October 2004

One Less Techno Toy

After a quarter of a century of flawless service, my HP-41C calculator has finally stopped working.

It would be an understatement to say that these machines were well made: they were in fact superb in every category, from the programmability through the excellent documentation to the best keyboard I've ever seen to this day. They also cost a huge amount of money: perhaps £600 in present day terms, or in other words much the same as two 40GB iPods.

Like many of HP's current line and most of their calculators since 1972, the HP-41C used RPN (Reverse Polish Notation). As well as being more sensible than that silly algebraic system other calculators used, this meant you were pretty much guaranteed that no-one would borrow the machine from you for long. Maybe that's why it lasted; I certainly wouldn't expect this kind of longevity out of anything I bought today.

So farewell then, 1940A00696. Thank goodness my HP-16C is still in perfect working order.

Aptitude

This month's edition of the Communications of the ACM has an insert called the Google Labs Aptitude Test, which you can also find on-line.

Looking at the questions, I am way too stupid to work at Google. On the other hand, I like their sense of humour:

  • Question 2: Write a haiku describing possible methods for predicting search traffic seasonality.
  • Question 5: What's broken with Unix? How would you fix it?

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