Sep 5, 2009

Forgive us our debts

I don’t remember the brand name of my first calculator.  I wanted an HP-65, but they were too expensive.  Starting in the summer of 1979, I worked as a land surveyor.  My mentor, Bob Weaver, had just purchased an HP calculator to make the surveying calculations.  It was fully programmable and card-readable.  I, on the other hand, didn’t’ need that much horsepower. I also didn’t have that much money.  I just wanted a calculator that could do trigonometric functions.  

Bob said that I should get a calculator with Reverse Polish Notation (RPN).  That made it a bit more difficult because as far as I knew, only Hewlett Packard made calculators with RPN.  For those of you who don’t know, Reverse Polish Notation was developed in 1920 by the Polish mathematician Jan Ɓukasiewicz.  It is the calculator-language of choice for engineers, surveyors, and Star Trek fans.  In the 1970s, I was the latter.

After some research I found a cheap, hand-held, LED, RPN, Trigonometric-function calculator.  I can’t remember the manufacturer.  But it was a great calculator.  I used it for years.

This year we had to purchase a TI-84 Graphing Calculator for the kid’s schoolwork.  I guess Texas Instruments has the corner on the school calculator market.  I tried to convince my kids that we should get a Hewlett Packard calculator.  You know, a real, engineering, “Beam-me-up” calculator.  But apparently the TI-84 is a required calculator.  Aaargh.  

It’s not that the TI-84 isn’t powerful.   It can do just about any calculation known to man.  It can also graph the results for you.  You could run a small country with one.  But for me, it doesn’t have the allure of the Hewlett Packard brand.  Hey, I get emotionally attached to my calculators.  I have a whole box of them in the garage.  And none of them are acceptable to Cienega High School for math instruction.

But I guess neither calculator is useful for the US economy.  With the national debt now at $11.8 trillion, one needs a calculator with fourteen digits to enter the number.  I guess most calculators don’t have that much room.  So Matt Miles, from Montrose, Colorado, developed a calculator that shows up to sixteen digits.  His wants people to see the national debt visually on a calculator.  He better sell out soon, before the debt gets so large it won’t fit on sixteen digits!

But if you think the national debt is huge, think of the debt of sin that you have acquired.  No calculator could contain the number.  Yet Jesus calculated your debt and then zeroed out the result.  And I bet he used an HP calculator… gold-plated of course.

Live long and prosper,

Pastor David Hook