The Museum of HP Calculators

HP-25 Reminiscence and Regret

The Museum of HP Calculators is very nicely done, and brought back both fond memories of my HP-25 and regret about its fate.

1965-7: Friend Lloyd and I discussed combining his hardware, and my software, expertise to make a small computer in my bedroom at home from spare IBM 704 parts. We didn't. (So Jobs and Wozniak started Apple.)

1974-5: Back in college to try to finish my CSci degree. Every time you entered the university bookstore, there was the HP display. WOW -- the HP-65 functions, programmability, & card reader/writer! Wow -- the HP-65 price... (From a technical viewpoint, the price was low compared to anything else at the time but as a student on unpaid leave of absence from my job, living on my savings, with no scholarship or student loan, the price was too high.)

Just as I had decided I could give up some things in order to afford the $795 (not the -35 or -45: it _had_ to be programmable) ... there was a new model, HP-25 -- programmable and a quarter the -65 price! Hey, for $600 I could do without a card reader/writer! Hmmm... not as much programming space ... but steps could hold more ... well, okay.

IT WAS JUST GREAT! Practically the same "bedroom computer" Lloyd and I had discussed!

I treated it gently. After I tried out all the examples and programs in the owner's manual and program book, 99% of use was to program it for long calculations (e.g. primality testing of large numbers) then let it run untouched for weeks or months except to restart it after it stopped to display a result. (Unlike one of your other contributors, I never threw my HP at any hard surface!)

1989 or '90: Preparation for garage sale -- wife pointed out that I hadn't used my HP-25 since my sister gave me that Radio Shack thingie (my wife's terminology for a Tandy Pocket Scientific Computer PC-7), and she remembered my griping about the cost of replacement battery packs. I put the -25 on a table in the garage, and labelled it "FREE - but requires $25 battery pack". (Since I've always considered myself fumble-fingered in regard to electrical stuff, I never followed the frequently-offered advice to just put in standard ni-cads.)

I GAVE AWAY THE HP-25 IN ITS ORIGINAL BOX TO SOME STRANGER WHO WAS SUSPICIOUS ABOUT WHY IT WAS FREE. Fully functional. No key bounce. OK on AC and batteries, but needed new batteries. Never a battery leak. Never needed repair. No scratches. No missing trim. Had never been cleaned harshly. No engraving. Never spilled anything on it. Never fastened any label or tag to it. The leather case was still soft and clean - had rarely even been touched or outside the box. Owner's manual like new except for handwritten corrections from errata notices. Had all sample Program Form sheets (unused), quick reference guide (like new), the book of programs (only item showing wear and bearing notes other than errata corrections), and all errata notices.


by Richard Woods

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