HP1973 Project Highlights Workings Of HP-45 Calculator

[Sarah K Marr] dabbles in retrocomputing and has a fascination with the Hewlett Packard HP-45 calculator, the second calculator in HP’s series introduced in 1973. Over a year ago, she wrote an HP-45 emulator for use on a terminal, dubbed HP45TERM. Not content with success, she upped the challenge and decided to build an even better emulator with a full-featured GUI written in Python. Oh, and she made it multi-platform as well. The result is the HP1973 project.

[Sarah] thought it would take just a few days, but it grew into a much bigger project, as often happens. We’re glad it did because the results are fantastic. The emulator gives you access not only to the calculator itself but can see everything under the hood. The emulator provides full ROM visibility, hardware registers, and standard debugging operations like single stepping. ROM images are available for the HP-45, the HP-35, and the HP-80. The GUI display is configurable, and there’s a plethora of help and information explaining the calculator’s internals. Pre-built binaries are available for MacOS, Windows, and Python source code (3.10.10+) for all operating systems (you’ll need to `pip install numpy` first). The emulation is faithful to the original calculator, and even the hidden timer function can be accessed.

Check this out if you’re into retro calculators. Our own Al Williams wrote about the history of the HP-35 back in 2018 if you want to learn more. Thanks to [J Peterson] for sending in the tip.

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Hackaday Links: June 18, 2023

Will it or won’t it? That’s the question much on the minds of astronomers, astrophysicists, and the astro-adjacent this week as Betelgeuse continued its pattern of mysterious behavior that might portend a supernova sometime soon. You’ll recall that the red giant star in the constellation Orion went through a “great dimming” event back in 2019, where its brightness dipped to 60% of its normal intensity. That was taken as a sign that perhaps the star was getting ready to explode — or rather, that the light from whatever happened to the star 548 years ago finally reached us — and was much anticipated by skywatchers, yours truly included. As it turned out, the dimming was likely caused by Betelgeuse belching forth an immense plume of dust, temporarily obscuring our view of its light. Disappointing.

Those who gave up on the hope of seeing a supernova might have done so too fast, though, because now, the star seems to be swinging the other way and brightening. It briefly became the brightest star in Orion, nearly outshining nearby Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. So what does all this on-again, off-again business mean? According to Dr. Becky, a new study — not yet peer-reviewed, so proceed with caution — suggests that the star could go supernova in the next few decades. The evidence for this is completely unrelated to the great dimming event, but by analyzing the star’s long history of variable brightness. The data suggest that Betelgeuse has entered the carbon fusion phase of its life, a period that only lasts on the scale of a hundred years for a star that size. So we could be in for the ultimate fireworks show, which would leave us with a star brighter than the full moon that’s visible even in daylight. And who doesn’t want to see something like that?

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Hackaday Links: May 28, 2023

The Great Automotive AM Radio War of 2023 rages on, with the news this week that Ford has capitulated, at least for now. You’ll recall that the opening salvo came when the US automaker declared that AM radio was unusable in their EV offerings thanks to interference generated by the motor controller. Rather than fixing the root problem, Ford decided to delete the AM option from their EV infotainment systems, while letting their rolling EMI generators just keep blasting out interference for everyone to enjoy. Lawmakers began rattling their sabers in response, threatening legislation to include AM radio in every vehicle as a matter of public safety. Ford saw the writing on the wall and reversed course, saying that AM is back for at least the 2024 model year, and that vehicles already delivered without it will get a fix via software update.

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Probably The Most Over-Specified Calculator To Ever Be Manufactured

It’s possible quite a few of our older readers will remember the period from the 1960s into the ’70s when an electronic calculator was the cutting edge of consumer-grade digital technology. By the 1980s though, they were old hat and could be bought for only a few dollars, a situation that remains to this day. But does that mean calculator development dead?

Perhaps not, as [Li Zexi] writes for CNX Software, when he reviews a simple non-scientific calculator that packs an Alwinner A50 tablet SoC and the Android operating system. As shipped they lack the Android launcher, so they aren’t designed to run much more than the calculator app. Of course that won’t stop somebody who knows their way around Google’s mobile operating system for very long — at the end of the review, there’s some shots of the gadget running Minecraft and playing streaming video.

These devices can be had for not a lot on the Chinese second-hand electronics market, and after an extensive teardown he comes to the conclusion that besides their novelty they’re an older specification so not really worth buying.

But it does beg the question as to why such a product was put into production when the same task could have been performed using very cheap microcontroller. Further, having done so they make it a non-scientific machine, not even bestowing it with anything that could possibly justify the hardware. Is there a use case he, and us, have missed? We’d love to know.

We cover a lot of calculator stories here at Hackaday. Sometimes they’re classic machines, but more often they’re modern takes on an old idea.


A Reverse Polish Calculator For Your Keychain

As the smartphone has eaten ever more of the gatgets with which we once surrounded ourselves, it’s with some sadness that we note the calculator becoming a less common sight. It’s with pleasure then that we bring you [Nekopla]’s keychain calculator, not least because it’s a little more than a conventional model. This is a calculator which uses Reverse Polish Notation, or RPN.

A full write-up in Japanese (Google Translate link) carries an impressive level of detail about the project, but in short, it takes an Arduino Pro Micro, an array of keys, and an OLED display, and packages them on a couple of fiberglass prototyping boards in a sandwich between laser-cut Perspex front and rear panels.

The RPN notation is what makes it especially interesting,a system in which where you might be used to writing 2+2=  to get 4, in RPN you would write 2 2 + . It allows the use of much simpler code with a stack-based architecture than that used in a conventional calculator. It’s a system that’s usually the preserve of some pretty exclusive machines, so it’s great to see on something with more of the toy about it.

If RPN interests you, then you might like to read our look at the subject, and even feast your eyes on the teardown of a vintage 1975 Sinclair RPN calculator.

Classic Calculators Emulated In Browser

The Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, now known simply as MAME, started off as a project to emulate various arcade games. The project is still adding new games to its library, but the framework around MAME makes it capable of emulating pretty much any older computer. The computer doesn’t even need to be a gaming-specific machine as the latest batch of retro hardware they’ve added support for is a number of calculators from the 90s and early 00s including a few classics from Texas Instruments.

Since no one is likely to build an arcade cabinet version of a TI-89, all of these retro calculators are instead emulated entirely within a browser. This includes working buttons and functions on an overlay of each of these calculators but also pixel-accurate screen outputs for each of these. The graphing calculators have more of what we would consider a standard computer screen, but even the unique LCDs of some of the more esoteric calculators are accurately replicated as well thanks to the MAME artwork system.

There are a number of calculators implemented under this project with a full list found at this page, and the MAME team has plans to implement more in the future. If you’re looking for something fun to do on a more modern calculator, though, take a look at this build which implements ray tracing on a TI-84 Plus CE.

Thanks to [J. Peterson] for the tip!

A Modern Tribute To The Classic HP-16C Calculator

The HP-16C Computer Scientist is much beloved as the only dedicated programmer’s calculator that Hewlett-Packard ever made. Most surviving examples in the world are well-used, and you haven’t been able to order one from HP since 1989. Thus, [K Johansen] set about building a tribute to the HP-16C using modern hardware.

The build relies on a Raspberry Pi Pico as the brains of the operation. As with so many classic HP calculators, it operates in Reverse Polish Notation, and includes the customary stack operations. To serve a programmer well, it’s set up to accept entry in hexadecimal, octal, decimal, and binary formats, and can readily convert between them. Beyond that, it’s equipped with the usual arithmetic operators, as well as bitwise operations like NOT, AND, and so on.

Perhaps what we love most, though, is the keypad. It was all put together with a combination of cheap AliExpress keypads, a label maker, and a laser printer. It’s a wholly DIY job, and a little rough around the edges, but it makes the calculator far easier to use.

It’s not an exact replica of the HP-16C, but the differences in operation are minor.Those wishing to build their own can grab the required files from the project’s Github page. We’ve seen replicas of other classic HP calculators before, too. If you’ve got your own mathematical projects brewing up in the lab, don’t hesitate to send them in to the tipsline!