Calculator vs. PC

The so-called “progress” of personal computing has largely been a collective hallucination.  And it appears that I am not the only one who understands this:

“A friend of mine recently gave me an old HP 35 calculator. For a geek like me, a true HP calculator is a kingly gift. I cleaned off some grime and replaced the internal batteries (a bit tricky but possible) and now have a working calculator. While using it, I was impressed with the speed of its response. Even for the sophisticated operations, the answers are displayed immediately. (As in “before my finger is off the button”.) Thinking about the experience, I was impressed with this speed because I have been using various computers, and all have been sluggish. The computers are a varied lot and include a collection of operating systems. The hardware ranges from ten years old to just purchased, and the operating systems include Windows, OSX, and Linux… Yet the calculator, designed and built in the early 1970s, is faster than the computers of today. The HP 35 has a custom Mostek chip running at no better than 1MHz and probably slower than that, with perhaps 32 bytes of read/write memory and less than 1K of ROM.”

“Faster than a hand-held calculator?” (Fitzpatrick’s Fabulous Future)

Those who believe the comparison (calculator vs. general-purpose computer) to be unfair should consider that my Commodore 64 (and many other 1980s micros) were also usable as entirely lag-free calculators.  The BASIC prompt was on the screen milliseconds after power-up, and would accept arithmetic commands immediately.

How does 1972 iron so thoroughly beat that of 2011?

The answer is simple: it is because computers only come in two speeds. Namely, “slow” (those which impose any perceptible delays on the user) and “fast” (those that do not.)

This entry was written by Stanislav , posted on Friday April 08 2011 , filed under NonLoper, SoftwareSucks . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

4 Responses to “Calculator vs. PC”

  • Chris Smith says:

    Perhaps a late entry to this post, but I’ve discovered something remarkable. A machine which complies with your seven laws of sane computing and is there right away. It is also insanely powerful.

    HP50g calculator. Its not really a calculator – its a computer.

    I’ve literally used it for everything for 3 months now.

    • Stanislav says:

      Dear Chris Smith,

      I once owned an HP-48. It is indeed a beautiful thing. Unfortunately it cannot replace my desktop PC.
      Did you post this comment from your HP-50?


      • Chris Smith says:

        In my line of work (financial services), it is sufficient, which perhaps is fortunate.

        I’ve used my phone purely for communication for about a month now and nothing else, preferring to use paper, pen, mind and calculator for everything else.

        My mind is clearer and my life is less encumbered with the noise of looking after larger computers.

  • another says:

    Related point: what do you think of HP discontinuing HP 50g and replacing it with that Prime peice of shit?

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