[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.
Fifty years ago, Hewlett-Packard introduced the first handheld scientific calculator, the HP-35. It was quite the engineering feat, since equivalent machines of the day were bulky desktop affairs, if not rack-mounted. [Rob Weinstein] has long been a fan of HP calculators, and used an HP-41C for many years until it wore out. Since then he gradually developed a curiosity about these old calculators and what made them tick. The more he read, the more engrossed he became. [Rob] eventually decided to embark on a three year long reverse-engineer journey that culminated a recreation of the original design on a protoboard that operates exactly like the original from 1972 (although not quite pocket-sized). In this presentation he walks us through the history of the calculator design and his efforts in understanding and eventually replicating it using modern FPGAs.
The HP patent ( US Patent 4,001,569 ) contains an extremely detailed explanation of the calculator in nearly every aspect. There are many novel concepts in the design, and [Rob] delves into two of them in his presentation. Early LED devices were a drain on batteries, and HP engineers came up with a clever solution. In a complex orchestra of multiplexed switches, they steered current through inductors and LED segments, storing energy temporarily and eliminating the need for inefficient dropping resistors. But even more complicated is the serial processor architecture of the calculator. The first microprocessors were not available when HP started this design, so the entire processor was done at the gate level. Everything operates on 56-bit registers which are constantly circulating around in circular shift registers. [Rob] has really done his homework here, carefully studying each section of the design in great depth, drawing upon old documents and books when available, and making his own material when not. For example, in the course of figuring everything out, [Rob] prepared 338 pages of timing charts in addition to those in the patent. Continue reading “Remoticon 2021 // Rob Weinstein Builds An HP-35 From The Patent Up”
In a recently updated post, [Codex99] has a detailed history of the HP-35 pocket calculator. Unless you are a certain age, you probably don’t think much of calculators. They are cheap and not very essential in this day of cell phones and PCs. But in the 1970s they were amazing technology and the desire of every engineer and engineering student.
The story opens in 1965 when Tom Osborne — who was not an HP employee — build a floating point calculator he called the Green Machine. Apparently, he had painted the balsa wood case green. He had been showing it around but failed to get any interest until he showed it to Bill Hewlett. Hewlett wanted it to do trig functions and offered him a six-week consulting gig to work on improvements.
HP engineer Dave Cochran helped out and also helped envision making the device keystroke-programmable. By 1968, this collaboration led to a 40-pound desktop calculator — the HP 9100 — that was the size of a typewriter. It could be yours for only $4900. Keep in mind, that same amount would buy two brand new cars in 1968.
Continue reading “Shirt Pocket Slide Rule: History Of The HP-35”