Many students need calculators, and I’m no exception, with my physics class this semester.
I got my HP 48GX calculator 10 or more years ago. For those of you not familiar with HP calculators, let me give you a bit of a background.
HP is a company that, for many years, had a dedicated calculator division. They produced many of the world’s most advanced calculators for science, engineering, and business. Their top-of-the-line series, the HP48 and HP49, contained some features that you’d normally have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get in PC applications. In many ways, the HP48/49 series were far more advanced than any other calculator, even most on the market today. Their ability to use both algebraic and stack-based (RPN) modes simultaneously is nice, too.
HP has pretty much killed off its calculator division, though. I don’t know why; I think they were profitable. Perhaps one of Carly’s many “strange” ideas.
Anyway, back to the story…
I recently pulled out my HP48GX, having not used it heavily for about 6 years. I found that I didn’t remember some things about it and went searching for the manuals. The manual that comes with the calculator is 600 pages, and the optional “advanced” guide is another 600 pages. I found that hpcalc.org has scans of the manuals — very nice. And when I say the 600-page book came with the calculator, I mean there was an actual book in the box. Not some 3-page booklet and a CD-ROM with a PDF.
After (literally) dusting off the HP48GX, I pressed the power button. Two surprises: 1) it turned on, and 2) it still had all my data and files from six years ago in memory. Sweet. I had written a few useful programs for the calculator (yes, it can be programmed in its own language, or C or assembler) and was glad to see them intact.
I also discovered a saved Chess game (of COURSE you can play chess on the HP48GX) on the unit.
So I thought — I better back this thing up. First task: find the serial link cable. Took awhile of rummaging through boxes, but there it was. Second task: find a Kermit or XModem program for Linux. (When’s the last time you’ve needed *that*? I’m betting it’s been awhile.) Third task: read the manual, because I forgot *how* to back up the calculator. So after a little while (9600bps, after all), I have a nice dump of the memory.
There are some people, myself included, that believe that the HP48G series was the best calculator HP ever made, and still one of the best available. By the time the HP49 arrived, HP had decided it needed to be “cheaper” to compete with TI. So it was built with lower-quality components. Also, HP wanted to compete with TI in the high school market, so it removed some of the more advanced (and useful) features, and added some geared for that market. Sigh.