Nostalgic HP-34C Story


Probably belongs on the 'stories forum' but I'll
put it here so the Texas Math Teacher spots it:

Before my story, yeah, I'm that advocate of HP-34C.
It has the best cosmetics of all the units and
the red LED display is crisper and more intriguing
than the bland LCD's. It had a very rare quality...
you could actually learn ALL of its functions
and feel that you had mastered something at the end.
This is not the case with 48G+ or even 41C. You
never get to the bottom of it. With HP-34C you do.
I like that a lot about anything..... a toaster,
a TV set, a stereo. I don't want to keep learning
about it forever. Yes, 34C drained batteries too fast.

***************** STORY ***************

I always will have the finest memory in high school
mathematics class (I was in the 'advanced' calculus
program). The time was 1980.
At the time, the HP Calculators were around, but
very expensive. Schools would encourage you to
purchase a TI-30 for trig and calculus. People knew
about the HP but refrained ("ugh, for Einsten, and
there's no eeekwulz button).
I was interested in the superior unit and had earned
the money and bought one. I had been told how RPN
would make the calculator work better than a TI-30
and I had mastered the 34C and really liked it.
It was a fine fine complement to going thru teenager
trig and calculus classes. (later I used it thru college).

The high school math teacher was skeptical.
That was "Mr. Hilton" out near Lynnwood, WA.
He preferred the 'one with the eekwulz button'.
He was probably intimidated that I had
bought this extremely expensive HP calculator
that he couldn't afford on teacher's pay and would not know how to use. (HP calc cost a LOT of income at the time).
And some of the students had noticed it and were
wondering just what I was up to; was it worthwhile.

The TI-30 the schools & teachers recommended is
pretty much useless for doing anything
more complex than 2+2=4 . If you think about it,
a calculator is for things more complicated than
what an 8 year old can do in his head.
RPN supports that complexity. An 'eeekwulz' button does not.

AND SO, we were going thru the calculus class one day
and dealing with a problem. We had actual numbers
to plug into a big formula, the teacher wanted to get
a numerical answer.

EXACTLY the situation for which RPN existed.
So, we've set the stage for something humorous.


The teacher pulled out his "Texas Instruments"
pile of crap, the one with the eekwulz button.

He started pushing buttons, trying to use the
memory (this plus this, eekwulz, I'll store this.....
EQUALS, OOPS, got to start over, EQUALS, mumble mumble,
store this, DARN, rats) yeah, he was carrying on like that
because the formula was kind of complicated.

Like a relaxed sharpshooter, I reached down to
the book-pile on the floor at my high school desk........
I pulled up the HP-34C (in its fancy fur-padded pouch).

I removed it from the pouch. I began typing the formula,
ONE TIME ONLY, without hurrying,
and in seconds I had the answer.

The teacher was still mumbling and saying
'eekwulz, recall that, eekwulz, store this, eekwulz, OOPS',
and then, I stated the answer to him.

He simply put away his TI-30 calculator and wrote the
answer on the board.

He said 'Norm has one of those expensive HP
calculators. It uses a system called RPN which is
supposed to make it more practical to use on
difficult formulas like this. I don't know if
its true...... well...... maybe it is".

"We'll just trust him on this answer".


Savored the moment to this day.


Neat story -- definitely belongs in the Memories forum. :^)

Hmm. Lynnwood, huh? Still live in the area? I'm from Bremerton.



Had an experience close to yours too: The teacher showed the class how to calculate the volume of a sphere in the 4th dimension. While he wrote on the bord and explained this an that I used "my" HP-41 and the Romberg Integration in the PPC-ROM. Quite a while before the teacher I had the numeric answer - alas, numeric only. But - of cause! - the same as the teacher found in thermes of PI.



Yes, it was something like that, some formula
sort of like volumes or areas. Might've been
integrating some geometric problem with a goat on
a rope eating grass in a pen and the rope wraps around
a peg (or some such). The teacher never did
get any sort of answer with the TI-30.
At that moment in time, that was where the
proving ground for RPN and non-RPN, calculators
like TI-30 vs. HP-34C. Like comparing a
tricycle to a formula one racer.


Norm Hill wrote:

"The TI-30 the schools & teachers recommended is pretty much useless for doing anything more complex than 2+2=4"

That's a bit harsh. It also had trigs, logarithms, exponents, square root and square -- certainly enough for basic schoolwork, and quite a good value for the time. It certainly had its limitations, though, with only one memory and no programmability.

The TI-30 was my first calc in 1978 or so, and I was quite glad to get it for Christmas. It lasted me for a few years until yet another disposable 9V battery started to die in electronics class in 1981 (its rechargeable 9V had crapped out long ago). I hooked it up to a DC power supply set to an indicated 9.0 V. The display quickly went screwy, and it was toasted. (Darn those LED's!)

I received a LCD Casio a few months later, but couldn't afford an HP until 1983 -- an HP-15C, which I chose over the HP-34C still available at the time.

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