Posted by Ellen

"When I graduated from high school in 1974," wrote the gentleman pictured here, "I used a graduation award to buy a $395 (Canadian) Hewlett Packard HP-35 calculator. My mom had to order it from the Vancouver HP office (their pocket calculators - a new line of not-quite-consumer products from a company that had specialized in electrical measuring instruments and desktop electronic calculators for engineers - were not then available in Canadian stores). The first HP programmable had been available for a year or two, but for the impossible price of $795. With the HP-35, I could do trig, logarithms and powers, and my pocket slide-rule was put on the shelf forever. Yes, the family crowded around."

These were the calculators that you could turn upside down to spell cute things with the glowing red numbers. Today's smart phones won't let you turn the answer upside down, but everything else a $395 calculator did in 1974 can be done today with a free app on a cell phone. And $395 Canadian in 1974, I'm told, would be equivalent to something like $1700 today.

However, the real thing is: for a young man just finishing high school in 1974, what made all the difference socially was not the HP-35 but the facial hair, and this kid could grow him some sideburns.