HP-12C, I Wanted to Love You

by Johnny Debacle

HP-12C. I wanted to liked you. I wanted to love you.

I grew up seeing you in the hands of rich elite men of finance, men so powerful they could choose any model to calculate bond payments or whatever it is exactly people use financial calculators for these days. And yet they all chose you. Your gilded metallic head and your firm tightly constructed box conveyed elegance. You were refined yet sleek enough to look good in your leather case. I wanted to be a man so I could press your buttons and create binary reactions in your core logic.

But then that day came, when I pressed your buttons for the first time, receiving tactile feedback on the tips of my fingers as your LCD lit up with numbers. The experience was entirely incomprehensible. I knew the first time would be different, that it would take getting some used to before it felt natural, but I never knew it would be so complicated, so radically different from my intuition and a complete departure from every single calculator I had used up to that point. I cannot calculate interest payments on you, I can’t even add 2 + 2 on you. I gazed at you for 15 minutes in my CFA Prep Class, the impenetrable enigma of your buttons glaring back at me and I couldn’t make anything happen. I could not get it, or you, done.

My cohort is the first to be digital natives, so the problem doesn’t lie with my tech literacy. Manual? In these times, if you can’t be picked up and understood, then you are a relic. Usability, intuitive design, all that junk are Now.

You, like many childhood fantasies, are a busted balloon, timeless in my youth, somehow extremely dated in my manhood. No one calculates like you do, you are backwards and twisted, hewn by men who used punch cards to learn computing. I am not even sure what purpose a calculator really servers in a world of ubiquitous computing power. But I do know my CFA Exam mandated model, will not be you, but instead be the TI BA II Plus.

As the fire dims in the old men of finance, as they retire to super-yachts and cheating on their mistresses with their mistresses, so too will you dim further, HP-12C, your place obsolete, your model changed for the new or the different and your glory a distant memory of a time past.

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