Is a calculator more than just a calculator?

I've been pondering this recently. My post the other day about my "RPN addiction" was actually spurred by a couple of old algebraic calculators.

My father, who was a theoretical physicist, died three years ago. My mother died a month ago. In her apartment was an old TI-30 SLR solar-powered calculator that my Dad had used.

http://www.datamath.org/Sci/Modern/TI-30SLR_2.htm

I took it home and started playing with it. Using it now and then somehow makes me feel more connected to my Dad, despite the fact that I much prefer HP RPN calculators.

My Dad retired in 1986. He was decidedly from the slide rule, pencil and paper era. In his later years, he used the TI to revisit some of the math he'd used in his career. Some years back, he gave me a Radio Shack EC-4014, basically a rebadged Casio

http://www.voidware.com/calcs/fx85m.htm

Dad said that he'd bought the EC-4014 because it did more than the TI-30 SLR. But he liked the TI better.

Now that old TI-30 SLR is actually a nice little machine. It seems well-made, better than many with the TI-30 moniker. The buttons, while not of HP quality, feel much better than the squishy-rubbery buttons of the EC-4014.

Dad was right--the TI is simple and elegant, and feels good to use. Every button has but one purpose, and the INV key makes appropriate functions do their opposite. It just feels... right. If only it had an ENTER key.

That "right" feeling made me think about how right the HP-25 felt when I first got it in 1977. And how it somehow influenced how I related to numbers, and what those numbers meant. I viewed math through the lens of that HP-25 just as surely as my Dad viewed it through his old wooden German slide rule in his heyday, and through the TI in his latter years.

My calculator, my self? Maybe that's why I'm so picky about which one I use. Even though I mostly use it to balance my checkbook. Many would suffice, but few will truly do.

*Edited: 13 Feb 2009, 2:35 a.m. *