Getting sucked in


My HP collecting has been pretty moribund for the last few years. After 20+ years of dedicated searching, I have all of the HP RPN scientific calculators, and even a few random items like an HP-01, Expander, etc. I've got 41C accessories out the wazoo, all four versions of the HP-35, et cetera so on and such forth. There are probably some HP-41 application ROMs I don't have (but I do have a lot of them), but all in all I'm complete. The last calc I got was an HP-35S pre-production model I got for sending an HP guy whose name I forget (but whom I met at the 2006 conference in San Jose) one of my 41s.

In the course of getting the calculators, I'd picked up three desktop machines: an HP-46, a 9815, and a 9825. But I wasn't planning on going after anything else, since they weren't the focus of my collection. Sure, if a 9100 or 9810 had drifted across my field of vision, I probably would have jumped. But I wasn't actively looking.

Due to years of habit I still check eBay calc auctions at least every week or so, which is when I saw Larry Atherton's beautifully refurbished HP-85s. Now, back in the late 1970s I worked at a computer store in Dallas (the KA Computer Store) that among the Apples and Ataris also sold HP-85s, which I could never have afforded at the time. But it made an impression, and I'd always thought if I found a nice one I'd grab it.

Well, Larry's refurbs aren't cheap, although eBay regularly hosts auctions for grotty unrestored and non-guaranteed-to-work versions for significantly more money. After trading a few e-mails I bought one.

It's spectacular: shiny new, with a razor-sharp CRT, whisper-quiet printer, and slick tape drive. The epoxy paint Larry uses on the case seems a bit glossier than I recall, but otherwise the machine might have been boxed in a warehouse since 1979.

Suddenly, my collector urges are coming back, this time aimed at the 9800 series machines. I'm getting an 87 and a 9121 disk drive from, and looking at 9835/45s with an eye towards finding some place to put one of these rather large machines. will be happy to sell me a 9845C for $4500. Fortunately I'm not that far gone. Yet.

Perhaps it's not quite as satisfying and finding unused old HPs at flea markets, yard sales, and at Weird Stuff, but those venues are pretty tapped out these days. And I'm having fun working on 3D rendering programs for the 85. Rough benchmarks indicate that my desktop PC has about 100,000 times the performance of the 85. But somehow it's still fun.

The last thing I'll note is that there seems to be a dedicated web site run by a fanatic for every single HP 98xx model. Didn't expect that, but it's cool.

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