Do site CNET
You probably change your computer every couple of years and update your phone based on Apple's release cycles. But chances are that inside your briefcase or in your desk drawer, there's a gadget that hasn't been changed for decades. It still works well, and you like it just the way it is.
The device in question is the HP 12c calculator, first launched exactly 30 years ago today, on September 1, 1981. Ever since, without much fanfare, it's been a quietly vital tool in finance, business, and academia. According to HP, the 12c is still one of only two standard calculators permitted for use during financial professional certification exams. This is because when it was released, the calculator offered more-accurate computations than the federal standard. It also features an unmatched keypad layout that provided unprecedented ease of use. The device itself is compact enough to fit in a pants pocket.
During a chat with CNET, Dennis Harms, the project manager of the original HP 12c, revealed a few secrets of the HP 12c's success. First of all, it was the first calculator from HP to feature Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), which improves user input efficiency. For example, to get the total of 4 plus 6, you just have to type in "4 [enter] 6 [enter] +", instead of having to use the equal sign. This cuts down the time a user has to work on the keypad.
However, the design is one of the best parts, according to Harms, because it minimized the amount of components inside. Essentially, the calculator has only three main parts: the processor, the RAM ROM Display Driver chip (aka "R2D2") and a digital clock. This allows the product to last for years on just two miniature replaceable batteries. "The processor itself computes in decimal, instead of binary, making the calculation very accurate and fast at the time," Harms said. The HP 12c is also one of the first devices that uses CMOS for its circuit-board and 10-digit registers as its memory.
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