Hating your calculator or computer


Did you ever get so irritated with the computer world that you wanted to just shoot one of the damn things?

A column by Davic Grimes in today's Hendersonville Times-News says in part:

"Note to young people: If you are 22 years old and still living at home, and your parents tell you to do your laundry, do not blow them off and play computer games instead.

A young man from Pinellas County, Fla., did just that the other day, and his dad pulled a gun and took a potshot at the computer. It was not the best of days for either party. The dad was arrested and charged with attempted murder, and the son, as far as anyone knows, is still running around in dirty underwear. ..."


I frequently get severely annoyed at my work laptop. Unlike all but one of my dozen or so modern computers, it runs Windows. Apart from a philosophical problem I have with closed operating systems, Windows has always caused me to curse under (or over) my breath. It is just a clumsy system. Things have improved over the years, but it is still true that Windows clunks along where MacOS, for example, floats like a feather. Linux. my favorite OS, is a very mixed bag in the elegance department. But with Linux you are at least able to fix the worst problems without kissing Bill's bank account.

But this week, my work laptop, a Thinkpad T30 died completely. Being about to deploy on a new engagement, I didn't have time to run it in to the local IT department. So I pulled out the HD, and slapped it into my ancient A21P. This machine has a PIII/800 and 256 MB of RAM. If you are interested in maintaining your peace of mind, I recommend that you avoid emulating my behavior. Let's just say that I am typing this on my cellphone because it's faster and easier.



Hi, all;

I showed "Pirates of Silicon Valley" to my students yesterday. Many of them told me "Now I think I understand why some things do not work as they should in my coputer...". I'm waiting for the chance to see "Revolution OS" (is it the correct name?), that tells about Linux. Maybe some other answers/questions may arise...


Luiz (Brazil)



I have that DVD. I am amazed at how much the actor Noah Wyle looked like Steven Jobs. Of course the movie companies should do a part two series. Accoording to other websites and the movie Steven WozniaK sold a HP Programmable Calc to help launch the business. I know he worked at HP helping to design HP Calcs. There was an interesting write up, i believe somewhere here that Steven Wozniak in showing the RPN vs AOS logic systems solved the infamous flight mach number equation found in many early HP manuals with a TI SR50 without using memories and got same answer with a few more keystrokes. I tried it with a throw away TI 30 with parenthesis keys and solved it entering the equation left to right and got same answer as my trusty HP21 years ago. I remember Corvus, APF, National Semiconductor, Sinclair and a few other Calcs having ther RPN logic system. The Corvus 500 had same features as HP45 at a fraction of the cost. The 70's were an awesome time for Calc makers and available features.

Warmest regards from California



Hi Luiz & Andy,

There's a couple of podcast programs with Steve Wozniak on them

This Week in Tech (TWIT)
Episodes 35 & 48. Episode 48 is in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Apple and has several of the original employees on it.

Link is TWIT Link

IT Conversations has a Two hour Presentation given by Wozniak.

Link is IT Conversations

Great Listening.




Thanks for the input. I saw a recent pic of Steven Jobs on Yahoo news, he is now bald on top.

Warmest regards,

Babyboomer RPN power user


Hi Andy, guys;

thank you for your additional info; good to know more facts about this subject, indeed.

And yeap, I also read (and heard) about Wozniak having his HP being sold to make funds to start its own computer business. What I was not known about is the AOS versus RPN to solve the Mach number formulae; interesting.

And about movies, programmers and computer technology, I have a title and a question: Swordfish. Have anyone seen this movie? If so, why is a character named Torvalds, a clever European programmer (Finnish?) executed with a bullet in his forehead in the very beginning of the plot?

Any particular message? From someone, in particular?

Just a question, just a question...


Luiz (Brazil)

(typo: a 'n' was missed in Finnish)

Edited: 11 May 2006, 1:35 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


Hi Luiz,

Have not seen the movie, must check it out. Another favorite computer movie was HACKERS with Angelina Jolie. I liked the graphics and cool effects. Also the NET.

Regards to all,



Hi Luiz,

I've seen Swordfish several times. Good film. You can read the Movie Script at




Go to www.woz.org/letters/general/57.html and read to the end to find the following discussion of AOS by Wozniak:

"... At Hewlett Packard we were so proud that our calculators, the first scientific ones ever, were years ahead of competition. They used postfix partly because the least logic or ROM chips were quite expensive back then. It would have taken extra keys and an infix to postfix translator to use infix. Also, a larger and more expensive desktop HP machine from the division in Colorado Springs used postfix, for the same reasons. The HP-35 was an attempt to miniaturize this machine.

Our marketing department had a card with a monstrous formula to demonstrate how powerful our calculators were and what postfix calculation was capable of. They challenged people to solve it on a slide rule the normal way. Well, we could all solve it on our HP calculators but it took a few tries to get the steps accurate enough, there were so many of them.

Finally Texas Instruments introduced an infix 'algebraic entry' scientific calculator. The first one showed up in our lab one day. We were all pooh-poohing it and laughing at the arithmetic entry as being too weak for engineers. Someone pulled out our big formula challenge and we all laughed, sure that nobody could ever do it with the TI calculator. A challenge went up for someone to try. After a short silence I said that I'd try.

Well I started staring at the formula and looking at the keys and trying to decide which steps to calculate first, as you would do with an HP calculator. I finally realized that I'd never be able to solve the formula this way. With my fellow engineers watching I was very self conscious but I wanted to succeed. I managed to let go of my thinking and then came up with a very amazing concept. I just copied the formula from left to right! This was such an incredible concept that I pressed the keys as fast as I could on the TI calculator, risking a wrong press but impressing my colleagues. I had to guess whether this calculator used the square root button as prefix or postfix but I guessed right and got the proper answer the first time.

My colleagues couldn't believe it. I told them that you just copy the formula from left to right but not one of them could see through their postfix fog. After all, these were the calculator experts of the world. They are well accustomed to thinking ahead and analyzing an expression to come up with the order of steps to take on an HP postfix calculator, and they had to remember which sub-expressions were in what order on the calculator's stack. None of them could do what I had done, forget that they have to be smart."

Actually, one really can't do exactly what Wozniak says with the old AOS machines; for example, one can't enter the square root command and follow it with the rest of the equation. Rather, the square root command has to follow the completion of the work under the square root sign in the equation. Also, AOS didn't offer implied multiplication. One gets much closer to the scenario he described once EOS came along in the TI-68, the TI graphic calculators and the Casio fx-7000G.


When TI introduced their electronic slide rules, the SR-50(A) and later the SR 51(A), digital logic and ROM space was still expensive. Therefore the early AOS was very limited: It had no parentheses and just two hierarchy levels. Addition and multiplication was postponed until a multiplication, division or exponentiation was completed.

The SR-52 introduced the first AOS implementation, shortly followed by the SR-56. Both machines had plenty of (internal) registers for their time, a prerequisite for implementing a reasonable hierarchy stack (7 open operations on the SR-56, 10 on the SR-52.) The last AOS system I'm aware of is the TI-95 (a very good calculator, just pick one up, if you can find it on eBay!)

Viktor Toth describes the TI-88 which seems to use a mixture of AOS and EOS (RSKEY.ORG). Functions like SIN can be used in prefix or postfix notation.

I still prefer AOS (or RPN) over EOS (algebraic entry) when doing calculations but I must admit that reading an expression is easier in algebraic notation.



I know that RPN stands for Reverse Polish Notation, but please: explain me the acronyms AOS and EOS.


-- Antonio


NO problem:

AOS: Algebraic Operation System: Infix notation with some postfix elements (functions like SIN). Operator precendence is obeyed. Parts of the expression are evaluated as soon as precedence rules and parenthesis allow. The hierarchy registers hold pending operators and operations. AOS allows to display some intermediate results but not all, unlike RPN.

EOS: Equation Operation System: Infix notation with prefix notation for functions. You type in the complete algebraic expression and it is evaluated in one go, obeying the precedence rules of course. An EOS equation can be seen as a keystroke program without loop or branch elements, the parser has to convert it internally to AOS or postfix notation but this is invisible to the user. EOS does not show *any* intermediate results.






Since 1989 when i purchased my first PC, a 286 system for $2000 from Price Club. I had to return it 3 times for a working unit. Then i had to learn that misrable DOS 3.2 and buy a damn math coprocessor to run AutoCAD rel 10. My swear words increaded 10 fold especially during screen freezes, crashes, virus attacks. In 1991 i worked at a Medical products company that was McIntosh environment. I fell in love with the Macs. Oh sure there were memory errors. Yeah i know the devices were expensive as hell. A Mac IIc1 was over $5500. But user friendly as all hell. In 1995 i began replacing my desktops with laptops, ie Thinkpad, Sony Vaio, COMPAQ. I currently own a refurbished ThinkPad T30 with XP professional and a GIG of Rambo. Seems ok after IBM rebuild it. I just purchaed a new Toshiba M65-S8211 with XP professional, 17 inch screen, etc. A big heavy mother ala IBM ELECTRIC TYPEWRITER unit. I plan to try LINUX and hope for improved performance. My swearing has dimished some, however there will always be Trojan horses, freezes, crashes and great laughter by Billy Gates.

Warmest regards,

HP Babyboomer power user


The only calculating device I ever got so irritated about that I could kill it was my TI-35 back in 1983. It had the typical TI-disease of that time (severe key-bouncing) in such a bad way that I could not even trust it anymore during an exam. I had to do all calculations twice to make sure my answers were correct. What happened to the thing? I killed it by disassembling it while taking a bath. Didn't I know that water is killer to electronic circuits. Oh yes I did, but I simply didn't care. I started using my dad's HP 67 instead for schoolwork and soon I joined the HP community by buying an HP-34C myself.

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