Sunday, September 22, 2013

HHC 2013 - Day 2 Highlights

The Morning Panel

The morning started off with a Q&A panel. The speakers were Ruth Patterson, Jason Smith, Cyrille de Brebisson, and Tim Wessman of the HC Calculator Group.

* The education market was a primary topic of the session, and how HP calculators, such as the Prime and 39gii, along with connectivity software play a role in education.
* The contrast of the keys and keyboard were discussed and how important it is to the user in terms of readability and usability. Note that most HP calculators the color of the type on the keys are black or white for the primary functions, and blue and orange for the shifted functions.
* There was a discussion of how the calculators can be used in both educational and professional settings.
* The HP Prime was named as such because the team wanted a mathematical term for a name, and to differentiate it from prior calculators which had numerical names.

At the end of the session the HHC committee presented two plaques: one to Cyrille de Brebisson for 15 years of being part of the calculator community and innovation, and one to Tim Wessman for 10 years.

David Ramsey - HP 85

David Ramsey talked about the HP 85 computer, and it is a beauty. Manufactured in 1980, the 85 had 16K of RAM that could be expanded to 64K. Only catch was up to 32K could be used for programming. It is a stand alone machine complete with printer. The screen is a 256 x 192 monochrome screen.

Plotting is limited on the HP 85; the pen could draw the axis, tick marks, lines, and points. However graphic buffers can be saved and restored. Processing can slow due to the limited amount of pins in the processor. The tape drive originally ran on DIC 100 cassettes, which had a limited life. Ramsey had his HP 85 modified so that QIC tapes are used. The back of the 85 had four ports, which a port can hold a drawer holding up to 6 ROM cartridges.

Calculators Are Awesome

Dan McDonald (I hope I get his name right, apologies if I don't) stated he like calculators because they are like puzzles and use allowed the our brains to be exercised. Namir Shammas commented that calculators are accessible devices. I agree with both gentlemen.

Readable 41 Bar Codes & Programs

Jake Schwartz and Jackie Woldering showed a project they completed. Everyone at the conference received two DVDs:

* A four-volume set of notes from previous PPC conferences, calculator journals, conference proceedings from Australian conferences, notes from all of the previous HHC conferences, and HP 41 programs, 1,343 programs consisting of 5,844 pages, complete with bar codes and dot data files. We thank both Jake and Jackie for hours and hours and hours of hard work, typing, and dedication to this project.
* A DVD of 1970s calculator ads.

Charles McCord: Life at HP

Charles McCord (again, apologizes if I have the name wrong) spoke about his life working at Hewlett Packard. He was inspired to save money over the last two years of high school and some of the first year in college to purchase a HP 65 after his father bought a HP 45, and how to understand how calculators work.

When working for HP in Corvallis, McCord started as a quality engineer working with the HP 41. He lead a team develop a modem for the HP 75, which gave it additional memory and power, at the request of AT&T. He was also a manager for the single chips produced for the HP 10 series. McCord also lead a group of engineers to develop printers and mini-computers in Vancouver and San Diego.

Some funny antidotes during his time at HP were:

* One of his supervisors was humorously given an HP 41C glued to a car battery since heavy ROM use easily ate up the battery.
* The first modem cases for the HP 75 were fine except the computers were resetting. Turns out the case pressed the keys for a soft reset. Plastic shields that were added to the case took care of the problem.
* In a test group for the original HP 12C, one of the NAND gates were locked, causing a row of commas to fill the screen each time the ON and decimal point keys were simultaneously pressed. Those calculators were not sold.
* People returned their otherwise working HP 12Cs after several years of use because the batteries lasted so long, they did not realize that the batteries died.

McCord now works for Aptima.

Final Panel, Prizes, and a Tour

A final panel assembled by Joe Horn, Cyrille de Brebisson, Jeremy Smith, Goeff Quickfall, Wlodek Mier-Jędrzejowicz, and Jim Donnelly takes about the adventures and misadventures of publishing.

Contest Winners:

Best Speaker, as voted by the attendees, went to Geoff Quickfall.

RPN Programming Contest Winner: Eric Smith

RPL Programming Contest Winner: Bill Butler

Congratulations to all the winners. I believe you can find details of the RPN and RPL contests on the HHC 2013 page and the HP Museum of Calculator Forum.

Of course, no conference is not complete with door and premium prizes. And there was enough to go around for all 56 attendees at least once. It was by random drawing and whoever gets called gets a choice of donated goodies. Here is what I won:

An HP 38G (1995). This is the beginning of the 38G/39G/40G/Prime family. Thanks to whoever donated the calculator.

For the record, I took two slide rules and printed two dairies of HP calculator programs that I wrote for various calculators.

Then there are the premium prizes, those donated items deemed by the community to be very valuable and/or unique. While I wasn't lucky enough to win a premium prize (but that is how I won my HP-71B two years ago) some of the premium prizes were:

* HP 65 in its box with accessories
* HP 75 in its box with accessories
* HP 25 with its charger and pouch. A good iOS emulator is the GO-25.
* HP 71-B
* HP 15C Limited Edition in its box, unopened (2)
* HP 48GX with a black LCD screen. 48GX calculators with black LCD screens are rare because they were the last 48GX to be produced. Most 48GX (and 48s in general) have blue LCD screens.
* Microsoft Surface Tablet
* HP calculator carrying case (2)

I am not sure if the names of the winners are posted on the HHC 2013 web site.

Tim Wessman took a group of us on a tour of the office, where testing of calculators and connectivity software takes place.

I had to leave to get to my hotel to connect for my ride to the airport. I probably have missed out on closing remarks and the after-conference party. I have to be back to work the following Monday.

Once again, my heartfelt gratitude to all the attendees and the committee, a lot who have become friends, and to Hewlett Packard. You are a big reason why math and calculators are lifelong loves for me.

Another conference has come and gone. Had a blast as always. Time flies when we are having fun. And I will talk to you next time!


This blog is property of Edward Shore. 2013

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