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it's sad when you're excited by 21-year old technology - helen-louise
it's sad when you're excited by 21-year old technology

I have had a Casio fx-451M calculator since I went to secondary school. I bought it in 1987, when I was 11, and I've never found another calculator that I like better. Unfortunately, it has something of a design flaw in that there is only the thinnest of connectors between the two halves. And the first thing most people do if they borrow it is to fold the "case" back through 180 degrees - which makes me scream at them.

My calculator would still be working absolutely fine if not for other people, but as it is, it's been abused over the years. The connector between the two halves has failed so some of the functions only work some of the time. This would be fine, if they didn't include Memory In and Memory Recall. Also, the case is pulled off the edge in several places, and the sticky substance inside is all full of poppy seeds (an occupational hazard of anything I own). So I decided I'd better start hunting on eBay to prepare myself for the time when my calculator finally stops working altogether. And I found one!

What I like about the fx451-M is the physical constants. It has Avogadro's constant, the speed of light in vacuum, the actual mass of a proton and electron (in kg), the charge on a proton or electron (in C), the molar gas constant, Planck's constant, the permittivity of free space, g, and some other constants that I never used. Apparently some modern Hewlett Packard calculators also feature these constants, but through a menu rather than a single keypress. I use NA, R and h enough that I prefer to have them permanently visible - I use each of those three far more often than pi!

So I'm happy, and now I'm wondering if it would be greedy for me to continue scouring the ads for more fx-451Ms. Because, y'know, I can reasonably expect to live for at least another 40 years, and if this one's lasted 20 years... I'm not going to allow anyone else to use the new one, when it comes. I'll get a crappy modern calculator for the students to use when they forget to bring theirs.

Also, dear lord, this is "vintage" - it's the calculator I had for A-level. Selling for US $3! Mine cost me over £100, plus another £40 when I dropped it and the LCD smashed. For some reason, this makes me feel old far more than the fact my Game Boy Advance SP has a more powerful version of the same ARM processor that my Archimedes had.

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Current Music: Freezepop - Pop Music Is Not A Crime

5 comments or Leave a comment
nmg From: nmg Date: 25th January 2008 21:23 (UTC) (Link)
I too remember that calculator, although I never owned one; the rich kids at my school had them (and there were quite a few of them - both rich kids and fx-451Ms), whereas I owned (and still own) a rather more lowly Sharp el-509a. Still worked, the last time I dug it out, and I've only had to change the batteries once since I bought it in 1986 or thereabouts.
rhialto From: rhialto Date: 28th January 2008 00:50 (UTC) (Link)
I have a Sharp EL-506P, which looks very much like yours, but it has an extra row of function keys. And you can enter numbers in decimal, hexadecimal, octal and binary. http://mycalcdb.free.fr/main.php?l=0&id=1615
submarine_bells From: submarine_bells Date: 26th January 2008 00:01 (UTC) (Link)
I still have the Casio fx-510 scientific calculator that I had in high school.

It was my first ever "fancy" calculator and I adored it. It had a lovely sleek and slender design that still looks good to me today. When I got it I went through the manual and played with all the functions, even if I didn't know what they were for. I used to amuse myself by inventing games to play on it involving generating random numbers then trying to guess them.

I have a deep sentimental attachment to it, even if I can't get the thing to work any more. I still have the manual, the little laminated list of Useful Numbers and Constants, and the vinyl wallet to carry them all around in. Maybe one day I should try to track down another working one.
submarine_bells From: submarine_bells Date: 26th January 2008 00:02 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and here is a pic of one just like mine!

Edited at 2008-01-26 00:02 (UTC)
hatter From: hatter Date: 26th January 2008 00:18 (UTC) (Link)
My fx-361 is still with me, I was never much of a chemist nor a statistician, so that it seems to have clever stats stuff instead of chemistry constants was no great loss. It had hex/octal/binary and did real fractions though, all of which make me happy. Coincidentally, I noticed the manual for it today, while sifting through a box of non-specific stuff.

Later I got my Sharp EL9300 which had pretty-printing for stuff, and did a few useful and cool things that neither the casios nor the curiously popular but clunky TI ones did, but my fx361 stayed in my jacket pocket. Even though the EL9300 had "Don't panic" written on the cover in large, friendly letter. But I know it's in the dining room, and pretty sure its manual is too, and it still fired up fine when I poked it a couple of years back.

the hatter
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