The HP48: the best calculator ever

We had an unscheduled overnight stop in East Lansing last week, and I took the chance to visit the MSU Surplus Store.  For $15, they had HP48G calculators, seemingly unused:

hp48gThey still have a bunch of them: HP 48G Graphic Calculator.

They’re maybe not the quickest (the 4 MHz Saturn processor chugs sometimes, and wanders off to clean up memory when it feels like it), the display is downright chunky these days, but they have everything that a scientific calculator should have. The keys have a good action. It just works. Yes, your smartphone has hundreds of times the processing power, but it’s not specialized to the task. The HP48 is.

If you’re feeling really nerdy, you can run an HP48 (a GX, not the G which I have) under Linux using x48. Jeff has some useful tips on installing x48 on newer ubuntu versions (though you don’t have to do the font thing under Ubuntu 13.10).

x48Building it is a small matter of ./ ; ./configure ; make ; sudo make install.  To run it, you’ll need to install the GX ROM image to ~/.hp48.  The first time you run it, I’d recommend running it from the terminal with:

x48 -connFont -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--13-120-75-75-c-70-iso8859-16 -smallFont -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--13-120-75-75-c-70-iso8859-16 -mediumFont -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--14-130-75-75-c-70-iso8859-16 -largeFont -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--15-140-75-75-c-90-iso8859-16 -reset -initialize -rom ~/.hp48/rom

as the ROM format has an outdated config file which causes it to complain weakly every time you start the emulator.

Scanned manuals are available from HP and here: HP 48g User Guide, HP 48g Quick Start Guide.

last morning of Banjo Camp

Well, just two more sessions to go at banjo camp. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned so much. I do need to get my chord skills down, but even my half-formed frailing did garner compliments.

The concerts were great. Last night we had Wade & Julia Mainer perform some gospel numbers. Wade turned 100 this year, but you wouldn’t know it to hear them play.

So it’s a long drive back, but it was worth it.