Vintage HP-25 Calculator Gets Wireless Charging

[Jan Rychter] really likes his multiple HP-25C calculators, but the original battery pack design is crude and outdated. No problem — he whips up a replacement using Fusion 360 to design an enclosure, prints a few on his SLS 3D printer, and packs them with LiPo batteries and Qi/WPC wireless charging circuits.

In his blog post, he explains the goals and various design decisions and compromises that he made along the way. We like [Jan]’s frank honesty as he remarks on something we have all been guilty of at one time or another:

In the end, I went with design decisions which might not be optimal, but in this case (with low power requirements) provide acceptable performance. In other words, I winged it.

One problem which proved difficult to solve was how to provide a low battery indicator. Since low voltage on a LiPo is different from the original HP-25’s NiCad cells, it wasn’t straightforward, especially since [Jan] challenged himself to build this without using a microcontroller. He discovered that the HP-25’s internal low battery circuit was triggered by a voltage of 2.1 volts or lower.

In a really clever hack, [Jan] came up with the idea of using an MCU reset supervisor chip with a low voltage threshold of 3.0 volts, which corresponds with the low voltage threshold of the LiPo battery he is using. The reset signal from the supervisor chip then drives one of the pins of the TPS62740 programmable buck converter, changing its output from 2.5 volts to 2.1 volts.

This project is interesting on several levels — extending the life of a useful but end-of-life calculator, improving the original battery design and introducing new charging techniques not available in the early 1970s, and it is something that a hobbyist can afford to do in a home electronics lab. We do wonder, could such a modification could turn an HP-25 into an HP-25C?

We’ve written about battery pack replacement project before, including one for the Sony Discman and another for an electric drill. Let us know if you have any battery pack replacement success (or failure) stories in the comments below.

Retro Calculator Design Has Creative Tactile Touchscreen

We’ve all heard it a thousand times – they don’t make ’em like they used to. Sometimes, that’s for good reason, but there is a certain build quality to electronics of the mid-20th century that is hard to find in hardware today. This inspires great nostalgia and dedication in some, like [Michael Park], who set out to build a calculator reminiscent of the best HP designs from yesteryear.

The scissor mechanism allows the touch screen to move linearly and activate the tactile switch without twisting, no matter where along its surface it is pressed.

One of the major factors for [Michael] was the great feel of the keys on these classic units. Wanting to experiment with different layouts without a lot of rewiring, the idea of keys with individual displays became attractive. Existing parts on the market were prohibitively expensive, however. Instead, [Michael] used a single touchscreen with a switch mounted underneath to provide tactile feedback with a nifty scissor-arm guide mechanism. Combined with individual see-through plastic overlays, the MP-29 has a fully reconfigurable pad of 30 keys with dynamically updatable labels.

It’s a creative choice, and one that looks highly satisfying to use. It has all the tactile benefits of individual keys, both in the keypresses and being able to navigate the keypad without looking. Combined with the benefit of reconfigurable keys thanks to the touch screen underneath, it’s a great way to build a user-interface.

The rest of the calculator design closely mimics the HP-29, though [Michael] is also experimenting with alternative layouts too. There are plenty of religious wars in the calculator community over usability, after all – mostly over which side of the pad has the arithmetic functions.

We’ve lamented the demise of the standalone calculator recently; with so many smart devices around, it’s hard to see it making a major comeback anytime soon. Of course, if you’re opinionated on the topic, sound off in the comments below. Video after the break.

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