Friday, April 22, 2011

Texas Instruments TI-34: Its Number Finally Came Up . . .

Texas Instruments TI-34

In the summer of 1987, the year that it went onto the market, I purchased a Texas Instruments TI-34, the solar powered calculator that you see above, and for the past 24 years, beginning when I was still a young man barely over 29 at Berkeley and continuing until this past week in Seoul, the device served me flawlessly in calculating student grades, among other simple mathematical operations, before finally breaking down and miscalculating simple addition problems only a few days ago.

The end of an era, of sorts -- a quarter-century, anyway -- and kind of sad.

This calculator accompanied me from North America to Europe, Australia, and Asia -- living out its life first in Berkeley (USA), then in Fribourg and Basel (Switzerland), Kiel and Tuebingen (Germany), Armidale (Australia), and Jerusalem (Israel), and finally in Daegu, Masan, Osan, and Seoul (South Korea) -- and it was, without a doubt, the 'smartest' purchase that I ever made, though I gave that economic matter little thought upon buying it other than appreciating the fact that I would never need to shell out money for batteries.

According to the Wikipedia entry on the TI-34, the 1987 version was manufactured for Texas Instruments by Inventec Corporation in Taiwan, so both Texas Instuments and Inventec Corporation deserve a deep bow of respectful appreciation for a product so dependable that it lasted 24 years without erring . . . at least until the AI equivalent of Alzheimer's finally struck it down just days ago.

I wonder if I should bury the old one? Today's Good Friday, but I don't imagine my TI-34 coming back to life on Easter morning.

I will simply have to find a replacement, but it won't be the same.

Sigh . . .

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At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that is the calculator that became the official one for our high school "1 Minute" game.

I invented it out of boredom. I would push 1+1= and then starting the clock, I'd hit = as many times as possible in one minute to see how high I could go.

Other students saw and wanted to play. Eventually, people started winning because their calculator somehow added faster. So, when our future valedicatorian brought in a Texas Instrument one and was winning all the time, we made it the official record keeper...

Those were the days....(and as a teacher now (preferably of high school students) I understand why my teachers didn't care for me in their classes...)

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That must have been some serious boredom!

Be that as it may, I doubt that my TI-34 would lasted 24 years under those conditions.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a fine and venerable instrument, Jeff. I've been a purveyor of reverse-polish machines since 1985, when I decided I was a "serious scientist/engineer" upon leaving LLNL and moving to Albuquerque. I bought an HP 41-CV, a nontrivial purchase at the time, which remains in my possession (used it today, in fact) and is the greatest calculator of all time, for my own tastes at least. I've got a thoroughly cumbersome, smarter-than-I-am HP 50 now, but I very frequently come back to the 41, mainly for a number of specialized programs I concocted for it over the years for laser related analysis. I know several guys our age (and beyond, like my older brother Jay) who have collected up "lifetime supplies" of specific used HP calculators off of eBay, so they know they'll never run out; I'm sure there is a similar cult out there for TI machines. My 41 is no longer easily serviceable, due to my having super-glued it back together two or three times over the years at this point! These little machines can very definitely form bonds with their human masters, no doubt about that. --Pete

At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I will simply have to find a replacement, but it won't be the same.

Sigh . . ."

Short (relatively) anecdote on how to deal with the occasional math problem.

Two individual things led to one solution. Some years ago I somehow found myself positioned in the ... well, I guess one could call it "Chief of Operations" of a regional office for a commercial/industrial electrical construction outfit. The corporate office was located in another US state.

Beyond balancing checkbook stuff - my math ability was at best - minimal. Occasionally I needed a "load calculation" (where the service was gonna exceed 5K amps) and all the engineers at corporate were, for one reason or another, "unavailable."

At the same time - there was a whole bunch of pressure being exerted to have a person "of the female persuasion" included with my nominally "polite" 150+ crew of construction electricians. I could, in a pinch, delay a load calculation. However I found it "challenging" to solve the concurrent issue.

I happened to find myself at a place where probably 90% of the world's problems get solved - at a bar. I overheard a conversation a bunch of 'Mechanicals' guys were having.

I stopped asking for "work experience" on my second problem and substituted asking for "high school transcripts." (I'd use the more common name for the type of conduit - but) anyway from that point forward I couldn't care less whether a candidate could probably do the calculations for actually bending EMT - just that they could do the calculations.

Now whether Sun-Ae would be amenable to my solution - I dunno. But I will say that when my personal assistant began accompanying me to the bar where all the construction trades' "Chiefs of Operations" gathered following our collective hard day's work - I waited until a bathroom break before I answered the seemingly inevitable question.

"Dear Lord, JK. Aren't there any lookers working in the electrical bidness?"

There actually were - it's just that most wanted to bend pipe, pull wire and wear a toolbelt. I wanted an equivalent of a TI-34 operator who could remember which equation to use.

And all was fine and dandy until she met that damned plumber.


At 12:37 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Pete, I had a reverse-polish HP back in the mid-70s, but I never learned to use it well.

My TI-34 was perfect for me, though, and still would be . . .

I've not yet had time to read your son's novel, by the way, but I'll get to it as soon as I have several duties out of the way -- such as reading and reviewing LeRoy Tucker's book . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:39 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sad story, JK . . . I think.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:53 PM, Blogger The Red Witch said...

I think I had the next generation after that one for calculus. I had a few functions that one doesn't have. They were fantastic calculators.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

They were great, agreed.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:53 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

up with technology!

I just discovered an internet point in this God-forgotten place!


At 6:34 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

A God-forgotten place? You must be somewhere in Europe . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:04 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

yeah, but in THIS town a whole enterprise was needed in order to find an internet point.

PS tell En-Uk that I keep on watching his blog, but currently no time to answer.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Okay, I'll let En-Uk know that you're being lazy.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:38 PM, Blogger Fredd said...

I have an identical TI-34 that I purchased when I was a sophomore at the University of Oregon in 1987.

It still works just fine after 26 years (and I still have the cover and quick reference card that fits into the cover as well), but I have only a mild attachment to it. I would be glad to sell it to you, if you are interested.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Fredd, thank you very much for the offer. I'm touched (truly).

But I think you should hang on to that TI-34. Not only would shipping it to Korea be risky, it might come to mean more to you with the passing of time.

Just look back as the years pass, and recall that someone else appreciated the TI-34 and also your offer.

Best Regards,

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:10 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I bought mine in 1987 as well... it's still kicking in my daughters bookbag.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


Jeffery Hodges

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