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Richard J. Nelson may not have been HP's first calculator customer (his first HP was an HP-35A backordered in May and received on July 31, 1972), but he is certainly one of the most loyal and active in terms of machines bought, used, analyzed, and written about. Here is his list of calculators in approximate series order. Richard is not really a collector and many of HP's customers own every one of HP's 95 models. HP-35A HP-45A HP-65A HP-55A HP-67A HP-80A HP-70A HP-21A HP-22A HP-25A HP-25C HP-27A HP-29C HP-97A HP-19C HP-75C HP-71B HP-75D HP-31E HP-33C HP-34C HP-41C HP-41CV HP-41CX HP-10C HP-11C HP-12C HP-12Cp HP12CP HP-15C HP-16C HP-18C HP-28C HP-28S HP-27S HP-22S HP-32S HP-42S HP-20S HP-21S HP-22S HP-27S HP-32SII HP-17B HP-17BII HP17bII+ HP-10B HP-38G HP48S HP48SX HP48G HP48GX HP49g HP48g+ HP48gII HP50g HP33s HP35s HP9g HP9s HP10s HP20b HP QuickCalc 10

Richard retired nearly three years ago moving from the California LA/Orange county area to Mesa Arizona. With a 44 year career of electrical engineering, teaching electronics and technical writing Richard has always used HP calculators, especially the high end programmables, in his work. The HP65A inspired him to start a world wide HP calculator club in June 1974. He has edited, written, and published well over 5,000 pages in monthly magazines dedicated to HP calculators for 12 years. Mr. Nelson has paneled calculator sessions at several Engineering and Computer Conferences, and he started the annual Hewlett-Packard Hand Conferences with the first one in September 1979. The next HP Handheld Conference, HHC 2009, will be held October 3rd & 4th at HP in Fort Collins Colorado. In addition to his HP calculator writing Richard also has a hobby of designing and building HP calculator accessories. This year celebrates the 30th anniversary of the HP-41/HP-IL calculator system which was one of HP's most popular machines and the first model with the expandability of four ports and an alphanumeric display. HP-41 accessory examples are described. As a leading writer in the calculator user community Mr. Nelson was often asked to give technology reports to the US Navy. In one classified meeting he demonstrated how the HP-41 could be used to control just about anything. He wired a tiny magnetic reed switch across the contacts of the HP-41 "E" key. When the calculator was placed on a calculator stand input and output (external wireless) was accomplished. The HP-41 has an audible "beep" produced by a bender which was also capacitively coupled to a plate on the stand. The "E" key could be "pressed" by an electromagnet in the stand and the audio tones could provide control based on a running HP-41 program. Using a whistle switch (similar to the well known sound activated The ClapperTM) Richard could walk around the room controlling the room lights and a slide projector to show what was the latest in HP-41 applications. All of this was controlled by the HP-41 itself. This kind of thing is trivial and routine today, but having an affordable shirt pocket calculator do this 29 years ago was "leading edge."

Mr. Nelson was an avid promoter of program barcode as a means of program publishing. Another example of an "accessory" he built was an HP-41 modem of sorts that utilized the HP-41 wand code to send programs over the phone lines. See the photo at the right. The transmitter label reads, "This HP-41 accessory uses the HP HEDS-3000 wand to convert barcode to an audio two tone signal ­ 1200 & 2200 Hertz. HP-41 programs and data may be recorded on an audio recorder or transmitted by telephone using this concept." The receiver label reads, "TONES TO BAR CODE SIGNALS, This HP-41C accessory receives two tone (1200 & 2200 HZ) audio signals from a telephone line or tape recorder and converts them into a flashing light emitting diode signal to be `read' by an HP41C wand (model 82153A). A one hour tape could store 36,000 bytes using a moderate effective scan rate of 10 bytes per second. Fig. 1 ­ The transmitter is on the top, the receiver on the bottom. Allowing ten seconds for voice announcements per program, the ten programs in the HP-41C Wand Manual would take 6 minutes, 36 seconds of tape." The first test was sending a program from California to another user on the East coast. No modification of the HP-41 was required. Mr. Nelson has authored hundreds of articles on HP calculators during the last 35 years. He taught an HP 48 programming class for several years and he managed the largest calculator software/documentation project ever undertaken by the HP User Community. Known as the PPC ROM project hundreds of HP users worked on writing 153 highly efficient routines that were programmed into a custom 8K ROM that was then manufactured by HP. Over 5,200 of these ROMs were made. The 500 page PPC ROM User's Manual was written to illustrate what the users themselves thought was vital information for any software, but especially for a programmable calculator. The project took two years and at least one man century of effort. That is 876,581 hours of work by hundreds of HP users around the world. All work was volunteered and if this project was professionally done at a conservative 1980 $15 per hour, that would be $26,297 for each page of the document. In today's dollars ('80-`09 cpi factor 2.587379) that would be an investment of $68,040 per document page. All of this was done without email or the Internet. The PPC ROM User's Manual is highly valued to this day as a reference because of its completeness and it (and the ROM) recently sold for $150 on eBay. It contained the listings of all ROM routines and applications programs in addition to them being provided in barcode form using a unique high density printing format. The PPC ROM project was recently cited as a prime example of organized community developed software at:

Keeping up with the latest technology and consumer electronics requires information gathering from many sources. One of these is the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Mr. Nelson has

attended more than 40 consecutive CES shows and has visited and written about every HP CES booth in the process. Mr. Nelson is still very active consulting, studying, and writing about HP calculators. He has what is believed to be the largest library of HP Calculator documentation including letters, photographs, brochures, owner's manuals, service manuals, programs, solution books, newsletters (HP external and internal), magazines, books, patents, magnetic media, operating system dumps, external reference specifications, barcode manuals, and advertisements. Many of his detailed articles on the latest HP calculators and calculator activities may be found on the Internet at the HHC websites ( and several other sites including HP's website Richard enjoys corresponding with other HP enthusiasts and may be reached at [email protected]


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