Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The HP 12C

When I turned on my trusty old HP 12C Monday, an asterisk was blinking in the small display window. Though this is a pretty rare sight in this uber calculator, I knew what it meant. The batteries were low.

On my way to GG’s fundraiser, I stopped by the Batteries Plus store on Dobbin Road just down from my office. I showed Joseph the gold and black calculator and asked him to fix me up with some new juice.
“How much do you love this calculator?” he asked after a quick look at the batteries.

The question stunned me a bit at first. Was there something wrong with the 12C?

“The batteries are $3.79 each,” he added. “It takes three.”

Oh that's all. That’s a small price to me. I’ve had this calculator for almost twenty years. I think this is the third time I’ve changed the batteries.

Joseph probably couldn’t imagine spending that much on batteries for just a calculator.

This is no ordinary calculator. It debuted in 1981 and was the world’s first horizontal financial calculator. Every commercial real estate broker worth his commission bought one and then had to learn how to use it. Once I learned how to use it, I loved it. It is the only technologic gadget I use everyday that is thirty years old.

I’m not the only one either. My colleague TW, an accountant by training, simply won’t use any other calculator. He even lost the battery cover off his a few years ago and now covers it with tape.
He should really just buy a new one. HP still sells them too. They’re a bargain now compared to twenty years ago, about 30% cheaper today.

The batteries on the other hand, are probably 30% more.
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