Back to the future at HP

One of the most important tools from the early days of computing is about to make a comeback—sort of. Back in the early 1970s, the Hewlett Packard HP 35 scientific calculator was the indispensable tool of engineers, who until then had mainly made do with slide rules.

Today, 35 years after the 35’s introduction, HP announced the HP 35s. Its more of an homage to the original than a recreation. The original 35 had 35 buttons, the 35s has 43, but each of them has at least two functions. It has lost the simple color-coding of the buttons, allegedly a personal contribution of HP founder Bill Hewitt, but gained a two-line display.

Probably the most significant change, though, is the price. The HP 35 cost $395--nearly $2,000 in today's dollars, adjusted for inflation--though the price fell to $295 before the model was discontinued in favor of the HP 45 in 1975. The 35s will be introduced at $60.

Engineers today have extremely powerful computational tools, such as Wolfram Research's Mathematica and Maplesoft's Maple. But for a lot of chores, especially one-time calculations, the hand-held calculator remains the tool of choice because it's faster and easier to use.