It Totally Peaked in High School

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From learning to spell SIGH using numbers on my calculator in 5th grade in an effort to oh-so-cooly express boredom to my classmates, to frantically accosting friends in the hallway in high school minutes before a calculus exam, begging to borrow their TI83s, because I had predictably forgotten mine at home, the calculator is weaved through a surprisingly large amount of my school age memories. And I wasn’t even any good at math! But that didn’t stop me from appropriating the phrase Syntax Error to express burnout at the end of a long study session.

Like the overlooked best friend in the 80s high school rom-com, calculators weren’t cool, but they were always there.

Alexander Nazaryan penned a charming review of Keith Houston’s Empire of the Sum – a book that champions the humble pocket calculator and chronicles its history.

Earlier this year, my 7-year-old lugged home a TI-89 graphing calculator, an updated version of the legendary models from Texas Instruments that were once the must-haves of every serious high school calculus cowboy in America. Where it came from I have no idea.

As far as I can tell, he hasn’t unsheathed the thing once, has not glimpsed the pixelated screen or the intimidating array of 50 keys below. Until recently, the TI calculators marked the pinnacle of humans’ quest to master computation. (You could play games like Astrosmash, too.) Yet in the digital age, they are becoming relics.

Read the full review here in the NYTimes. And buy the book from bookshop here!

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