In 1975 as a new grad student I splurged and bought my first Hewlett-Packard calculator, an HP-25, at the Caltech bookstore. It was a marvel of engineering for its time and could store all of 49 program steps along with 8 variables. An H-P promotional t-shirt came with the calculator — a shirt that I still have today (though one of the kids usually wears it, since somehow it became a bit too small for me over the years ... must have shrunk, since I can't have expanded, eh?!).

The t-shirt bears the enigmatic (to the uninitiated) legend:

ENTER    >    =

... meaning, in geek-speak, that H-P's reverse-Polish interface is superior to the competing Texas Instruments (et al.) algebraic system. I of course agree — and, contrarian that I am, continue to use the HP-11c that in 1981 replaced my beloved HP-25. Alas, as seems to be the case with so many elegant technologies (Esperanto? Sony Betamax? Emacs? Apple Macintosh? ...) reverse Polish has largely fallen by the wayside and become a mere cognoscenti-niche product ...

(see David G. Hicks's Museum of HP Calculators; see also ElegantTechnologies (10 Sep 1999), PetBibli1 (23 May 2000), CommemoraTees (24 Apr 2001), ...)

TopicHumor - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicProgramming - TopicLanguage - 2004-09-30

(correlates: GeekyTee2, Comments on EssentialKnowledge, NeighborhoodCoincidences, ...)