September 7th, 2014

Macbeth the Usurper

TI-30 SLR Solar Powered Calculator

Next up on my 1984 college kit is my TI-30 SLR solar powered calculator, by Texas Instruments. At the time, I chose this particular calculator because it was solar powered, so I thought that it would last me a long while. Time has proven me 100% correct because I still have that calculator, in working order, and it still lives in my desk. Rock on!

I have absolutely nothing special to say about this calculator, except to say that it did its job.

They aren't collector items like my Walkman was. The things go for $15-20 on ebay. Maybe mine could fetch a nice price if it were mint, but this thing isn't anywhere near mint. I don't have the manual, I certainly don't have the original box, and mine is certainly well used. However, not a single number is worn off, which beats the pants off the calculators of today.

The calculator served me well in my engineering and math classes. It's not reverse polish notation, but I never learned that. We weren't required to buy that sort of calculator. A few folks were surprised that I never learned RPN, but given the absolute non-necessity of its use in my lifetime, I can't say that I missed out on anything.
The Ti-30 SLR is the spiritual descendedn of those bulky, loud clicking, digital calculators of the 70's.

The original TI's had the classic LED "digital" display of the original digital watches. When Douglas Adams makes his digital watch jokes, this is the sort of display that they had. This model was thick enough to take a 9V battery as its primary power source. They had rubber feet so that you could put them onto your desk and they would not slide as you punched in numbers, yet also were small enough to hold in your hand comfortably. The keys were stiff and had a distinct click to them as you pushed them, or more accurate, punched them. These beasts were made to stand up to school children, and we kids were not kind to these monstrosities.

As the display was LED, despite being very low powered, it was still nowhere near the low power of LCDs. By around 1980, the LED display was onl the decline as the LCD was thinner, used less power, and was cheapter to manufacture. It's the low power LCD that enabled the creation of the solar powered TI-30 SLR.

Alas, I failed out of engineering, which only made me happy. I would have had a far better time going to trade school and learning machining. The numbers didn't really get through my brain, but process and process improvement would have. I am much more of a tradesman than a professional.