RCL 20: People, Dreams & HP Calculators, edited by Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz and Frank Wales, celebrates 20 years of HPCC, the Handheld and Portable Computer Club. The book was produced in time for the HPCC conference 21-22 September 2002.
Before the web, before PDAs, before PCs, one company provided a vision of how computers and software could change lives when put into the hands of ordinary people. Hewlett-Packard's amazing series of hand-held calculators and portable computers, begun in 1972, has introduced a generation of technically-inclined people to personal computing power.
As these tiny computers have grown in capability to be depended on in space missions and on battlefields, people around the world have banded together in so-called "user groups". Through these, they've exchanged information, solved each other's problems, and enjoyed learning about (and playing with!) computers. In the process, they've also made friendships, started businesses, and contributed to the computing environment we live in today.
One such user group, the Handheld and Portable Computer Club (HPCC), started in Britain in 1982 as an off-shoot of the huge US-based group PPC, and is still active twenty years later.
This book celebrates the twentieth anniversary of HPCC. Inside:
It is a very human thing to set up groups or clubs of people with a common interest. The rise of electronic equipment since the 1960s has provided many new opportunities for such clubs. One topic of interest was personal computing devices, and the first of these were hand-held programmable calculators.
The most successful club for users of these was PPC; this began in California and soon spread all round the world. This book celebrates 20 years of the club that was originally the British section PPC-UK, which later became the Handheld and Portable Computer Club, or HPCC.
Today, the term 'calculator' either conjures up the idea of 'adding machine', or those brightly-coloured devices sold in bubble-packs and intended for school and university mathematics work. But the kinds of calculators that were the focus of our club's attention were the only truly programmable and portable computers available to ordinary people. The programmability was key—it made them little software engines that could be applied to any task, not just mathematics. That they were still called 'calculators' belied their real capabilities—these machines were true portable computers, and are in many ways the ancestors of present-day laptops and PDAs.
This is not a history book; rather, it covers the first 20 years of HPCC through a series of recollections. The editors asked people associated with HPCC, and with HP handheld calculators or computers, for their recollections of those 20 years. That gave the book its title: "recall 20", or RCL 20 as it would appear in a program on an HP calculator.
Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz & Frank Wales
Excerpted from RCL 20: People, Dreams & HP Calculators, W.A.C. Mier-Jedrzejowicz Ph.D. & Frank Wales (Eds), 2002, ISBN: 0-9510733-3-8
A sample chapter by Frank Wales is also available.