noticed that the beeper element in the HP50G is significantly lower in sound level output than the 48G series.

TomC
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03-09-2017, 03:35 PM
Post: #11
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 03:09 PM)TomC Wrote:  I have not checked the sound level output of the 48S series yet, but I have noticed that the beeper element in the HP50G is significantly lower in sound level output than the 48G series.

Not only that but the alarm functions of the HP 50g are very "hit and miss" when the machine is powered off. See http://bugs.hpcalc.org/show_bug.cgi?id=237
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03-09-2017, 04:56 PM (This post was last modified: 03-09-2017 10:22 PM by StephenG1CMZ.)
Post: #12
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
Yes, that is one of the functions of my ZIPP package on the HP Prime (and it can do math too).

It currently implements these non-mathematical functions:
Timer/stopwatch
Torch/emergency beacon

http://www.hpmuseum.org/forum/thread-4981.html

I also have an airport lookup program (excluding data) and periodic table display.

Stephen Lewkowicz (G1CMZ)
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03-09-2017, 05:39 PM
Post: #13
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 09:55 AM)Garth Wilson Wrote:  I'm not sure what you're asking.

When I programmed the "life gamification" algorithm (should be here , wait I do not have on a git page.) it uses a wait function to count the elapsed time. The problem is that counting the elapsed on the hp 50g, for what I know, needs a busy wait.

The command should be
Code:

updateTime WAIT KEY
   @wait for X seconds waiting also for a key

But the wait in the hp50g is busy, it means it counts the time passed after each tick until the amount of time passed equals the argument. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Busy_waiting

This affects the batteries because actually instead of putting the calculator in "wait mode", the cpu computes actively the time units passed.

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03-09-2017, 06:57 PM (This post was last modified: 03-09-2017 06:59 PM by Han.)
Post: #14
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 05:39 PM)pier4r Wrote:  
(03-09-2017 09:55 AM)Garth Wilson Wrote:  I'm not sure what you're asking.

When I programmed the "life gamification" algorithm (should be here , wait I do not have on a git page.) it uses a wait function to count the elapsed time. The problem is that counting the elapsed on the hp 50g, for what I know, needs a busy wait.

The command should be
Code:

updateTime WAIT KEY
   @wait for X seconds waiting also for a key

But the wait in the hp50g is busy, it means it counts the time passed after each tick until the amount of time passed equals the argument. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Busy_waiting

This affects the batteries because actually instead of putting the calculator in "wait mode", the cpu computes actively the time units passed.

If you use 0 WAIT, then it will wait (with timeout) _AND_ return a key if one is pressed. If you do TICKS 0 WAIT TICKS ROT - (that's the "minus" symbol) then you will get both the key pressed and the elapsed time. If no keys are pressed, the calculator will auto shut off. When you turn it on, it will continue where it left -- i.e. it continues to wait for a key.

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03-09-2017, 08:39 PM
Post: #15
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-08-2017 11:41 PM)pier4r Wrote:  What are your "uncommon" usages for a calculator instead?

I used a calculator to stop my cat from scratching up my new sofa. You should've seen him run when I threw it at him!

Does that count? Smile

Tom L

Tom L

People may say I'm inept but I consider myself to be totally ept.
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03-09-2017, 08:54 PM
Post: #16
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 06:57 PM)Han Wrote:  If you use 0 WAIT, then it will wait (with timeout) _AND_ return a key if one is pressed. If you do TICKS 0 WAIT TICKS ROT - (that's the "minus" symbol) then you will get both the key pressed and the elapsed time. If no keys are pressed, the calculator will auto shut off. When you turn it on, it will continue where it left -- i.e. it continues to wait for a key.
Hmm, that is quite an improvement over busy wait. I should implement it when I get a bit of time.

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03-09-2017, 09:20 PM
Post: #17
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
(03-09-2017 05:58 AM)Ángel Martin Wrote:  Translator: Englsh<>Spanish Dictionary

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03-09-2017, 11:19 PM
Post: #18
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
Since my HP-Prime fried one of my computers, it has served as a paperweight. I'm waiting to try to update the software to something that runs well enough to judge whether the Prime works at all until I can borrow someone else's computer.
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03-10-2017, 12:39 AM
Post: #19
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
Going waaaaaaay back to the dialup-of-things era, I used my 48GX to:

1. Program my VCR, including setting it's clock to within a second of my 48GX clock. Very useful for complex programming as well as restoring state after power loss.

2. Note storage; handy in school and during tests. The serial cable made quick work of loading up critical notes.

3. A few games, mostly for the novelty. Although I did play a bit of Lemmings (IIRC). Had there been Sudoku at that time I imagine I'd have played a lot of that.

That 48GX was the best gift my father ever gave me. And [IMHO] one of the finest machines ever created. Still have it.
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03-10-2017, 03:26 AM
Post: #20
RE: Have you used your calculator for something that was not really math related?
I am a rebreather diver and the most critical safety aspect of them is the cells used to report oxygen levels in the system. To be redundant most designs use at least 3 cells, my rebreather uses 5. I recently put together a system to test performance and keep track of the age of each cell using a 41CX as a controller/data recorder.

Steve
In order of appearance: HP 41CV, CMT-MCGPS, HP 41CX, DM 41, DM 42
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