I've missed HPs heyday... (long)


I have just finished reading all of the posts in the 'Memories' forum. All the stories were good, but I especially liked the ones with references like: "It was 1972 and I was a freshman in Electrical Engineering..." or things like that.

Since I was born in 1976, I didn't start using calculators until years later. The first HP I saw was a 20s that a friend of mine got during high school. I remember being very impressed with the keyboard and construction, but very disappointed in the functions:cost ratio. (I had just bought a TI-85)

It seems that my whole generation has completely missed out, unless they are introduced to HPs and RPN/RPL by some freak accident.

I discovered this site after spending several hours on the Datamath site. I started to search eBay for vintage TIs. (I bought a TI-30 which is as old as I am..) I remembered the HP name, and searched for LED HPs on eBay. I could not BELIEVE how much these were going for! Out of curiosity, I found this site and read most of it. (admittedly, I didn't read much on the desktop machines...) Now, three weeks or so later, I have two HPs: A 48G and a 45, which I have probably talked way too much about lately, hehehe.

I bought another calculator today, a $6 Casio for the glovebox in my car. The main selling point was that Casio makes good calcs, (for the money!) and that it is dual powered. This way, it can sit in my car's glovebox for eons and still work when I need to balance my checkbook figure gas mileage, or bring it into the grocery store to decipher 'sale' prices. I digress...

Back to my original point though. Although I can really appreciate RPN/RPL and HP construction now, I don't think I can ever quite have the appreciation that many of you have who are 20 years my senior. It is an experience I will never have, as I was either unborn or playing in sandboxes when you all were in electronics labs and whatnot.

Still, when I was using my hp 45 earlier today in electronics lab, I just had to saw "Wow.' to myself as I pushed those nice keys...



Yup. The seventies was a special era, for sure - primarily due to the fact that most of us were raised on slide rules, and a computer was a roomful of equipment attended by a lab-coated high priesthood, worthy of only the most complex problems.

I got my first HP (a -45) in early 1974, after a frustrating few months with a Sinclair Scientific I had built from a kit. The 45 had a high "gee-whiz" factor - I remember sitting in the bar of our Hall of Residence, using the "Day of Week" "program" from the Math Applications Pac to work out what day of the week people had been born on.

More to the point, the 45 made it possible for me to crunch problems such as Routh-Horwitz comparatively quickly without needing computer time.

Interestingly, I made the money to pay for my HP-45 by building Sinclair calculators from kit form, then selling them during the evening at the bar where I worked during holidays. I'd use the little calc to add up a long order, and the customer would inevitably ask "What's *that*?". After I'd explained how it worked and demonstrated it, the next question was inevitably, "Where can I get one?". It took me about an hour to build one, and the kit cost me GBP14.95, so by selling them at GBP25 I was soon able to afford the HP-45!


--- Les [http://www.lesbell.com.au]


I made the money to buy my HP45 by shooting rabbits with an assault rifle! One year there was a terrible "bunny bloom". There were so many rabbits that a rancher was losing lots of cattle to broken legs in bunny holes. He told a friend of mine he would pay us $2.00 each for every rabbit we brought in. One afternoon with an AR15 converted for .22LR yielded 200 rabbits, $400 dollars, one really gross pickup truck bed, and one rather amazed rancher. He kept his end of the deal. We didn't have the heart to tell him that for every rabbit that we shot, there were easily 20 more.

The next day I went down to the local office supply store. I was going to buy a TI SR-10. When I got there, the salseman mentiioned off hand that they had this weird machine in the back that nobody knew how to use... it had no "=" key. It was an HP45. It had been ordered that spring by a local small school district. Their science teacher had quit over the summer, and they placed it on consignment... only $250 bucks.


Hey Jeremy it is great fun to read your messages. No need to apologize for length, ASAIC.

In the early 70's in high school I bought a fairly cheap plastic "Sterling Slide Rule". That was followed by a lovely metal precision version from Pickett, Model N902-ES - Simplex Trig. I have both slide rules still today. I even have a little warranty certificate from Pickett which starts with

"Congratulations on your selection of a Pickett All-Metal Slide Rule. It is yours for a lifetime; a constantly accurate and dependable aid to your progress."

I may end up having it for my lifetime, but I'm not sure the constant accuracy is going to mean much to me.

I finally convinced my Dad to buy me an electronic caculator. My better-off friends had just gotten SR-50's at about $250 (Canadian - which was pretty close to par with the US dollar back then, I believe). I couldn't believe that you could just push a button and get the value of tangent of an angle! All those heavy and cumbersome math tables could now be chucked! Well, not quite. Unfortunately, I still had to live with tables of the transcendental functions for a bit longer. The SR-50 was too much money for my family so I got an SR-10 for $99.95, serial number 1218454. All it had was the basic four functions, a memory, and square root, but I absolutely loved it and read everything I could about it. The manual was great. It even told you how to compute rough values for logarithms by a process involving (I think) 11 repeated square roots!

I was a calculator (and general gadget) fanatic and I looked for every new development and tried to get every calculator brochure I could get my hands on. I liked the HP machines very much. When I think back to those days, though, it wasn't so much the quality of the machines or the RPN that hooked me, it was the advanced functions. HP was definitely technologically way ahead in those early days. I was soon brainwashed with the RPN spiel, though, and I was telling all my friends how wonderful it was, not having ever used it. It was like being in a clique of people who knew The One True Way. It was great stuff for an up-and-coming geek.

As an undergrad I finally saved enough money and bought myself an HP-25. There was no 25C in those days. I think I spent $249.95 Canadian on it, plus tax. I absolutely devoured this little machine that I dubbed "Hewey". I wrote oodles of programs, many of them games, and honed my skills at tricks and techniques to write amazingly efficient code to fit within its very limited program memory.

In grad school, I was living in an apartment with four other guys, all undergrads, one of whom was from a fairly wealthy background. He bought a HP-41C and, as soon as I saw it, I was hooked. These were the heady days of synthetic programming investigation. I actually discovered a byte-grabber of sorts two weeks before I received the edition of PPC Journal which had the same technique described. Talk about proud. What a geek.

My academic heritage is pure math and I now work in software development (large custom systems). It comes as a surprise to folks when I tell them I have very little use for a calculator, but it is true. Of course, this has never stopped me from buying them.

My mid-life crisis must have kicked in recently as I suddenly felt the irresistable need to acquire great quantities of HP calculators, despite what my friends and my banker were telling me. I'm approaching 20 machines now. This doesn't include the programs on my Palm m515 and Tungsten|T.

Yikes. What a geek.

Hey, Jeremy... Look around. Right now there is something happening which, 20 years from now, will be looked back upon and declared to be the heyday of its kind. The trick is to recognize it.


Patrick wrote: "It even told you how to compute rough values for logarithms by a process involving (I think) 11 repeated square roots!"

This is based on this identity:

limit for (N -> Infinity) of N*(X^(1/N)-1) => Ln(X)

If you take 10 square roots in succession, N=2^10
which is 1024, so you can calculate an approximation to
the natural log of a number X by simply taking 10 consecutive square roots, subtracting one, then multiplying by 1024. For instance, for X=2, my calculator produces
0.6934+, which is an approximation to Ln(2) = 0.6931+

The more square roots you take, the more exact the result
will be, up to a point, because as the partial result tends to 1, you begin to lose a lot of significant digits when you then subtract one from it. Using 11 square roots you should use 2048 instead of 1024 above.


Mentioning the "sterling" slide rule reminds me of my own Geekdom. In 11th grade, my 11-c fell off of the desk in "health" class, and the LCD cracked. So I sent it back to HP, which actually took quite some time...

So, in physics class, my teacher had a huge Pickett slide rule hanging above the chalk-board, which he really didn't use much, but it did occasionally create conversation in the beginning of the school year.

Having broken my calculator, one day we had a quiz or test and of course I was unprepared (yes, they allowed calculators, I am not THAT old) and so I called out to Mr. Kelly, "yo, do you have a slide rule I can borrow?" Of course, I already had a reputation for being a bit of a wise-cracker so he made some sort of disparaging return, but I insisted, and he lent me one.

Sure enough, I flew through that test, using that slide rule, aced it, and way ahead of the class. Boy-oh-boy did THAT get the teacher's attention!

I still have that Sterling that Mr. Kelly gave me, and it lives in an honored place in my drafting box.


PS I continued to use my slide rule--even after the calculator was fixed. You see, the slide rule is faster for straight multiplication and division, and it has a built-in memory! It's also good for your brain!

The year this happened? 1984!



It's fairly known that Brazil does not have NATIVE (please, "compatriotas", it's a fact...) high tech in many technological fields. Digital electronics and computing devices are both of them. Let's face one thing: if one cannot develop or build machines that make tools for making machines, then this one will always depend on those who build machines to make tools for making machines.

Of course the world is not made by machines, but in many circumstances, machines allow the work to be finish in less time with more efficiency, thus saving time for the operator to perform other, personal tasks.

In Brazil almost all technologies are imported. We have (nowadays) no automobile brand (we have Italian FIAT, American GM and FORD, German VW, and no one Brazilian brand), no electronics brand (TI, HP, IBM, etc.), even medicine synthetic labs (Johnson & Johnson, etc.). There are many native brands, but almost none on high technology.
As a consequence, high tech costs much in here. And it was not different in the 70's. I went to the university in 1979 and I could see many things. At that time, Spices were coming and, soon later, there was the HP41. When I finish my Engineering course I could see Voyagers ant the HP28C (I had to stop two times so I delayed my final conclusion). I could barely buy an HP41C with one memory module, an HP15C and after working for nine months as a student worker, my boss brought me an HP16C and an HP41CX with a card reader. Later I could buy a pack with used: HP41CV, another card reader, a Wand (82153) and an HP82143A printer. I have them all with me till today, all working fine.

I can tell you I got the 70's "tail", but for us in here, it was like the mid of it: technology used to come a bit slower than today.

Let me add something before my "compatriotas" (country mates) flame me: I am completely and proudly aware of the fact many Brazilian researches, scientists and developers work hard and efficiently around the world and have significantly contributed to many scientific advances. But just a few of them were in Brazil when they have their chance to do it.

I'm sorry to use the Forum's place for this subject, but adding this information may help others to understand what I mean.

Best regards.

Luiz C. Vieira - Brazil

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