Letting Go

I had to let an old friend go today: the calculator that accompanied me for years and years of school and travels finally succumbed to the LCD wasting illness.
LCD wasting disease claims an old friendThis excellent calculator joined me in 1981, during frosh chem at junior college, and stayed with me through it all: BS, MS, MD.

As with all degenerative problems, I had noticed the early signs but decided it was probably nothing, and ‘they all do that’. Then the symptoms became more pronounced, the dark edges didn’t really affect its basic function, and lended a certain funkyness.

Reality set in this week. The numbers are now barely legible; the spirit is strong, but the display is weak. I bought new batteries, but to no avail.

I am ashamed to say I dropped the friend in the trash, but quickly dug it out (sorry). It will be retired to a shelf in my office, where it’ll be my heirs responsibility to dispose of.

Sharp no longer makes a calculator in the format of the EL-5100, which is a shame. I’ll get a replacement, and it’ll probably be another Sharp.


  1. I have the same digital alarm clock that I’ve had since high school – it’s probably 25 years old by now. It accompanied me to college, med school, residency and “adult life.” It still works fine, except for the radio.

    I can’t bring myself to get a new one.

  2. I’m still using the radio alarm I got at age 12 (54 years ago). I’d had the flu, had the money saved up, and Daddy actually bought it for me (to help me feel better). The radio doesn’t work well, but the alarm STILL gets me going on days when I need to be shocked into awake-ness! (No, I don’t know if tubes are still available for the radio.)

  3. You live and work in the heart of Texas Instrument country and your’re gonna get a Sharp???

  4. He. Jim makes an excellent point!

  5. Aerospace Genius says:

    I very much understand your calculator devotion and admire the longevity of that old Sharp. I had a similar experience recently. Two function keys on my HP48 stopped working, so I found a great deal on a used HP49 via eBay. The feel of the keys was so different that my accuracy and efficiency were seriously degraded. I switched back to the old 48 and decided to use Excel to produce results for those two dead keys.

    I must say that unless you have a Hewlett Packard, you don’t have a calculator. Reverse Polish Notation and a stack of preliminary results are the most efficient means of boiling down a big long equation to a single result.

  6. I knew there would be an HP type out there, and I’m glad it’s you, AG.

    I have never had an HP, and it’s the RPN that keeps me away (and their prices, ouch).

    I have ordered a Sharp as a replecement. I looked at the TI website (which is horrible for a consumer), and the Sharp site made it painless.

  7. My HP price reference was obviuosly old, when my EL-5000 cost more than $100 in 1981. Now a calculator that does as much or more can be had for $30 or less. Wow.

  8. Well, the TI family of graphing calculators makes the life of an amateur statistician so much easier, especially the ?plus? models that allow you to download applications (including games) from the internet directly into the calculator.

    Over the years I?ve observed that calculator users develop intense relationships with their machines, I guess that?s what we are see here!!

    Merry Christmas (I am allowed to say that here aren?t I?) and a Happy New Year to all y?all!!

  9. Have you considered a slide rule?


  10. Alice, that’s funny! I actually do have a slide rule here somewhere, but I’m not enough of a masochist to try to use it.

  11. My trusty Sharp EL-506 is still going(from 1981),on the original batteries!

  12. wow. All you folks can hold on to small items. I can’t. But…I’ve have the same Levi’s jacket since 1969 (including the lamentable self-embroidery, oh well, better than tatoos); I just this month retired the 1991 Camry; and my I feel GOOD red winter jacket is from 1981.

    I’m sad about the Camry (it isn’t worth fixing, since we were walloped twice in accidents). If it were as small as a calculator I’d probably put it on the shelf.