Thirty Years of the HP 41C Calculator

Classics never go out of style. I still use the same type of programmable calculator today that I did thirty years ago.

It seems hard to believe, but thirty years ago I plunked down $299 for an HP-41C calculator, which had just been released by Hewlett-Packard. I was a penniless college student at the time, and for the life of me I can’t remember where I got the money.

I was living in Corvallis at the time, attending Oregon State University. The HP-41C had been designed across town at the Hewlett-Packard campus, and many of my classmates were HP employees.

The 41C was seriously programmable, had the then-revolutionary ability to display text, was indestructible, and had a nearly infinite battery life. Friend used its alpha display functions to create cheat sheets, but I never bothered. Setting up handy programs before midterms was a lifesaver, though.

Karen also had a 41C, which died about ten years later when her backpack fell off the luggage rack of her motorcycle and was run over by a motorist. Much later, my original 41C developed a crack in its display and became generally flaky. So we bought several of the slightly newer model, the 41CV. We got them used on eBay. They’re still going strong in spite of being around 20 years old. They stopped making the calculators in 1990, sad to say.

I use these calculators at the farmer’s markets, and people are constantly noticing. “Hey, I worked on that project!”

To commemorate these durable bits of local history, I’ve created a T-shirt, available through below. Keep those 41C’s running!

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

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Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, is an expert on free-range chickens, and is a semi-struggling novelist. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years. In addition, he holds down a day job doing technical writing at Workspot.

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