Contributed Columns

Hewlett-Packard used to send out press releases that were attention- grabbing and sometimes even funny. They were effective. Check out the following memorable one! It's too bad that HP seems to have abandoned this marketing style. Due to the lack of effective ads, most people now think Hewlett Packard is the same company as Packard Bell. *sigh*

Enjoy this glimpse into The Way Things Were... 20 years ago!

-Joe Horn-


As it appeared unedited from "PPC Journal," July 1978
Volume 5, Number 6, Page 4

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 1 -- A Santa Rosa, California, lawyer, in bringing the power of pocket programmable calculators into his work, is discovering that not only is electronic technology here to stay as a regular part of courtroom life, but that the opposition is already similarly armed.

Malcolm Misuraca had used his Hewlett-Packard Model 65 magnetic card programmable pocket calculator for a number of years as a navigational aid in one of his hobbies, small aircraft flying, particular in work with celestial navigation. He had not really considered that the calculator could help him with legal work until he was faced with an important court case in Reno, Nevada, involving the appraisal of a trailer park.

A large number of appraisals of property are made with the assistance of a complex calculation, known as the Ellwood equations, involving a large number of variables on profit, earnings, sales, fixed assets and other factors. Traditionally, the method of finding solutions to these variables was to hunt through a weighty volume of tables. The idea of scrambling through one of these books in a crowded courtroom every time a new value was offered up did not appeal to Misuraca, who knew very well that a jury often reacts unfavorably to a dull, time-consuming presentation.

Said Misuraca, "It was at that point that I began to wonder whether my HP-65 could compute the equation. If it could calculate star positions and navigational course corrections, appraisal values did not seem overly ambitious." Preparing to leave his Santa Rosa office, Misuraca called Hewlett-Packard to ask about the program. Yes, said HP, there already was a program developed to compute the equation; however, it was designed for the HP-67, the more powerful replacement for the HP-65.

Arrangements were made, and as soon as Misuraca stepped off the airplane in Reno, he was handed a program listing by a local HP field engineer.

"I spent the entire night reworking the program. Designed for the HP-67, it had about five more program steps than my HP-65 could hold -- which meant that I had to create enough shortcuts to make those five steps fit. Eventually, I found them, learning a lot about programming in the process.

"The next day, I felt very smug about what I had done, a secret weapon hidden in my briefcase. I called the county assessor to the stand and began to ask him a few questions.

"When we entered the area of alternate assessments, I fed the magnetic card into my calculator and prepared to dazzle the jury. But, as soon as I pulled out the HP-65, the assessor motioned to one of his assistants, who pulled an HP-97 (a printing version of the HP-67) out of his briefcase!

"The result was a battle of the calculators. I would suggest a rate, and the two of us would punch it into our respective machines. Since the assistant's model had a printer, it would take a little longer to achieve a result. So, I would announce an assessment, there would be about a one-second pause, then the assistant would say, 'Correct.' This went on for quite a while -- with one member of the jury laughing uproariously the entire time. It seems that he was the director of the computer center of one of the city's big casinos."

Misuraca won the case. One of his first purchases after returning home was an HP-67, which he now uses in all facets of his work. One application has already paid for the machine: that of accounting for work time. With the calculator programmed as a timer, Misuraca can, by punching a single button, count every second that is spent on a client, both in visits and research, and multiply it by the hourly rate. Said Misuraca, "We found that we were sometimes as inaccurate as 30% on the time spent with a client. That comes to a lot of money -- enough to pay for the calculator in a matter of weeks."

The HP-67 is a pocket-sized magnetic card programmable calculator that features 224 merged program steps, a 'smart' card reader, RPN logic and 20 user definable functions. It is priced at $450 (U.S. price).

Part of the HP Calculator Archive -