My TI-53

MarkCC has posted about innumeracy, to be specific, the misuse of terms in a mathematical context. This is of course something that is interesting in its own right—just the other day I heard a sales manager claim that sales of a product category had increased by 250%, rather than to 250% (of the index) and insisted it was correct even when I pointed out the error—but more importantly the discussion reminded me of my old Texas Instruments TI-53. I got it for my birthday, it must have been when I was in 9th grade. Pocket calculators were quite unusual at the time, but my father had a thing for gadgets and for once he had hit on something useful. This was a great toy. I read through the relatively thick but small (so it'd fit in the same box as the calculator) manual and soon had figured out how to program the calculator.

This was magic. I could easily compute functions and plot them on squared paper and got some kind of intuition for how they worked. I used my TI-53 almost all through high school, where it was invaluable, and with the constant use it eventually wore out, the keyboard sensors failing. It got an appropriate funeral: I opened it up to see what it looked like inside and then soldered off the surface-mounted processor. Eventually I sewed it to the breast of my student overall, where it still sits today.


Martin said...

I've still got the Casio fx-180P calculator I bought in 1987 when I started high school. I never learned to program it, and now it's been made obsolete by the calculator built into Windows.

Still angry at my classmate who borrowed the calculator once and scribbled inside the black plastic case with a pencil.

Anonymous said...

I had a TI-53 in high school as well. I was able to program the quadratic formula into it. I remember breezing trough geometry because of this. The teacher did not know that programmable calculators existed at that time.