Redditor someyob built a replica 1980s Hewlett-Packard HP-16C calculator around Raspberry Pi Pico.
What’s it made with?
Raspberry Pi Pico powers a tiny little 602 LCD display and three keypads. A level shifter converts the voltage between the Pico and the LCD display. The maker is still working on the code. They built this replica calculator to emulate the code testing experience HP-16C gave coders, except they’re using it to learn CircuitPython. Once they’ve a better grip on the language, they hope this recreation will have all of the original functions of Hewlett-Packard’s bespoke handheld.
Spoiler: Before you get too excited and start scrolling, this is a work in progress so we’ve no further details on the inner workings. But if you’re in the market for a twee look back at how coding calculations were done in the days of yore, continue on.
I am under the age of 40, please explain
The HP-16C Computer Scientist was a programmable pocket calculator produced by Hewlett-Packard which launched in 1982 but was discontinued in 1989. It was like a little debugging side-kick for computer programmers. HP-16C weighed in at 133 grams and measured a cute little 128 × 79 × 15 mm. It was the only programmer’s calculator ever produced by HP, so it’s not surprising that original units are highly sought-after by collectors, and that lots of emulators, like this one, are being created by the community.
Why on earth did we need specialised calculators for programmers? Well, in the late 20th century, which is the trolls’ way of saying: “in the 1980s”, coders wouldn’t necessarily have had access to the massive expensive computers needed to do their complex calculations. Short of a smart phone or tablet to do their working out on, they relied on bespoke kit, and Hewlett-Packard created the HP-16C especially for them.
Calling all old school coders
We’ve already put the bat signal out at Pi Towers, so expect some of our engineers to comment with warm memories of their early coding contraptions. But the HP-16C was most typically used in the US, and we don’t have any American engineers, so over to our transatlantic blog readers to recall the giddy days of this pocket code tester.