is Ben Rudgers


This post has been a long time on the back burner. It started as a response to something on HN about how marvelous the iPhone’s skeuomorhic interface is – something long since forgotten – and probably about how wonderful the iPhone and Apple are in general.

image HP11C front
HP11C User Interface

Like an iPhone, my HP 11c fits comfortably into a shirt pocket. I have been using it for almost 25 years. It uses batteries sparingly, and is often just powerful enough to keep me from firing up a spreadsheet. I paid $90 for it in the fall of 1988. It’s sister, the HP12C is still relevant and still manufactured. Mine [which is not as pretty the Computer Museum’s photos] sits on my desk. I use it for most things which don’t require a spreadsheet.

image HP11C back
HP11C mini manual

Unlike the iPhone however, it as designed as a tool not a piece of consumer electronics. The HP11C was designed to give the user as much power as the hardware would allow. Including the power to program it. The interface is simple, but not easy. Writing programs takes physical and mental effort. The calculator is not designed to accommodate ignorance – e.g. it uses RPN.