I’m sitting here typing on a computer. A computer running well into the gigahertz and capable of supplying results (generally) way faster than I can ask for them.

At the same time, when I’m looking to do a calculation I reach for a calculator.

Ok, yes, if I’m doing symbolic stuff I’ll use a computer (running Mathematica most likely) to do the work. But if I’m just doing a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation I’ll generally reach for something like that.

(Also, yes, I have an HP calculator fetish it seems)


I guess a lot of it is the same reason that I have multiple monitors for computers. Different actions seem more natural to me on different work surfaces. I can be working on my idea on the computer, then I’m using this other, unconnected device, to run some checks to make sure that things are staying on the up and up.

While I think it’s super cool to have some slide rules around, I still reach for the device with all the buttons.

Maybe it’s simply habit.

Does anyone else still keep the “old fashioned” calculator around, or is it just me?

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Ok, yes, I admit these are computers dressed up in calculator clothes. Both of the pictured HPs are running ARM processors. The previous HP calculators, however (one is at work, the HP49, another’s screen, the HP48, has given up the ghost after 20 years) run a Saturn processor. The ARM is certainly a high-end computer by most standards. The Saturn on the other hand is a nibble processor — straight out of the 80’s.

The 48 and 49 don’t run an OS nearly as much as they run firmware. Yes, they have processors… but they are far from a general purpose computer. (splitting hairs, yes they are, but they are quite underpowered and limited)

The 50 and Prime (pictured above) both run ARMs. The 50 is running an ARM emulating a Saturn processor. The prime is just something new entirely.

I also have a Sharp that is strictly calculator… but everything now has a processor (even if it’s called a microcontroller) in it.


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I hear you like using computers, so I made this computer not look like a computer so you can compute while you’re computing.