Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Jerry Merryman, one of the innovators behind the handheld electronic calculator, has died at the age of 86. Merryman died Feb. 27 from complications of heart and kidney failure at a Dallas hospital, said his stepdaughter Kim Ikovic.

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I remember my father coming home with a TI 2500 in the early 1970s, for which he paid $150 (almost $900 in today's money). It had a one line, Red LED display, and it could add, subtract, multiply and divide. It was a magical thing!

RIP, Jerry Merryman.

#1 | Posted by Hans at 2019-03-06 10:44 AM | Reply


When I was at college (electrical engineering), we used slide rules. A few of the students had calculators (the HP-35, ~$400) but the school's Honor System disallowed the use of calculators on tests because they represented an "unfair advantage."

One of the Engineering Labs I took, required a solid 24 hours of time, time actually spent on the slide rule, to grind through all of the data generated so that I could write the lab report. I went through that process once, then subsequent labs I wrote Fortran programs (via punch cards) and processed that data that way.

Then calculators became more ubiquitous, and the Honor System allowed them on tests.

I still have that HP-35. The battery doesn't hold a charge too well anymore. But the calculator still knows how to compute.

Godspeed Jerry Merryman.

#2 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 10:54 AM | Reply

"When I was at college (electrical engineering), we used slide rules." - #2 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 10:54 AM

My father got his BSEE from Northwestern following WWII, compliments of the GI Bill.

Some time after he purchased his first electronic calculator, he mounted his slide rule on a wall plaque with the inscription: "For future generations: A manually calibrated, analog computing device."

#3 | Posted by Hans at 2019-03-06 12:25 PM | Reply

I remember when I was a kid dad brought home our first calculator. It was that brick made by Texas Instruments. '74-'75ish.

#4 | Posted by lfthndthrds at 2019-03-06 12:32 PM | Reply


@#3 ... he mounted his slide rule on a wall plaque ...

That's cool.

I still have my old slide rule, but it is upstairs in a drawer. Right next to the Texas Instruments SR-50 calculator that replaced it.

I didn't stay with the SR-50 for too long, though, as the HP-35 calculator spoiled me with the RPN (reverse polish notation). I never liked using the equals key after that, it just didn't make sense compared to RPN.

My current go-to calculator is a HP 41C. I even have the HP41C app for my phone.

#5 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 12:40 PM | Reply

" Right next to the Texas Instruments SR-50 calculator that replaced it." - #5 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 12:40 PM

LL, for a trip down memory lane, visit:

Vintage Calculators Web Museum, Hand held Calculators page
My father was also into building Heathkit radios. The last one he built was the GC-1A "Mohican" General Coverage Receiver (from the Heathkit Virtual Museum).

#6 | Posted by Hans at 2019-03-06 01:00 PM | Reply

@#6 ... My father was also into building Heathkit radios. ...

I built the Heathkit GR-64 shortwave radio, the AA-1640 power amplifier, and the GR-295 25" color TV, plus a bunch of smaller kits. :)

The TV took me about a month to complete, evenings and weekends.

#7 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 01:51 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 2

#7 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 01:51 PM

Did you happen to notice that Heathkit is back in business:

Heathkit

#8 | Posted by Hans at 2019-03-06 01:59 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1


I didn't know that. but it doesn't surprise me with the current Maker movement happening.

I may order a t-shirt... :)

#9 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 02:14 PM | Reply

Oh 7734...

#10 | Posted by HeeHaw at 2019-03-06 02:25 PM | Reply | Funny: 2

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59009

#11 | Posted by 101Chairborne at 2019-03-06 03:15 PM | Reply | Funny: 1

My parents kept all their old e-school calculators, but I'll always be partial to my own TI84 - it can do anything you'd ever want to do on a calculator .

#12 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2019-03-06 11:01 PM | Reply

Correction*
TI83+. Calculators have to be one of the most hardy pieces of technology with the most capability. The batteries may fly out of it falls off a desk, but in my experience it is still good to go for the next round.

#13 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2019-03-06 11:03 PM | Reply

I couldn't wait to get a $399 HP-85 and throw my slide rule and log tables away. Shoulda' kept the circular one though, quite a novelty.

Here's problem that can't be solved on a calculator. Assume perfect mixing of the atmosphere. How many molecules of air do you breath in one breath, that Socrates breathed in his lifetime? The answer is not zero.

#14 | Posted by bayviking at 2019-03-07 12:39 AM | Reply

My first calculator, a TI SR-11, was purchased around 1973 and cost me a bit over $100. But I hung onto my slide rule because, being a machine designer, I had to configure a lot of drive arrangements, and until programmable calculators came along, a slide rule was still the fastest way, given a desired gear ratio, to determine the number of teeth in a gear/sprocket set-up.

OCU

#15 | Posted by OCUser at 2019-03-07 01:31 AM | Reply

In middle school I had one of those calculator watches. It was hard to work as a calculator, and the mystique of a calculator had pretty much worn off by the 80's, but it had a racecar game on it that I played on the school bus. This was long before Game Boy, so you take what you can get. In grade school, just typing numbers and performing random operations on a handheld calculator with LED display and 9V battery was a lot of fun.

#16 | Posted by snoofy at 2019-03-07 01:45 AM | Reply

As each of my flight instructors went to airlines I was required to go up with the latest new one. A favorite hoop to be asked to jump through was to change our Cross-Country heading to a new course. By the time my #4 new instructor arrived I had programmed a Sharp pocket basic computer to store wind, compass and temperatures so that when I was asked to get out my E6B I instead whipped out the Sharp and typed in a new True Course. In less than 10 seconds we were turning onto a new course heading. My instructor didn't know whether to get angry or sad so the cockpit just went silent for a while, apparently because he realized there's nothing I couldn't do with my pocket basic computer.
About 6 months later, flying stores and mail order shops were selling pocket flight computers.

5 years later I sold the Sharps and my Casio PB-1000, interface and color plotter at a swap meet for a fraction of what they cost.

#17 | Posted by LesWit at 2019-03-07 01:57 AM | Reply


@#14 ... Shoulda' kept the circular one though, quite a novelty. ...

I still have my circular sliderule. The best part was that you couldn't go off the end of it...

#18 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-07 11:01 AM | Reply | Funny: 1

#2 | POSTED BY LAMPLIGHTER

What time frame was this? My parents were in e-school in the early 80s and given the option of slide rule or purchasing their own calculator (under the idea that out in the field/real life, the calculator would be the way of the future).

#19 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2019-03-07 11:59 AM | Reply

#2 | POSTED BY LAMPLIGHTER

"What time frame was this?" - #19 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2019-03-07 11:59 AM

When I was at college (electrical engineering), we used slide rules. A few of the students had calculators (the HP-35, ~$400) but the school's Honor System disallowed the use of calculators on tests because they represented an "unfair advantage."

One of the Engineering Labs I took, required a solid 24 hours of time, time actually spent on the slide rule, to grind through all of the data generated so that I could write the lab report. I went through that process once, then subsequent labs I wrote Fortran programs (via punch cards) and processed that data that way. - #2 | Posted by LampLighter at 2019-03-06 10:54 AM

There are some definite clues in there as to what time frame LL's comment referenced.

And I'm pretty sure it wasn't "in the early 80s".

#20 | Posted by Hans at 2019-03-07 12:17 PM | Reply

This just shows how many old kooks are on the DR. I never had to use a slide rule during my 2 year flirt with programming as a CSEE at UCLA, my old T-1000 was the bomb.

I never got used to the RPN of the HPs, so stay with TI for a long time.

#21 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2019-03-07 12:27 PM | Reply


@#19 ... What time frame was this? ... ,/i>

Late 1960's, early 1970's.

#22 | Posted by lamplighter at 2019-03-07 04:29 PM | Reply

A family member met him once.

Apparently they had heard of each others work for a long time and were happy to meet each other.

#23 | Posted by Tor at 2019-03-07 07:30 PM | Reply

There are some definite clues in there as to what time frame LL's comment referenced.

Yeah. I did Fortan on punch cards in '78 and learned how to use a slide rule as a novelty (still have it) in '75ish. Had a 5 function calculator in '72.

#24 | Posted by REDIAL at 2019-03-07 07:59 PM | Reply

I learned FORTRAN IV in 1969. But around that same time we were using Analog computers to simulate mechanical systems since they were 'interactive' while digital computers were still all batch computing using decks of punched cards. But when we needed actual numerical results, we had to write our own programs and punch our own cards and sit around and wait for the printouts.

OCU

#25 | Posted by OCUser at 2019-03-08 02:48 AM | Reply

My HS chemistry class had a huge Pickett slide rule at the blackboard, so students could see how it was done. Mine was perhaps the last class to use a slide rule--afterward students were using calculators. When taking tests in my HS finance class we all used the same 'stone age wonder' four function calculators (LCD display) so no one had an advantage by using a financial calculator. After then, it was better calculators and the dawn of the PC. I still remember buying my first HP 12-C, which I still have but no longer use--got a faster version...

#26 | Posted by catdog at 2019-03-08 01:14 PM | Reply

I'm the operator of my pocket calculator
By pressing down a special key it plays
A little melody.

We should be colonizing the moon and mars today...not worrying about feeding wall jumpers in sanctuary cities and antifa hooligans. What happened to our childhood dreams?

#27 | Posted by mutant at 2019-03-08 05:27 PM | Reply

I got a nice used 1976 era punch card on my office wall with the liberty bell on it. Don't drop that stack though.

#28 | Posted by mutant at 2019-03-08 05:29 PM | Reply

Can you spell "--------" on smartphones? The simple thing the young whippersnappers will never get to experience

#29 | Posted by mutant at 2019-03-08 05:31 PM | Reply

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