My Fascination with Calculators


NOTE:  This piece was initially written in the earlier parts of 2017.  However, I have updated it and also added a very fitting featured image, which is me as an infant holding a calculator.

Without further ado, here is the piece:

I’ve always been fascinated by calculators, especially the scientific models. I know exactly why too: My mom has been teaching high school Geometry since 1985. And I was born in early 1987, so that’s two years before I was born. In order to teach Geometry in these modern and post-modern times, one needs at least an entry level scientific calculator. It is needed especially to grade tests, which my mom did by hand, at home for most of her career.   Nowadays the iPad grades most of the tests.  When my Mom was grading those tests, I was nearby and saw her pushing buttons on that calculator and was naturally fascinated. I always was fascinated by almost any type of electronic device and a calculator is no exception.

Since my mom teaches at a private school, many of her students come from wealthy families. This sometimes meant that at the end of the year they would throw away their school supplies with the exception of textbooks. So my mom would always end up with several, gently used calculators. I would usually inherit them. They were mostly Texas Instruments TI-30 variants or less frequently a Casio FX.  The first time I had attempted to EDC a calculator was one of those discarded ones from my Mom’s students.  It was some incarnation of a Casio fx-991.  I had EDCed it for most of 1995, until my younger brother broke it.  My first grade teacher was nice enough to allow me to play with it during free periods.  My second grade teacher, on the other hand, absolutely forbade me from playing with any calculator.   In first grade I had a teacher who encouraged me education wise, but in second grade the teacher was very cold and uptight, so unfortunately it was at this point that I had become burnt out towards all academics.  In third and fourth grade I EDCed an electronic organizer or two and they had calculators built in.  I also had briefly carried an older scientific calculator made by Royal.  Between fourth and fifth grade, I EDCed a very basic calculator for helping tutor special education students in summer school.  Between sixth and seventh grade I began EDCing a modern scientific calculator which I had until the end of eighth grade, then my calculator interest waned.  Although, I always had some sort of scientific model for school, I only had them at school and for math homework.  The groundskeeper always wanted to see my calculators and years after his death, his daughter told me that he too collected calculators and despite being a groundskeeper he was a mathematical genius.  In his past careers he was a seaman and electrician.  At the end of my sophomore year of high school (May 2004) I inherited a used TI-83 Plus. That device got me through the rest of high school and even entertained me with downloadable video games during the more boring classes. It killed on me in May of 2007.  Later that summer I briefly carried an entry level calculator.  For the rest of trade school, I either had a TI-84 or a TI-89.  I later sold these, unfortunately.  I EDCed one basic calculator on my job as a lumber yard hand and one customer remarked how I was the smartest one and subsequently tipped me $10!  My calculator interested waned again, until late 2012 when I began carrying a TI-Math Explorer.  Subsequently, I carried a TI-30XA, which my now ex wife gave me and finally a TI-36 X Pro, which I have been carrying since 2014.  I also EDC a mid grade Casio scientific model and sometimes a TI-89 Titanium.  I have my eyes on a higer end Casio and hopefully will purchase one in the near future.  I also have a box of a couple dozen calculators of diverse designs.

I think, you, the reader, get the point:  I definitely am fascinated by calculators!

Actually, I am fascinated by all kinds of math and sciences, though I for lack of a better word suck at all of them except for arithmetic, which I am pretty proficient at when I need to be. I can also assemble or disassemble most computers and do whatever repairs or modifications to them, but I cannot program for the life of me.  I guess I could call myself a nerd wannabe, because I am indeed fascinated, but totally suck at math and science. I suck at math and science so badly that the highest level of education I’ve attained is only a technical diploma in HVAC instead of an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science mainly because I couldn’t pass College Algebra to save my life.

So back to the calculator interest: sometimes my mom would also let me play with her, I’m going to call it “EDC” calculator and that reinforced my fascination. There was one calculator that I had coveted throughout my high school career. It was the TI-Math Explorer 1997 version. I thought it was the coolest thing, but because of other interests at the time, I couldn’t justify spending the MSRP to buy one, since it really isn’t that high spec. Twice throughout my high school career I found one laying around and intended to keep it until I saw the owner’s name written in the instruction card. I being too honest for my own good always returned it to the original owner.  In 2012 I was looking around on ebay and say one very gently used TI-Math Explorer for $6.99 and free shipping if I remember correctly. This was only a fraction of the MSRP for one brand new. Hurriedly I ordered it. This was also my first [permanent] EDC calculator, at least in adulthood. It came in handy when assisting others in construction and electrical work because of the easy fraction and decimal conversions. I EDCed it in my backpack until June of 2014 when I upgraded to a TI-36X Pro, of which I still carry. I don’t really need a calculator of this high spec in my everyday life, but I like it because I think it is so cool. Again, I’m a wannabe nerd.

In January of 2017 I purchased my first vintage calculator, a 1987 TI-30 Solar Plus. It still works quite well in lieu of its age. I don’t really EDC it, but on March 14, 2017, I took a picture of it displaying its approximation of Pi and posted it to Facebook to wish everyone a Happy Pi Day.  I really wish I knew the model and make of the calculator in this featured image.  I know it has either an LED or fluorescent display and was made during the 1970s probably by Texas Instruments.  If anyone thinks they know, drop me a line.

I’m not as into calculators as heavily as I am into flashlights, but if I see a cool or rare one and have the money, I’ll usually purchase it. I’m constantly looking for them in thrift stores and on eBay.  I just hope smart devices never cause all calculators to be permanently discontinued.  If that happens, I will not be happy.  Although many in the EDC community mock me for carrying a calculator. I’m told to get with the times.  I never harass anyone who wants to carry a revolver when clip pistols are much more modern.  Well, I love all guns, but that is another story!

But I am from the generation that was coming of age during a transition of technologies, so I can appreciate both calculators and apps that take the place of calculators, although I much prefer the former over the latter!  Many will embrace the new and abandon the old, but I will try to embrace both!

As far as I can see, I plan to collect, research, play with and write about calculators for the rest of my life.

Like with flashlights, my fascination with them began in infancy, though not as early.

For now this concludes my piece that describes my fascination with calculators.

I hope I have been entertaining and/or informative.

May God richly bless you!

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