computers suck

the warm glow of nixies …

click for more nixiness
computers suck

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as the ROM format has an outdated config file which causes it to complain weakly every time you start the emulator.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

computers suck

This is why we still have real calculators…

gnome-calculator fail

So I was checking a simple calculation today, and couldn’t find a proper calculator, so I reached for gnome-calculator on the desktop. That was a mistake.

It seems to think that


comes to


which is not correct. It would, if I’d  typed it as:


You can only get the right answer (1333.333…) if you type


so it’s clear that gnome-calculator isn’t apply the right exponentiation operator precedence when you hit ‘×10y’. It would have been so much better if gnome-calculator supported ‘E’ scientific notation (1.333E21 for 1.333×10²¹).

A bug is filed, but I don’t think I trust it any more. I’m looking at having a proper calculator again, or maybe invest in one of the delightful tiny HP clones from

HP 49G

Almost forgot that I had a barely-used HP 49G in the cupboard. It was barely used because the thing eats AAA batteries. Who knew that Dollarama would have a pair of NiMH AAAs for only $2?

o canada

Twice the price ain’t twice as nice

HP 35 from $43 HP 35 from $84

goatee-stroking musing, or something

The big 14k

Yep, I’m 14000 days old today (how old are you?). It’s supposedly the length of a biblical generation.

Many people suggested ways I should celebrate (most involving ingestion of various ethanol-based solutions). It turns out that a company I’m working with is taking me out to the Leafs game tonight. There may well be ethanol.

computers suck

calculator porn

For no good reason, I think I need the new HP 50g calculator, if only because it’s so absurdly large. Mind you, since I recently found my 49G again, I don’t think I can justify it.

goatee-stroking musing, or something

send not for whom the (division) bell tolls

It may sound like the first line of a particularly contrived blues song, but I woke up this morning and realised I’ve completely forgotten how to do long division. Guess I’ve used calculators for far too long.

o canada

Canadian Citizenship CIT 0002 Absence Calculator

When you apply for Canadian citizenship, you need to tabulate all your absences from the country in the last four years on the form “Application for Canadian Citizenship — Adults [Form CIT 0002]“. It’s irksome to do this, so here’s Canada_CIT0002_Calculator.sxc; an OpenOffice spreadsheet to do the sums for you.

I’m sure it’s not perfect, but it’s provided for no more reason than to be helpful. If you use it for other people, don’t charge for its use.

Wind Things

40 + 40 = 43 ?

Simple wind calculators:


  • decibel addition
  • wind variation with height
  • simple hemispherical noise propagation.

It’s something to do to hone my mad JavaScript skillz whilst on the train.