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May 4, 2011

The cult of the HP 12c calculator — 30 years old and still going strong


Excerpts from Kristina Peterson's story in today's Wall Street Journal follow.

Pictured above with the HP 12c in 2006 is Dennis Harms, who helped create it.

Matthew Rothman bought an HP 12c financial calculator for his first job out of college in 1989.

Years later, he still has the same calculator. And he still uses it constantly, just like thousands of other 12c enthusiasts.

"Whenever I switch jobs, I just peel the old business card that is on the back and tape my newest one on," says Mr. Rothman, head of quantitative equity strategies at Barclays Capital in New York.

Sales of the device, which debuted in 1981, haven't slipped even after its manufacturer, Hewlett-Packard Co., introduced more-advanced devices or even, two years ago, a 12c iPhone application, which replicates all the calculator's functions, the company says.

Thirty years after the launch of the 12c, it's still commonplace for financial analysts filing into a conference room to set down their calculators next to their papers and cellphones.

Indeed, the 12c, which costs $70 on H-P's website, is H-P's best-selling calculator of all time, though the company won't reveal how many units it has sold over the years. (A standard calculator costs about $10.) Its chief competitor is Texas Instruments' $28 BA II Plus, which is the only other calculator test-takers are permitted to use on the official CFA exam.

The 12c is slim, black and gold, and rectangular, just over five inches wide by three inches high. It runs on an unconventional operating system called "Reverse Polish Notation," which eschews parentheses and equal signs in an effort to run long calculations more efficiently.

The system tends to render the calculator mystifying to the novice user. Senior portfolio managers, who use it to calculate bond yields, rates of return and present value, among other things, say they enjoy watching their younger colleagues struggle to master its quirks.

New arrivals quickly learn that ignorance of the 12c can flash more warning signs than a scuffed pair of shoes.

"The guy with the totally beat-up HP 12c—you know he's actually done things in business," says James Granberry, a student at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management. "And then there's the young guy who looks like he may have put on his suit for the first time—with a graphing calculator."

Mr. Granberry, who runs a Facebook page dedicated to the HP 12c, made a point to take along his seven-year-old 12c to a meeting with a potential investor—even though he could perform all the calculations using his iPhone's HP 12c app.

One early draw of the 12c was the longevity of its batteries. In the 30 years since he bought his first HP 12c, says James Meyer, chief investment officer at Tower Bridge Advisors, an asset manager in West Conshohocken, Pa., he has changed its batteries only twice. (The original had three watch batteries; newer units use one CR2032 lithium coin-shaped battery.)

To test the 12c's durability, engineers practiced dropping it onto concrete floors, says Dennis Harms, who led the original 12c design team and still works at H-P. "I've heard stories of them surviving snowblowers," he says.

May 4, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hot Dog/Sausage Links Dog Leash


"Plastic hot dogs strung on a nylon rope; 44" long; comfort-grip foam handle."

$8.49 (links not edible).

[via Things That Look Like Other Things and Bem Legaus!]

May 4, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mountains of the Moon


From the caption under the photo (above) on Jason Major's flickr:

Early this morning (at 7:30am UT/2:30am EDT) May 3, 2011, the Moon once again passed in front of SDO's [Solar Dynamics Observatory] view of the Sun, allowing mission scientists to calibrate their cameras by focusing on the fine details of the mountains silhouetted along the Moon's limb.

The image here is a crop from the high-resolution AIA 171 image, showing the Sun's corona behind the Moon's southwestern limb. Viewing it full-size will show the ragged, mountainous line of the lunar landscape. (Image slightly adjusted to enhance detail.)

Watch a video [below] of the event on Universe Today: www.universetoday.com/85356/sdo-the-moon-gets-in-my-way/

Image courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams. Edited by J. Major.

[via @Nancy_A and @JPMajor]

May 4, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Neanderthal Eraser




4.75"H x 2"W x 1.75"D.



May 4, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The bishop wears Armani


Forget the devil and his Prada jones.

Wrote Tom Kington in a story in yesterday's Guardian,

The devil may wear Prada, but a Sicilian bishop has set out to show Satan does not have a stranglehold on designer clothing by ordering new vestments from Giorgio Armani.

Bishop Domenico Mogavero drew compliments from churchgoers when he turned out for mass on Monday on the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria in green silk vestments designed by Armani and decorated with symbols of vines, wheat, shells and starfish [top].

Mogavero said the vestments had turned heads, particularly among female parishioners, but warned he had no intention of turning the aisle into a catwalk.

"This is all not about having brands in church or indulging in the fashion of the moment, but about wearing something beautiful to give glory to God," said Mogavero, 64, who donned the vestments at a ceremony for the opening of a church on the tiny volcanic island.

Armani, who has holidayed on Pantelleria for 37 years and owns a luxury retreat there, has created four vestments for the new church, in green, white, red and purple.

"They are tasteful, made from a sober type of silk and give an idea of the solemnity of the occasion," said Mogavero, who was appointed the bishop of Mazara del Vallo, in Sicily, four years ago.

Last summer he approached Armani, 76, about vestments for the church on Pantelleria, which is closer to Tunisia than the Italian mainland.

"I asked him for the vestments as a gift to the new church – to create something beautiful, original and with themes reflecting the island," he said. "I will see him this summer and I'll have the opportunity to thank him personally."

Mogavero's venture into designer wear follows reports that Pope Benedict had a weakness for red Prada shoes, although the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano scotched the rumours, pointing out that the shoes in question were in fact made by an Italian artisan. "The Pope is not dressed by Prada but by Christ," the newspaper stated.

[via Milena]

May 4, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Clip-On Speaker


"Large wheel is volume control."

Requires 2 AAA batteries (not included)

3.25" x 1.5" x 1.25".



May 4, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Carey Mulligan in "Through a Glass Darkly"


"Carey Mulligan [above] stars in the Atlantic Theater Company's production of "Through a Glass Darkly," which runs May 13 to July 3 and opens June 6.  The play was adapted for the stage by Jenny Worton from Ingmar Bergman's Oscar-winning film.

Oh, would I love to see it.


She is a magnificent actress.

[via the New York Times]

May 4, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Double Pen



"Chromed brass tubing with plastic cap lets you flip back and forth writing red or blue — or write both red and blue at the same time."


Refillable with standard ink cartridges.

5.75"L x 1"W x 0.25"D.



May 4, 2011 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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