I came about this disturbing story on the ‘net’. It’s amazing what you can find there! Perhaps if the Sultan had something as powerful as this…it would have certainly kept the harem amused. In my day abacuses were the big thing and those new fangled mechanical adding machines. This guy seems to have a surgical fetish for…calculators. And bad language.
While in a stationary shop recently I recalled our situation in Secondary School. Not the Self discovery or pubescent shit that you see in the movies and books, but rather how universally attached the boys in my class were to our scientific calculators. I was reminded of this by the lack of scientific calculators in the stationary shop itself. Oh, they had lots of calculators no doubt, but of the ordinary variety, the kind you might find in any shop to add shit up, not the scientific variety, with functions such as inverse Tan and even ‘Cosh’. Some of them could even draw graphs or solve equations. In fact, some were so good that they were banned from exams. In my mind they were a completely different genus to mere ‘calculators’.
I could not believe that a shop would peddle stationary to children without at least a rudimentary selection of scientific calculators, preferably looking suitably ornate behind a glass display cabinet, all arranged in competition with each other; Casio (the best) verses Sharp (a close second and the choice of the child wishing to assert his individuality or willing to grapple its’ more challenging interface). What the fuck was the world coming to? Sure they had one or two scientific calculators but that was hardly adequate! And come to think of it, they seemed hardly to have improved at all. In fact they were LESS ostentatious in their functions and LCD display than I considered necessary.
My classmates would have agreed. Even the ones who took no interest in academia considered it mandatory to maintain at least a respectable scientific calculator. To those that did higher Maths or Science, the device was like a dick; simply indispensable. In fact the closest thing I could think of to the scientific calculator would be like a horse to a cowboy. People would get one for their birthday (like me) or save up for months for one and treasure it. Keys would be wiped at night with a damp cloth and solar cells meticulously purged of fingerprints. The lucky few who could afford the newly released GRAPHICAL scientific calculators were the subject of envy, and we would swarm around them to catch a glimpse of how the calculator could graph functions and solve complicated quadratic equations. It seemed almost miraculous. Those who dared to bring an ordinary calculator to class were rightly made to feel inadequate and mocked.
The calculator was a constant companion, an aid in difficulty and a witness in times of intellectual suffering. It was a friend. You could feel happy with it. I don’t care if that sounds dumb, or weird. Sometimes it almost felt like it was all you needed, and happiness could be derived directly from it. To grown ups, who feel that their purpose in life is to make money for some faceless company or government, or who feel that a house in a particular postcode or car is of value and will enhance their life, well, they should understand. After all the calculator was just an object as well and if happiness can be derived from one why not another? If from a big and expensive one, why not a small and cheap one? An object is an object right? A house doesn’t follow you around, you can’t hold it in your hands and play with it for hours on end purposely. It doesn’t silently bear witness to all the minor atrocities of school life.
Yes, the closest analogy for my calculator was a horse. Like in a Western. The horse in Shane maybe.
Various preferences existed when it came to scientific calculators. Strangely, they mainly focused around aesthetics as opposed to functionality. For example, should it be carried in a wallet (the standard) or a hard case from which it was slid out (the new upstart)? Rubber keys or hard plastic? Colour schemes were all pretty similar, but variations were prized. I myself insisted on a wallet and rubber keys. Nothing could beat the feel of them under your fingers as you laboured for a difficult answer, all made worthwhile by the right result. Actually, most of us preferred rubber keys. The hard keys were a perversion.
I noted with disgust that both of the calculators in the stationary shop had hard plastic keys. They were being eyed by two suitably ugly and perverse looking boys.
It was widely recognised that Casio made the most affordable and aesthetically superior calculators, and their standard format of metallic silver with multicoloured rubber keys attractively displayed in a black (perhaps faux) leather wallet was unbeatable. The fact that you could have a calculator AND a watch by the same brand seemed to introduce an incredible serendipity into the lives of those blessed thus. Of course, their were other brands. Sharp was the foremost of these and the various excellences and shortcomings of Sharp vis – a – vis Casio was the topic of fierce debate and research. The third brand, Texas Instruments, was widely regarded as shit. Not because it was cheap (it wasn’t) but because it actually was shit. It looked, felt and worked shit. Any fool in possession of one could expect to get cussed with no intervention from anyone. The Geneva Convention did not apply to you if you were dumb enough to sport a Texas Instruments calculator. Our prejudices were challenged, when, near the end of our time in school, Texas Instruments were the first (and at that time only) company to release Graphical Scientific Calculators. Gutted.
As I stood in the shop, I felt overcome by anger. How could the (expletive) running this shop not have a well stocked selection of scientific calculators? Who the fuck did he think he was? Then a frightening thought seized me. Maybe it was like this in all shops. Maybe kids did not need or want them any more. The thought seemed horrible. I felt entirely alienated from such an inscrutable society, one that could do away with scientific calculators. How could they not understand the disproportionate pleasure to be derived from a scientific calculator? Especially one with multicoloured rubber keys in a black wallet? Were they insane?
But I soon realised that I wasn’t really angry at them, they were all a bunch of ****wits anyway, calculators or not: I was frightened of myself. For I knew that we each secretly promised ourselves in school, in envy of seeing those who had better and newer calculators than us (especially the unaffordable graphical variety), that when we had jobs and money, we would buy the best and nicest calculator on the market. And not just one. Many. We would collect them, perhaps displaying them in a glass case, like the one from whence they came. Since then, I had had plenty of money. But not only had I not bought a SINGLE calculator, so much had changed that I did not even know that they were now a dying breed, and endangered species. And yet as I contemplated this I still felt for my calculator, as sharply as I had long ago. More in fact. I remembered its keys like the faces of my teachers in school and still loved it. How could I have forgotten? Where had it gone? Why had I not looked after it?! It must be in a rubbish pile somewhere or recycled into a child’s toy or something. A Barbie perhaps, so some young girl could practice dressing up for the day she gets turned out for the price of a cheap drink.
Why had I not replaced it? Had I lost the ability to love scientific calculators or all of the simple pleasures of adolescence? I was sure then, standing in that shop that if I could not love calculators any more then there was no pleasure whatsoever in this world.