Jerry Merryman the co-creator of the electronic calculator recently passed at 86 years of age (RIP). The comments at the bottom of the Washington Post article on this topic brought back memories of Texas Instruments and Hewlett Packard handhelds.

I was a big fan of HP reverse polish notation (RPN) calculators... the early models were red LED only and ate batteries like mad, before the cool LCD ones hit the street.

How do other Spiceheads calculate numbers?

## 15 Replies

In engineering, RPN was fairly popular because it was "nerd cool," although the word "nerd" didn't exist back then.

Processing equations (lexical scanning and parsing) is a fundamental part of every compiler/interpreter. When I wrote a BASIC compiler, I learned how complex it was to parse an algebraic equation (normal) as opposed to RPN. A scanner for RPN was incredibly simple because, as someone pointed out to me, RPN uses the user as a pre-processor for equations.

You can't simply enter an equation into RPN. You have to break it down into segments, save the intermediate results, and resolve it all in the end. If all you ever do is 2, 2 *, then you probably don't need a calculator anyway.

The calculator was made for man, not man for the calculator.

Uh-oh, Dr. Seuss begs to differ, Robert!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd

My young friend Ken the Engineer used his TI to cheat on his math homework in Jr. High by writing programs to do it for him. This would have been ca. 2000. His teacher found out about it and gave him extra credit. Ken still hast that device, and uses it often - I set him up with two sets of Panasonic eneloop rechargeable batteries for it.

I've always been too lazy to use a calculator, unless forced, and once MultiPlan came out, I quit using them entirely.

I remember having to memorize all the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables in second grade and doing speed drills every week. If you couldn't do all 100 problems in 3 minutes you went on the bad list. If you were under 2 minutes you got a star by your name. Let's not forget factoring large numbers. Do you remember the how to factor 1001?

I used to get in trouble in math classes for not writing down my work. I didn't see the point since I just did it all in my head and writing down more than the answer seemed like a waste of time and resources. Teachers didn't like that answer much so even though I could prove I knew the material and was better at it than anyone else I still flunked several math classes over that. Haven't gotten much use out of calculators so far but haven't had to do a lot of math the last couple decades so I'm not nearly as good as before so maybe some day soon I'll be better off going to a calculator to handle math for me

Brand Representative for HP

Still have one of these somewhere. Best calculator I ever had for decades. When I bought it new, Compaq hadn't been acquired yet by HP.

@mountainbiker, your post brings back good memories--of my HP calculators and of calculating. I adjusted quickly to the HP reverse polish notation. My favorite has been the financial calculator, the HP 12C, which the Wiki says is "HP's longest and best-selling product, in continual production since its introduction in 1981." Amazing! It made monthly reporting easier, and it was a reliable reference and tool during my statistics exam.

And Edwin, your 28S is still a nice looking calculator. Yes, you have had it for decades as the 28S was introduced in 1988. A year later I bought one of HP's limited edition calculators released to commemorate HP's 50th Anniversary--the 14B. Yes, it's still unopened:

Still have one of these somewhere. Best calculator I ever had for decades. When I bought it new, Compaq hadn't been acquired yet by HP.

@mountainbiker, your post brings back good memories--of my HP calculators and of calculating. I adjusted quickly to the HP reverse polish notation. My favorite has been the financial calculator, the HP 12C, which the Wiki says is "HP's longest and best-selling product, in continual production since its introduction in 1981." Amazing! It made monthly reporting easier, and it was a reliable reference and tool during my statistics exam.

And Edwin, your 28S is still a nice looking calculator. Yes, you have had it for decades as the 28S was introduced in 1988. A year later I bought one of HP's limited edition calculators released to commemorate HP's 50th Anniversary--the 14B. Yes, it's still unopened:

Nice 😊. Didn't know you were the caretaker of HP's calculator museum.