posts from the life professional


June 2009

The bestest calculator I ever owned

It’s the same one I’ve mentioned in this blog’s ABOUT page, and featured in the banner image.  My HP32s cost a princely sum to someone just out of Junior College in the late 70s, but what value for money it turned out to be.  It came with manuals that were like text books, manuals that were a joy to read and literally work through.  There were problem sums within – mechanics, statistics, trig … (I vaguely remember one example problem about a rocket) that were wonderful ways to explain how to use RPN on the calculator.

It also came with a zip case – padded on the inside, strong on the outside with a faux leather texture.  There was a charger for the batteries.  And the best thing about it were the buttons.  You had to press firmly to get the buttons to do their magic (with the small, red LED display segments that looked like something out of a science lab), and the feel and tactile feedback enabled one’s fingers to dance quickly and surely.  It was about confidence.  You just knew from the buttons if something in the formula had not been keyed in right.

The calculator was a faithful companion during my years of engineering school and beyond.  I had to extend it’s life with some deft soldering handiwork, and needed to put in a couple of bypass wires when the copper tracks on the mylar film going from the charging port to the battery area experienced a tear.  I wish I had the ‘ol calc with me still.  Perhaps I’ll go out to eBay one of these days to look for a unit in good condition – just for the fun and nostalgia of it.

What sparked off this round of reminiscing was this article from CNET on the new software versions (iPhone and Windows) of several calculator models – the closest to the HP32s being the HP35s.  The Page on to view the software calculators on offer, and purchase online is here.  The image below was screen-capped using Ubuntu’s screenshot capture utility (I also make extensive of the snip tool that ships with Vista).  Software version of HP Calculators


Mobile Comms, Social Networking and Political Change

Scott Goldstein was in Singapore this week to attend conferences, and was interviewed by Digital Life (Wed June 17th) on his now legendary role in engaging supporters of the Obama Campaign through social media and mobile comms.

Also this week, Tom Friedman in his NYT column (The Virtual Mosque) wrote about how Moderates in Iran were using social media to “meet” , communicate, mobilize and assert their strength as a political force.

For the same paper, Nicholas Kristof writes of an application written by Falun Gong supporters (called “Freegate”) that allows Iranians (and citizens of countries where internet access is restricted by Governments) to bypass the roadblocks erected to keep them away from “offending” websites and e-Services.

When Myanmar faced cyclone nargis and the uprising by Monks, it was text messages and uploaded videos that prevented the ruling Junta from hiding what was happening from the world.   The grassroots movement that was mobilised and inspired by the Obama campaign’s use of internet and mobile marketing gave us the election of the one many saw as the least likely of the US presidential candidates to succeed when the primaries first began.  In Malaysia, the BN lost heavily in elections where the PR had the upper hand in putting out their messages on the internet. Years earlier, Filipinos SMSed their way to bring down the presidency of Josef Estrada.

Dramatic as these examples are, it’s enough for us to know that the more the internet and computer literacy bring about transparency and the free flow of information and knowledge, the harder it will be for con-artists, tyrants, manipulators of truth and those who seek to oppress & exploit …. to go about their dirty business.

Be afraid of any leader who tells you that he is restricting information from you, or restricting your ability to communicate with others for your own good and for the good of society.   Be very afraid.

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