The Calculator that Never Dies - Page 2
They were expensive, oh yes, the 12c retailed for $150 of 1981. Today it sells for $70 at the HP web store, around 20% of the original price in today’s dollars.
The designers packed a suite of financial functions and made the 12c so accurate that could win the approval of the National Bureau of Standards, making it suitable for the banking industry. The algorithms used to perform calculations such as bond interest and partial payments on home mortgages were critical if the calculator was to be trusted by the financial world and meet the U.S. standards.
There are some people that trust no other calculator in the market to do the job. Dale Kern, a real estate broker in Oregon has three of them. One in his briefcase, one on his desk, and another one for backup. He heard the rumor a few years ago that they will stop producing them, so he went out and bought another one, just in case. “Stop making the HP 12c? Not likely,” he says.
One of main reasons for the HP 12c’s success is the way it was designed at that time. It is no secret that Hewlett was a big fan of calculators. Harms believes that the 12c’s success was the result of uncompromising quality and an enormous amount of work and forethought plus a “certain amount of luck,” he acknowledges.
The designers wanted to use RPN logic in the 12c, because it would make it easier to operate and program, and would save memory (counted in single bytes at that time), but the marketing people did not want a product that was working in a different way of the desktop calculating machines.
“We decided to force it,” Harms says. It never became an issue with the customers. People were so glad to get the 12c and the power that it gave them that they taught themselves to use RPN, he says. This is one of the main reasons I really like the 12c, RPN is the way all calculators should operate.Continued on the next page