My cell phone connects me with my friends and also calculates logarithms
April 12, 2011 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Are graphical calculators pointless? Graphical calculators are required by many college-level math courses, but they don't perform as well as mobile phones. Pedagogically, they may be less useful than a slide rule.

Slide rules are cool! Here's one simulated slide rule. Here's another. There are many more. Slide rules have even more history than the graphing calculator. (Previously)

So why don't we still use slide rules?
posted by twoleftfeet (68 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Because you can't play Drugwars on a slide rule.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:38 PM on April 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


twoleftfeet: "Are graphical calculators pointless? Graphical calculators are required by many college-level math courses, but they don't perform as well as mobile phones. Pedagogically, they may be less useful than a slide rule."

Hard to play DrugWars on a slide rule, though.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:38 PM on April 12, 2011


I will cut you, 2bucksplus, and then pilfer every bit of your stash.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:41 PM on April 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


He makes a good point, but I have a feeling it's because most math departments aren't motivated enough to create specialized laptops for exams (as he suggests), or rewrite existing tests and question banks to be fair with unlimited technology at your disposal. Calculator companies basically have students over a barrel on this one, it seems.

sidebar, do calculators still have BASIC as their default programming language? that's the only type of programming outside of limited javascript that i could ever do
posted by codacorolla at 8:44 PM on April 12, 2011


So why don't we still use slide rules?

Because you can't spell "boobies" on a slide rule.

They are neat to use, though.
posted by Forktine at 8:44 PM on April 12, 2011


Because you can't play DrugW....

Shit.
posted by mrgoat at 8:44 PM on April 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Graphical calculators are first used in high school, where I think few teachers would be so trusting of their students to let them use their phones for math. Even in college, professors aren't fond of cell phones or lap tops. Mrs. flt, who was a math major undergrad, didn't use calculators in her courses, especially with proofs.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 PM on April 12, 2011


I miss my HP 48G.

RPN4life!
posted by kmz at 8:48 PM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you can show me a cellphone which can keep up, in raw entry-and-results speed, with my HP-48GX, I'll buy you a cookie. The input restrictions of a cellphone alone make it far worse. I can fly on this calculator when I'm really cranking through work.

Now, if I had an external 3"x5" keyboard for my cellphone, well...
posted by introp at 8:49 PM on April 12, 2011


For your Android phone: Droid48, Andy-83 (also -85 and -86 on the same site). All free.
posted by Chef Flamboyardee at 9:04 PM on April 12, 2011


I would have sworn that I threw it away, but just now I looked for it: my Pickett slide rule! Oh my dear childhood friend! Although you may be my personal tsukumogami, I have not forgotten you!
posted by SPrintF at 9:06 PM on April 12, 2011


They also only ever seem to be used in schools and colleges. I spend a lot of time working with engineers, scientists and mathematicians and I hardly ever see a calculator such as the Casio Prizm or TI NSpire on their desks.

It`s true, except for a few very simple calculators we use for quick arithmetic checks at the bench, I haven`t used a calculator since my undergraduate labs. Why would I, when I have mathcad and R available? If I need a scientific calculator, my phone is to hand. I don't need another box to carry.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The things that pisses me off most about graphing calculators is that the TI-83 is still the standard -- that thing can't be more than like $10 to manufacture (literally the same basic design since it came out in 1996 -- as far as I know, they increased RAM a bit and pushed the clock rate a marginal amount). It's a complete rip-off, and TI knows it. A modern cell phone has at least 200x the computational power.
posted by spiderskull at 9:10 PM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Cell phones shouldn't make graphing calculators look like sharpened sticks and chunks of flint, but they do. This xkcd is topical.

While I'm not sure the graphing calculator should go away (cell phone input limitations are a major deal, as others have said) TI deserves to lose the market and then some for just sitting stagnant on technology so long that the devices are almost comical. Any cheap mp3 player badly outclasses anything TI makes in the processor, ram, and screen departments, for 1/3 the cost or less.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:11 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


In all seriousness, as a class assignment, I "presented" slide rules to my classmates using a big-ass slide rule model and struggled to explain the concept of Napier's Bones. I'm afraid that, in the end, most of my classmates decided that "a wizard did it" and used slide rules without considering how they worked.

The slide rule was a magic wand that worked.
posted by SPrintF at 9:16 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you can show me a cellphone which can keep up, in raw entry-and-results speed, with my HP-48GX, I'll buy you a cookie.

I felt like king of the campus when I got my brand new HP-48G. The HP calculator buttons have that satisfying touch that I enjoyed so much. My 48G eventually gave up the ghost and I was never motivated to get another one. I do have a 42s emulator on my iPhone, but alas, the buttons are not the same. I often wonder if Fiorina hadn't killed the calculator division, if HP would still be making something kick-ass today.
posted by pashdown at 9:23 PM on April 12, 2011


It is silly that a good TI or HP calculator costs more than $50 considering how inexpensive they must be to produce now. It would be nice if they started using better screens; But as far as processing power, you really don't need much for most math you would/could punch in by hand.
posted by goodsignal at 9:24 PM on April 12, 2011


To do it right on a mobile phone would involve getting one of the big numeric packages working natively. Modern phones are roughly as capable as the computers in 2000, and we were running large simulations on them then. the keay is what float and double performance is like on the mobile cpus. I don't know what the floating point performace of the mobile phone processors is like. Numerical analysis also tends to be very dependent on memory to cpu speeds. I don't know how the busses/bridges in the mobile platforms will behave either.

Matlab only makes a mobile connector for the iPhone and no other platform, but there is a third part viewer for Android too. They're just basically dumb terminals back to your desktop, only somewhat better than running it in text mode via ssh.

R has been installed on a jailbroken iPhone, but, as far as I can tell doesn't exist on the (java) Android platform yet.

So real numerical computing on phones looks like it's a few years off yet.
posted by bonehead at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2011


We were required to own graphing calculators from 7th grade on up, and I cannot recall a single instance of them serving a legitimate pedagogical use. We mostly used them to do simple arithmetic and play Mr. Worm.

The day in precalculus when we learned about logarithms and how to use slide rules was pretty much the highlight of my high school math classes. Slide rules are awesome.
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2011


I got through differential equations last year (a fairly hard math course) and never cracked open my TI-83. I'm in an engineering math course now and use the TI-83 constantly in class, for the homework, and on the tests. I've had that calculator for about 17 years now (dude, fucking graduate already).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:29 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Drug Wars? Oh, Dad. You still can't handle the complex calculus of Angry Birds, can you? Stick to FarmVille.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:30 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"RPN4life!"

I think you mean "RPNlife4!"
posted by Eideteker at 9:36 PM on April 12, 2011 [22 favorites]


We (the supernerds at a math magnet school) used to make and trade our own games and a few of us wrote pretty slick ones in assembly. Someone even wrote a program that would simulate the entire OS on a TI-98 (or whichever the cool calculator to have was) so you could pretend to wipe your memory and even show the empty file system for the proctor at the AP tests. Now THAT was a useful education. There wouldn't have been any other way to get me into programming, much less cracking assembly code.
posted by cmoj at 9:47 PM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh man. I am definitely an old fogey because I was actually enrolled in an algebra class when the TI-81 was the newly-released top of the line graphing calculator, which we were of course all required to purchase. I don't recall how much they were, but it must have been damned expensive. I honestly remember their pedagogical role fondly; I remember the contrast between numerical approximations and symbolic solutions, and preferring the precision of the latter. I think discrete approximations will always be associated in my mind with those huge, blocky gray pixels, as opposed to the Platonic smoothness of the symbolically-derived curves.

But my favorite part was definitely the way TI progressed from the initial TI-81, which was fine, to the TI-85, which was clearly better in every way, and then they released the TI-83. It was like HELLO, I already have an -85, what is this -83 B.S. all about?? I was definitely convinced of the superiority of my TI-85 over all the "lesser" models until... (runs to check...) nope, looks like I never did upgrade the old '85. Epic branding fail.

I haven't used a graphing calculator in quite a while but now that I think about it, it would seem that any of these things could easily be emulated on any smart phone or iPod. I really can't imagine a justification for requiring the purchase of a graphing calculator in particular at this point.
posted by rkent at 9:48 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


pashdown if Fiorina hadn't killed the calculator division

HP is still making, and developing, new calculators. Same basic UI and screen resolution that they had in the 90s, though.
posted by zsazsa at 9:50 PM on April 12, 2011


Even worse, HP still sells the 12c, which hasn't changed significantly since 1981.
posted by xil at 9:55 PM on April 12, 2011


Public Service Announcement: never write a screensaver program for your graphing calculator. It'll end badly when you forget to turn the thing off before you leave class. I'll forever curse the day I had that brilliant idea (and lost my epic Dante's Inferno adventure game that I'd been working on for ages).
posted by asperity at 9:58 PM on April 12, 2011


Everyone is forgetting the supreme calculator bottleneck: standardized testing.

There's been a TI calculator with a keyboard for ages. The TI 92 is a real beast of a thing and it wasn't allowed because one could use that to enter data for exams. Now of course it had the same software as the 89 which also allowed you to type, but it was moderately inconvenient to do so. Thus logic meant that the 89 was allowed on your SAT and AP tests but the 92 was not.

Now of course the new 89 has a USB port and (I gather) functions just like a flash drive so you can copy files straight over.

Here are the SAT rules straight from their website:
The following are not allowed:
Calculators with QWERTY (typewriter-like) keypads
Calculators that contain electronic dictionaries
Calculators with paper tape or printers
Calculators that "talk" or make noise
Calculators that require an electrical outlet
Cell phone calculators
Pocket organizers or personal digital assistants
Hand-held minicomputers, PowerBooks, or laptop computers
Electronic writing pads or pen-input and stylus-driven devices (the Sharp 9600-EL can be used without the stylus)

Hello 1995 huh?
posted by Chekhovian at 10:08 PM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Even worse, HP still sells the 12c, which hasn't changed significantly since 1981.

From the link:
Tough construction: One HP-12C was used by a zoo keeper to calculate feed mixtures. The zoo keeper dropped the calculator and it was consumed by a hippopotamus. The calculator survived the hippo's digestive process as well as the washing that followed.
Now that's a calculator. Why fix what isn't broken?
posted by kmz at 10:10 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a thirteen-year-old TI-83. It still works.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:22 PM on April 12, 2011


We (the supernerds at a math magnet school) used to make and trade our own games and a few of us wrote pretty slick ones in assembly.

My supernerd crew hunted down a physics book with a table of musical note frequencies and used it to program our HP calculators to play our music from band class. It wasn't anything assigned by a teacher, but I'd like to see anyone argue we weren't learning.

The limits of graphing calculator capabilities are really a plus in high school circumstances - given the extent of crappy calculator gaming when I was in school, I can only imagine how much wouldn't get done in classes if everyone was using smartphones instead. No excuse for the pricing, though.
posted by polymath at 10:39 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of cool things happening in computer math software. The Manipulate[] in Mathematica is incredible. As an example You can Plot Sin[kX] over some range then in real time drag a slider that changes k to see the effect on the plot. This of course can be extended to much more complicated things depending on your CPU power.

Some sort of super calculator with much better Manipulate style interactivity would be really cool, but I'm not sure how much more can fit in the same limited form factor. I agree though that beyond simple graphs the calculators are not really necessary.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:49 PM on April 12, 2011


I have a soft spot for the TIs myself, from the same magnet school experience of creating and sharing games (Stickman!). I got rather good at drawing complex scenes one pixel at a time, and saw my first fractals on a TI.

A boyfriend in my bio class slipped me a note via TI-82, saying:

I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO TELL YOU THAT I LOVE YOU-

: I scroll down:

NG CHICKEN. IT TASTES SO MUCH BETTER THAT WAY.

So yes, it is possible to get romantically trolled via TI.
posted by ntartifex at 11:59 PM on April 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I never learned trigonometry, yet I got a 5 on AP Calc I. My TI-85 was my baby. I now barely remember algebra, much less calculus, and attempting to learn discrete math is near impossible.

Can over-reliance on technology be to blame? Nah!
posted by lesli212 at 1:34 AM on April 13, 2011


As a business major, I had to make do with the HP 10B, inexplicably still being sold for way more than one could possibly be worth. As I recall, we mainly used them for stats problems related to marketing research and trying to do ROI on how much the business could save by outsourcing the work you guys were doing to India. Oh, and running amortizations on hypothetical BMW payments.

/I keed, I keed...
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:36 AM on April 13, 2011


On a more serious note, it does make me feel old that these things used to be considered tools, and now the only reason that I can fathom they still exist is they are (theoretically) dumb enough that a student taking a test can use one without the proctor having to worry that the machine is going to do ALL the work.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:41 AM on April 13, 2011


I owned this beautiful device back in 1988.

The fx-7500G was the last calculator I ever bought (except for the other calculator I had to buy because graphical calculators were, quite sensibly, banned from exams).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:47 AM on April 13, 2011


I have a thirteen-year-old TI-83. It still works.

I have a 28-year-old Casio fx-3600P that still works. In fact I keep it here in my drawer for occasional use, because I don't like using a calculator on a desktop PC - looking up from the keyboard to the screen feels less comfortable than having them together.
posted by rory at 3:04 AM on April 13, 2011


Even current generation TI graphing calculators use the Zilog Z80, a microprocessor first produced in 1976. They practically are slide rules by current technological standards.
posted by Thoth at 3:54 AM on April 13, 2011


I got my first Casio fx in 1981.

*shuffles wearily to walking stick*

And about 7 years ago in design school I did a project on the TI's next avatar, given the increase in exam hall banning, communication abilities and the proctor's inability to manage cheating with it.

Mapped out all the competition and all.

Can one be homesick for youth in sunshine?
posted by infini at 3:58 AM on April 13, 2011


Which reminds me, dad had the little programming cards you stick into the TIs on the side. *And* a slide rule.
posted by infini at 3:58 AM on April 13, 2011


Calculators don't do SMS.
posted by flabdablet at 4:30 AM on April 13, 2011


Phones don't do asymptotes.

otoh, mefites do bumper stickers.
posted by infini at 4:32 AM on April 13, 2011


What are graphing calculators for anyway?

I don't really remember ever needing calculators much in Highschool except for the occasional physics class. but then i finished in 1993 I guess things have changed.
posted by mary8nne at 5:12 AM on April 13, 2011


Huh: I still have my Casio FX-702P -- haven't put batteries in it for a decade, though: ought to go see if it still works (I just spotted one going for $499 on eBay!). Yes, I still have the manual.

Used it during Physics "A" levels back in 1981-82.

I envy you young 'uns who had graphing calculators or calculators that could do matrix operations or display multiple lines back in school. I was in the transition period in the UK -- started at a point when calculators didn't really exist, went through a few years in which they were banned (slide rules, trig tables, or long division!), got to do 'O' levels with an early Casio, then bought my first computer -- a ZX-81.
posted by cstross at 5:16 AM on April 13, 2011


I've got a major beef with all of this graphing calculator nonsense. The Toronto Board of Ed. uses the TI-84s as standard, and has wasted a shitpile of money on making sure all schools have them (the whole exclusive contract thing really bothers me). I'm all for technology, but honestly, teaching kids how to use graphing calculators seems like a complete waste of time and resources for two major reasons.

Firstly, if we're going to teach them to use technology, why not focus on computers? I don't know any engineers (as an example) who ever use a stupid graphing calculator. Why would you when you have a computer at your desk? Wouldn't it be better to teach kids how to, say, manipulate Excel spreadsheets? There's nothing a graphing calculator can do that a computer can't do better.

Secondly, why spend so much time teaching kids to use a calculator when they can't even add two numbers together? I'm serious here; it's truly shocking. Basic math skills are so bad today that calculators become hopelessly misleading, as the kids have no notion of whether or not their answers make any sense. Better we should focus on numeracy, approximation, and the basic concepts. When they see a quadratic equation, they ought to be able to say "well, that's a parabola that would look roughly like this and has two real roots", not "I have no idea what that is; I'd better enter it into my calculator and hope it can tell me". When I say "how did you take the square root of a negative number here?" they shouldn't answer "that's what the calculator said".

I'm not saying calculators don't have their place; they do, but only if you know the rules of math well enough to be able to use them effectively. Calculators can't teach you those rules.
posted by Go Banana at 5:23 AM on April 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Even worse, HP still sells the 12c, which hasn't changed significantly since 1981.

In my finance classes everyone had to get a financial calculator. Most students got a 12c, since that's what the professors recommended and were familiar with. I balked at the ridiculous price (over $90 a couple years ago, I believe), so I used a recent vertical-style HP (the 10BII, I think, about $25). In class, the professors would walk everyone through a problem. Everyone with the 12c would be waiting for 10 to 20 seconds for the result, and I would be sitting there with the answer almost instantly. I couldn't believe HP could still get away with charging so much for ancient technology.
posted by stopgap at 5:55 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in eight grade, there was one weird math desk in the classroom. It had formulas for volume and area of all sorts of shapes. Since these formulas were provided on the tests, anyone could sit there. There was also one half of a 10 number slide rule scale across the top.

I used the weird desk to take my math test. We weren't allowed calculators, even to multiply stuff. After I got the test back, I told the teacher that I was tempted to use the slide rule scale. (Granted, it would be tedious to copy and would likely throw off my results.)

She said she had never used a slide rule, and hadn't noticed that was a part of the desk. This blew my mind, and I lost my trust in her as a math teacher.
posted by Monday at 6:10 AM on April 13, 2011


I got rid of my last graphics calculator in a physics lab as an undergraduate. It'd reliably supported me through my A-levels (although I had to fall back to a more ordinary scientific calculator for exams) but that day I'd been happily calculating away until some time during the afternoon I multiplied two positive numbers together and got 0. I checked a few calculations from earlier in the day and it looked like everything was off. It got dropped unceremoniously in the bin, and I got down to recalculating the entire day's work all over again. It's been computers and bog-standard calculators since... well until today when this post led me to SpaceTime on the iPhone.
posted by edd at 6:19 AM on April 13, 2011


I collect slide rules, not as a mania, but I do have five or six. I find them pleasingly satisfying to use. Slide rules require students to have number sense, since the rule does not tell you where the decimal point goes. This is a skill students who use calculators often lack.


I have been lusting after this slide rule for many years, ever since I first saw it.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:02 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with Go Banana on this. I'm not an engineer, I just play one on TV.

No, seriously, I know tons of people who use a lot of math in their careers- my dad's a builder, my uncle is a machinist, uncle in law is an engineer, father in law builds sewers for a living even though he lacks an engineering degree, grandpa's a (retired) shop teacher, two uncles are electricians (which, yes, use a lot of math)... none of them even own a graphing calculator. I know because my stepson needed one and I called all of them trying to get a used one. (eBay ended up saving the day).

All of them use computers and smartphones. I had a long conversation with both my electrician uncles (they are brothers) about all the cool apps that help them with their job, and this is why both of them and most other guys in their shops have both an iOS device and an Android phone, because there are different apps in each ecosystem. My grandpa, who retired in the 90s, was honestly surprised that my stepson needed a calculator at all. "We were in the process of phasing them out when I retired!" he said. I think he's still pissed about having to learn CAD.

The input is a problem, but it could be easily solved with a USB keyboard, a la the iPad. Calculators are an anachronism, like so much else in education. Schools really need to embrace the technological revolution.
posted by Leta at 7:09 AM on April 13, 2011


But my favorite part was definitely the way TI progressed from the initial TI-81, which was fine, to the TI-85, which was clearly better in every way, and then they released the TI-83. It was like HELLO, I already have an -85, what is this -83 B.S. all about?? I was definitely convinced of the superiority of my TI-85 over all the "lesser" models until... (runs to check...) nope, looks like I never did upgrade the old '85. Epic branding fail.

I was basically a pariah in my math classes because I brought an 85 while everyone else had an 83. My teacher had no fucking clue what to do with it.
posted by odinsdream at 7:39 AM on April 13, 2011


Even worse, HP still sells the 12c, which hasn't changed significantly since 1981.

You mean, "even better." It just works, and a whole bunch of financial types are basically programmed to use the 12c for various period calculations -- interest, depreciation, that sort of thing. I have one -- rather have a 15c, but it works for what I really need, which is a basic bulletproof RPN calculator that I can work much faster than a calc app.

Another amazing thing about the 10C series is the battery life. Hours? Try years. Reliable? I've seen them run over by cars and still work.

They're small, they do what they do incredibly well, and they're reliable enough that you can count on them being there when you need them.

That makes the HP 10c series a wonder. Why change them?
posted by eriko at 8:21 AM on April 13, 2011


I got a TI-81 when I was in high school, although now I can't remember exactly which class it was for, sometime around 1990. I remember that it was REALLY expensive; my mother was horrified at having to pay $100 for a calculator. After taking calculus II in college, I basically never used it again, and so I gave it away in probably 1997 or so.

Mr. epersonae went back to school to finish his BA and had to take statistics, which required him to buy a TI-83, I think in 2005? It was about $100, and didn't look any different to me from my old TI-81. Made me wish I'd kept the damn thing.

Fifteen years, and almost exactly the same device for exactly the same price? WTF? (For comparison: in 1991, at the same time I was using the TI-81, I took a computer class on the classic "Mac in a box" with a monochrome screen & hard drive space that could be measured in kilobytes.)
posted by epersonae at 8:33 AM on April 13, 2011


I still have my trusty TI-83 that I bought as a requirement for Algebra I in 1998. I used it a few weeks ago to do my taxes (since I have basically failed my way up to statistics as far as math classes are concerned). Damn thing is still going strong and has survived quite a beating. It still has the silver foil from gumwrappers on the cover that I did one day while bored in class.
posted by sperose at 8:34 AM on April 13, 2011


Forget keyboard input for storing data - don't smartphones have way more cheating ability since they can a) text others in the class and b) access the internet? Sure, maybe it's better for homework and day to day use, but you can't let kids use that on an exam.
posted by maryr at 8:35 AM on April 13, 2011


Forget keyboard input for storing data - don't smartphones have way more cheating ability since they can a) text others in the class and b) access the internet? Sure, maybe it's better for homework and day to day use, but you can't let kids use that on an exam.

This is kind of silly. Even the basic graphing calculators have storage for text. I was the go-to kid in high school for helping people transfer programs between eachother, and plenty of those programs were just cheating tools. The type of device really doesn't matter if you've got cheaters.
posted by odinsdream at 8:39 AM on April 13, 2011


It can depending on the class. I had several courses in college that either allowed a cheat sheet or were open book/notes. That said, some results were probably still searchable (ctrl-f being far faster than the index of a textbook) or easier to ask a smart friend.
posted by maryr at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2011


I bluescreened my HP48 one week after I started engineering school. No, really - bluescreened it. When you accidentally run over it with a 5000 lb car, the blue-ish LCD liquid leaks all over the screen and renders it unreadable.

Made it through engineering school with my trusty Casio from 1990, with the bezel that popped off so I had to memorize what the shift functions did. And I learned how to visualize functions rather than rely on a calc. graphing them for me.
posted by notsnot at 8:56 AM on April 13, 2011


HP is still making, and developing, new calculators.

Nope, zsazsa, they're not. There's some company in China that's making calculators inspired by old HP designs, and HP is putting their name on them.

I know this, because my HP 41C died after 30 years, and I'm looking for a replacement. The closest that HP currently sells is the HP 35S, which has its drawbacks but at least it looks better than this horror.

Maybe it's time to pay the collector's overhead and buy a used 48G on Ebay.

They hardest part about becoming an old fogey is telling the difference between "I don't like this because it's different from what I'm used to" and "The older version (that's no longer produced) was actually better."
posted by benito.strauss at 8:57 AM on April 13, 2011


How come the regular calculator apps that come with phones don't do scientific calculation? I know my dang phone can do a logarithm or trigonometry, but I just don't have the buttons for it. No, I have exactly four functions.

My phone is a non-smart phone. Do the calculators that come with android phones or iphones have more functions? Or do you have to get a special app for that?

Rockbox is an open-source firmware for many mp3 players. It comes with a scientific calculator app. It's kind of a pain in the butt to use with most mp3 players, though, since they have so few buttons.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 9:08 AM on April 13, 2011


I got my son a TI-81 for school but I never really took to it.
What I did love was my TI-57. It almost still works.

I love slide rules, but the reason for using a computer to simulate a slide rule escapes me.

And lastly, from the archives. In 1973 I was working for a company that had a bunch of engineers. One day a salesman came in trying to sell them this new-fangled electronic calculator. It needed an AC outlet, but you could add, subtract, multiply and divide, and it only cost $100.
posted by MtDewd at 9:50 AM on April 13, 2011


Do the calculators that come with android phones or iphones have more functions? Or do you have to get a special app for that?

You have to get an app, which took me about 10 seconds. It's entirely understandable why manufacturers would only ship a basic calculator. Hell, the scientific app I downloaded had a special pop-up warning when I first ran it describing how to enable Hex, Dec, and Bin modes. The developer had decided to disable them by default as a result of receiving too many complaints about his calculator app "not working" when users toggled these modes inadvertently.

I can only imagine the horror of supporting customers trying to use a scientific calculator for simple arithmetic.
posted by odinsdream at 10:43 AM on April 13, 2011


iPhone's built-in calculator app becomes a decent scientific calculator if you flip it sideways.

I liked my TI-85, but it's preposterous that they're selling the same thing 15 years after I used one in high school for the same price. They could at least bump up the memory and processor speed -- with some computing power and a few megabytes of memory it would be a pretty potent tinkering platform.
posted by neckro23 at 11:07 AM on April 13, 2011


I still have an Ti-89, and actually I was using it a couple weeks ago for some matrix stuff. I think in highschool they were still a little innovative, they didn't feel like a huge ripoff. But basically after the Ti-89 came out they basically stopped innovating.

I found a calculator program for android but it wasn't nearly as full featured
posted by delmoi at 7:04 PM on April 13, 2011


Oh how I miss my HP 48GX.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:35 PM on April 13, 2011


Casio, TI, etc, say thank you :-)
posted by programmes-tv at 8:59 AM on April 14, 2011


whimsicalnymph, I miss your HP 48GX too.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:04 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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