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Celebrating 30 years since I bought an HP-55 - Printable Version

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Celebrating 30 years since I bought an HP-55 - Namir - 08-22-2005

I am celebrating today 30 years since I bought my first HP calculator -- an HP-55. I was in an engineering college and my parents showed me in 1974 an ad for the HP-65 -- the first personal computer. I had to have one. Because of the cost my parents gave it much thought. In August 75 I flew to Europe to join them for the rest of summer. As we drove from the airport I was handed several flyers for HP calculators-- HP-21, HP-25, HP-45, HP-55, and HP-65. I started studying the flyers for the 25, 55, and 65. I spent the next few days reading every word and going over the features of each calculator again and again. Finally I decided on the HP-55. It had built-in linear regression and basic stats, 20 registers, unit convertions -- all special features that meant a lot for me. I decided on that model and my family purchased it for me on August 22. I was not fulyl aware that the HP-55 had the least programming space and features (no subroutine like with the HP-65). I used the HP-55 for the next 2 years and pushed the machine to the limit of programming. In 1977 I bought an HP-67 and enjoyed the superior programming features (more steps and three levels of subroutines).

Today I took out my HP-55 (one I got recebtly from eBay) and played with it a bit. I wrote a few programs and keyed in others from the Math and Stat application booklet. This was the first step in a world of computers that because accessible to us.

Those were the days when HP was the calculator ACE!

Happy Programming!


Re: Celebrating 30 years since I bought an HP-55 - steve - 08-24-2005

Poor Namir, everyone ignored your post. I for one appreciate that story. I love hearing tales about the early days of calculators. I think anyone old enough to remember those days is lucky in a way, becuase it was a bigger step forward for personal computing in a relative sense than we're likely to see again. To get an idea of how revolutionary it was, my friend remembers a crowd gathered around a live demonstration at Macy's showing one of the first four function pocket calculators. No one could believe something that small could do what that thing did. A four function pocket calculator for $100 was considered a bargain.

Re: Celebrating 30 years since I bought an HP-55 - Howard Owen - 08-24-2005

I didn't ignore it. I just thought it stood pretty well on its own. 8)

Re: Celebrating 30 years since I bought an HP-55 - Namir - 08-25-2005

Thanks guys for responding! I was celebrating a vintage HP calculator. After all, this is what this site is all about. It is amaizing how far calculators have progressed. I think we all recall that moment of aw when we held in our hands a small and sophisticated calculator that out-matchoeasd the common 4-function or basic scientific Casio, Sharp, and Cannon calculators.

Re: Celebrating 30 years since I bought an HP-55 - Howard Owen - 08-25-2005

Yup. For me it was the 41C. It was the first programmable I ever saw.

Since taking up collecting (quite recently) I've had the opposite experience of learning how less capable - but not necessarily older - HP calculators were programmed. For some models that has been a real pleasure. I'm thinking of the HP-97 and [11|15|16]C here. For others it has been a cruel ordeal. Perhaps that's overstating it, but the HP-20S just sucks as a programmable. Never mind the limited memory, it's an algebraic that programs without mnemonics! So not only do I have to decode the keystrokes, but I have to completely rearrange the programming part of my brain. So Euclid's algorithm (my standard "benchmark" of programming simplicity) is really screwed up. And not just because there's no "MOD" function:

02 STO2
04 STO1
05 LBL1
06 RCL1
07 /
08 RCL2
09 =
10 FP
11 *
12 RCL2
13 =
14 RND
15 IP
16 STO3
17 X=0?
18 GTO2
19 RCL2
20 STO1
21 RCL3
22 STO2
23 GTO1
24 LBL2
25 RCL2
26 RTN


This monstrosity of a programming model, wherever it first showed up, seems to me to have been the beginning of the end. It's obvious the marketing guys had fought a battle over AOS vs RPN, and partially won. At the same time Wiliam Wickes et. al. were producing the 42S, this chimera between two incompatible phylae of calculation hit the streets. I don't know if its so terrible simply because that's how keystroke programming on an algebraic has to be, or because the team implementing the programming believed that it was.

However that may have been, it makes your reverence for your first HP all the more appropriate. The models we admire really were special and unusual, as the example of mediocraty that is the HP-20S shows.

Edited: 25 Aug 2005, 1:38 p.m.

Re: Celebrating 30 years since I bought an HP-55 - Frank Knight - 08-25-2005

Well, that means it's been 30 years since I got my first scientific, an APF Mark 51 purchased at Sears. It served well the first year till I got my first advanced scientific TI SR-51 and then in December 1976, the beloved TI-SR-56. Then a Commodore M-55 which Gene now has in the summer of 77 followed by finally a HP-29C later in 1977 after trying a 25C first. Had to work a lot of hours in the mid-70's at $2.20/hr while in school and summers to buy this stuff!