Tales of Silicon Valley: The calculator that launched Apple
>> Silicon Valley is full of stories, some pretty, some not. This is one of those stories.
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>> Bruce Damer and Alan Lindell of the DigiBarn tell how HP defied conventional logic to make pocket calculators and how one of those calculators helped start Apple.
>> This is the HP 35, which was the...
>> The first one from Hewlett-Packard.
>> 2. From January '72.
>> January '72. And the -- how hard was it to get this project going? Was it...?
>> Well, you know, the marketing studies at the time suggested that such an idea was ridiculous. However, Hewlett-Packard Company thought differently. I think it was Hewlett himself.
>> Now the difference with this one was that it's pocket-sized.
>> Yeah. Now what was the value of the pocket-size?
>> Because there were calculators that were big, with those...
>> ...big pixie tube things. Remember those?
>> Right. I guess the idea was that you'd be sitting at your desk, and who needs to do that when you're walking? Right, because calculators are mostly used for desk-type jobs.
>> But this turned out to be the nerd -- the craved nerd thing.
>> And they cost, like, hundreds of dollars in early 1970s dollars.
>> They kind of replaced the slide ruler at the time.
>> In fact, if -- I'll just show you this. Texas Instruments -- this is an early Texas Instruments, a box. And it says Texas Instruments Slide Rule Calculator, SR 50. And because people thought, oh slide rule, slide rule. And so they had to use the terminology of the dominant computing device, which was the slide ruler in order to sort of market a calculator.
>> This was also tied into Apple history, too, from what I recall. You remember that?
>> Yeah. You have to ask Woz, but either the 35 or 45, Woz was working on. And I think he might have built some of the programming in here or the display system or something. And this is what he was working on as Apple was getting started in '76. He was working on calculators. And he just loves these calculators. And what happened was he had an employee discount on one of these models. Maybe it was an HP 45 like this one. When Woz went to Apple, I believe he sold this calculator to put a little bit more money in the bank, just in case. So that's how these -- you could buy a good used car for what you paid for one of those. But it was the ultimate in nerd; you know, nerd gadgets, kind of like the iPhone, maybe, today.
>> Yeah. Right. He'd actually be using it while he's doing a TV show or something silly like that.
>> What a stupid idea. How inconsiderate.
>> I tried to put "Woz" in for search, 'cause I wanted to check just to see which calculator he had. And this thing changes what I write and puts "whiz" in.
>> You know, I have to watch it every second.
>> You'd think "Woz" would be in the iPhone dictionary.
>> You'd think.
>> C'mon, Steve.
>> He'd come right up.
>> Get your buddy in.
>> Look for more tales of Silicon Valley at CNET TV.com.