Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mind Blown

I didn't know that I was going to bite the calculator when I decided to take this selfie, but that's what I did.

I just wanted to show the calculator for the purposes of the post; then I thought rather than just take a photo of it by itself that I would hold it in my hand to show the dimension; and, that escalated into a full-blown selfie. I suppose that I decided to chomp because the US Open aired recently, won my Rafael Nadal, who is my favourite player. And when he wins a tournament, he bites the trophy, and I am nothing if not a mindless copycat.

Anyway, the calculator came in the mail last week. It was a freebie from the Cancer Research Society who want me to show my appreciation by writing them a cheque (that's check for some) ... and I might.

It's solar powered, has memory functions, a square root button as well as a % key.

It feels like cardboard, but it works, and it was cheap enough for the charity to send it to me as a freebie. To get my attention. So that I would write a cheque/check. And I might. Oops, already said that.

It stirs my memory it does, causing me to recall the first handheld calculator that my little eyes ever did see. Pretty sure it was this one. A Rapidman. And I know where I saw it: Eaton's in Shoppers World, Toronto.

It was in the early 70s, possibly 1972 but maybe a year or two later.

It was on sale — for $100 and it blew my mind.

Up until then, I had been using my tiny little brain to add up marks for my students. And then I would use a wheelie thingie to convert their raw scores into whatever I wanted. So, if the kid had a total of 131 out of 169, for example, I would spin the wheels and learn that it was also 78% or 47/60 or whatever I conversion that I needed.

It was a great little wheelie thingie that saved me some steps in calculating marks in different categories for up to 150 students, for I might have 3 or 4 categories to work into one final mark, and it could all get rather time consuming.

Unfortunately, I can't find an image of that particular wheelie thingie, but Google can find all sorts of other calculating wheels, just not that one. So that you can get a feel for the general concept, here's one for calculating pregnancy and birth dates and so on and so forth. Wheels within wheels as it were.

But it was all a little hit and miss. I always fretted about making mistakes adding all of those numbers in my head or even on paper it it came to that. And some discerning student discovered that the wheel could be 1% out, or at least my reading of it could be 1% out. And a percent means a lot to some students.

So, when I saw the calculator ... Mind Blown.

But a hundred bucks was a lot back then. I mean it's enough now but possibly equivalent to let's just guess at $400 now. So, needless to say, I didn't buy it.

As time went on and not that much time either, prices went down. I didn't see any more Rapidman machines, but Sears carried another make (the name of which I can't remember even though I used it for years), and when it went down to $35, I pounced.

But think of it: a 4 function calculator was on sale for $100. On sale! Now, something like 45 years later, I get a freebie in the mail that is more than a 4 function machine and it is solar powered too. No batteries. Free. And it works.

Well, that was the thing that got me started on this post, but please indulge me in reminiscing a little more about technology and mark calculation.

By the mid-80s, within about 10 or 12 years of lusting after the Rapidman, I had my first personal computer, an Atari 800 with a whole 48K of Ram. Wowsa!

I was in heaven. I used a word processor to type up worksheets for my classes. It was great because I couldn't type worth a darn. Still can't. I make loads of mistakes when I type (I just typed ttyp and then typp) but we have those magical backspace and delete keys as we hum (OK plod) along.

I loved using PaperClip as my word processor; I knew all of the keystrokes (no mousing back then) and felt as though I could make the app sing and dance.

And then I purchased a spreadsheet program, Syncalc. And made my own marks template.

Of course, soon enough, marks programs came along, and they worked even better than my homemade spreadsheet.

As I put this post together, I am almost astounded by a few things.

  • One, of course, is the whole free calculator thing.
  • Then, there is the incredible pace of technological change, and beyond what has been mentioned, there is the reality that I am going to publish this post on a thing called the internet.
  • Then, I impressed myself by remembering brand names like Rapidman, PaperClip and Syncalc about 3 or 4 decades later. This is especially impressive since I can't even remember the names of the various pills that I have to take nowadays.
  • Finally, how about being able to find all sorts of images online of products that died and were buried decades ago? Who puts them online and why, I don't know, but I think it's great.
And I say to myself, what a wonderful, mind-blowing world.


Mara said...

We had to have a really special calculator at school. One with a gazillion functions like tangens and such (I think that's what it was called) for severely difficult mathematical stuff. I think my brother had it after me. Now I have a lovely one I have had for about the same time I have not been in school. Solar powered and with a percentage function. I just have to learn one day how that works though...

Oh, and it's pink!

Marie Smith said...

Those calculators came out when I was in University, doing science. Science snd engineering were in the same building then and the engineers went from slide rules on their belts to calculators. It was a big deal!

Tabor said...

Yes, I remember when calculators were a nice expensive our cell phones are today. Maybe cell phones will soon be 10-20 dollars?

troutbirder said...

Are you saying its time to give up my slide rule which got me through llth grade physics class?

Vicki Lane said...

Incredible pace of technology. The smart phone cameras (I don't have a smart phone) do an amazingly good job. Along with so many other things. Still I resist, not wishing to become one of those zombies who is always checking my smartphone. I spend too much time with my laptop already.

Jim said...

The lab I worked in (first life, before teaching) had a large, multi key, table top calculator. 1. that's all. It sat on the secretary's desk and she had a "don't touch my Texas Instrument" policy. We had to do all out computing on a slide rule. I had never used one, ever! Warped my learning curve until I got the hang if it.
I saw a multi-function calculator, % key and all at the Dollar Store the other day. Solar power with an tiny disc battery back-up, all for one US buck! My how times have changed.

Jenn Jilks said...

Isn't it amazing?
I recall the typing of essays, with carbon in between, no photocopiers, and making a mistake! argh.
When our kids could use calculators in schools I bought a huge one, like yours, for them to borrow, as some kids couldn't afford them. They didn't lose mine, or secret it away!
Fond memories.
We were back in CP for meds a few days ago. It's so much more quiet these days!

Ginnie said...

The kids today have no idea of what it was like ... I hope some of them read your entry and, at the very least, appreciate what it took to get where we are today !!

Debbie said...

i think about this all the time....."Finally, how about being able to find all sorts of images online of products that died and were buried decades ago? Who puts them online and why, I don't know, but I think it's great."

and what did we do before google, i google everything!!!!

and i typed and remember being thrilled when they came up with eraser tape!!!

Mage said...

Oh, I love this post. I remember all my computers, and I still have the two last ones I bought. You leave me with a smile on my face.