Comparason of Old Computers and Calculators ....

Since I am working on my project I am looking at old systems and how they implemented some features. Anyways some notable historic items came up as I was reading.

Compared to the cost of the early computers, and the HP-65 and the HP-67. If I was even alive at that time, I think a HP-65/67 would have been a better choice then the computers on the market. It seems like a no-brainer, atleast to me, that HP had a winner even if it was more of a "calculator" then a computer. For 450$ for a programmable handheld with magnetic strip storage, verses lets say the Sol-20 in 1976 costing 745$, plus the monitor, plus $2295 for the 8" floppy drive! Ouch!

What do you guys think?



I purchased my Radio Shack Model 100 in early 1983. It came with

BASIC language programming

14 digit calculations

Telephone interface

A full size keyboard so that I could touch type

A sound output which could be used to play music

A graphing capability loong before the fx-7000G

External backup on magnetic tape - see another current thread

After that I "played" with programmable clculators but for real work I used my Model 100.


I remember back around 1983, when I had a HP-41CV with card reader and a Commodore 64, first with tape, then floppy.

The computer was way more powerful, it was faster, had bigger display, capacity and it could even run Forth. However, the calculator was more portable and easier to have a bunch of useful programs in it. They were both very useful in their different ways.

Today the vintage calculator holds up very well, but I see no reason to run such vintage computer...


Today the vintage calculator holds up very well, but I see no reason to run such vintage computer...

Excellent observation!!!

Palmer, do you still have it? Do you know A nice group of people, similar to this one.


Well, back in 1975 - 1977 the computers available were hobby toys, not practical machines for most folks. The Altair 8800 had 256 bytes of RAM and no provision for any I/O of any sort (1975). The TRS-80, Apple ][ and Commodore PET didn't arrive until 1977 and they were generally 8k RAM (4k for the Apple), limited video (often upper case only) and I/O but priced high (the PET was $799 but hard to find; the Apple was well over $1000 with 4k). Printers started at about $1000 for Centronics and similar pin-feed monsters and went up - way up from there. Floppies weren't out yet and when they did arrive held 128k of data unless you went for the enormous 8 inch 1M drives at well over $1000 each.

The HP-65 was $795 in 1974. The HP-67 came out in 1976 (I had mine in August '76) for $395 as I recall. Not cheap on a second lieutenant's pay of $6700 per year but worth every penny. I seriously lusted after a computer - but bought the '67. And gave my HP-25 to my brother Joseph. "And now you know... the Rest of the Story."

The HP-65 Users Club (later to become PPC, etc.) published scores of pages each month of programs to analyze circuits, do math, etc. The HP-65 Users Library (via HP) had exotic code to do satellite orbit analysis, etc. The RAND Corporation published "Hand Calculator Programs for Military Officers" that derived orbital trajectories accounting for a non-spheroidal earth. Meanwhile, Byte, Creative Computing, Dr. Dobb's Journal (of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia - "Running Light Without Overbyte") and such were publishing 2k byte Tiny Basic interpreters, how to gut a cheap TI LED watch to add a real-time clock circuit and such.

Computers were lots of fun (and still are). Calculators were serious workhorses (and still are - though computers are too now). Both sets of user groups were priceless.

Gotta enjoy 'em both! And my eternal gratitude to Richard Nelson and the myriad wonderful folks who made all this so worthwhile!

Jim Horn (older^2 than dirt; PPC 1402 usw.)


The early programmable calculators were ideal for the everyday routine engineering calculations that prevailed at the time (and still do, to a lesser extent). Most engineering calculations in the 70's and 80's were made with simplified mathematical models that had been developed before the advent of computers. The early personal computers gave no significant advantage for these calculations; spreadsheets are one exception.

As more and more powerful personal computers became available, more programs were developed that do a lot of number crunching, beyond the power of calculators. They remain useful for the simpler algorithms, however, because they are so handy.


I ported both Mandelbaum and bifurcation diagram to the fx-7000. I think the classic "fractal image" took a bit more than 24h to complete (with lowest possible iterations). And remeber: it had only about 600 pixels to calculate (black and white). Raising the number of iterations easily depleted the batteries before completion.


Palmer, do you still have it? Do you know A nice group of people, similar to this one.

I have two. I purchased the first one in the 32K version. I got the second one for a low price at a garage sale. I have a printer cable, a cassette recorder cable and bar cod reader.

I also have a Model 200 purchased at a garage sale for five dollars.

I am not familiar with I will have to check it out.

I have some nice little programs for the Model 100. One of them will play four Christmas carols while the display shows a fire burning in a fireplace.


We all know that your USB keyboard probably has more RAM and more CPU power than an ALTAIR. Still it's good to know that there are people around, caring about this "way outdated" stuff - just for the fun of it. I don't see a huge difference between collecting old electronic stuff and, say, old books.


Palmer, it's time to join the mailing list. Info is on the web site.


In the 70's, the first personal computers were as much hobbies as useful tools. They caught the trailing edge of DIYers, ham radio buffs, etc. Most of the fun of "using" them was building and constantly tinkering with them. Nowdays they are appliances, like toasters. But back then, if you didn't know a resistor from a capacitor, you were in for trouble. The true appliance machines didn't hit until the second wave (Apple II, Commodore PET, Tandy TRS-80); and were popular with the newbies who kept hearing tales of wonder from the Altair owners.

HP, on the other hand, did not market to hobbyists or the curious but less competent newbies. They sold well-built and well-designed machines for professionals.

So, IMHO, it's an unfair comparison - the traditional apples & oranges. Yes, they're both fruit, but that's about it.

-J (3665)

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