Friday, March 9, 2012

The TI-58/59 programmable calculators

Mobile computing is nothing new!  My first programmable device was a TI-58 calculator:



I spend many happy hours punching in the code for Lunar Lander (and less time actually playing it).  Wish I still had my coding sheets for the various apps I dreamed up.  (For some reason, the convention then was to write the key codes vertically, rather than horizontally.)

TI had their own app store, selling Solid State SoftwareTM on plug-in ROM modules.  Of course I got the Leisure one, which had a few lame games on it.  Then as now, though, I had a lot more fun coding up new apps than playing games...

The calculator cognoscenti will notice the image is actually the TI-59, with the built-in magnetic card reader for offline permanent storage.  Had one of those too, once I got tired of eternally punching in programs. The mag card reader was pretty finicky, but it sure was cool filling up that little vinyl case with all that software that never got used...

A couple of years later HP released the iPhone of the calculator era - the HP-41C, which had an alphanumeric display!  HP was just as opinionated as Apple, in their own way - if you wanted one of their gorgeous units, you had to grok RPN notation. Kinda reminds me of my current effort of learning git.  I never did get one of those units, because by that time it was a lot more rewarding to punch code into a real microcomputer....

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