by Stephen Malpezzi, Professor and Lorin and Marjorie Tiefenthaler Distinguished Chair in Real Estate
In the midst of all the to-ing and fro-ing over Hewlett Packer's boardroom issues
, it's nice that yesterday's FT contained a paean to the HP 12-C, on the iconic financial calculator's 30th anniversary. (Handheld device that remains a must-have
, Financial Times, 9/22/11)
Sherlock Holmes used to refer to Irene Adler as simply "The Woman."
Readers of a certain age -- who cut their teeth, as I did, on their trusty K&E; slide rule, and punching cards in the middle of the night for a mainframe -- will understand why for thousands, the 12-C is still "The Calculator." It's a modest little gadget, roughly the size of a larger smartphone, but it gave us hand-held power and reliability that used to require signing up to a computer services bureau.
I'm an Excel freak now, and rarely turn my calculator on in anger. But for quite a while, anything important in Excel was also checked using my HP 12-C.
One morning a decade ago, I found that I had dropped my beloved 12-C under my equally beloved La-Z-Boy the previous evening; and some heavy rocking had put a deep curve in the case. To my astonishment, when I turned the deformed unit on, except for a switch to European notation (which wouldn't turn off), everything else continued to work. My trusty 12-C gave two more years of service, before the battery died and the twisted case made it impossible to change the battery.
With regret, I replaced it with a HP 17-BII. Why? Because many students couldn't follow my examples while using Reverse Polish Notation
. (If you know what RPN is, you also know that to know RPN is to love it).
The 17-B can switch from RPN to "regular" algebraic logic, so I can help students one minute and go back to RPN the next.
But it's not the same. I'll bet HP's beleaguered stock gets a little pop this month from a few thousand of us giving into our nostalgia and buying another 12C.