One evening in the 70s in Germany. My parents were away for this evening and I was sitting in front of the TV watching a science format hosted by Hoimar von Ditfurth. It must have been 1977. During this science show two young guys entered the stage and demonstrated to the presenter how they could simulate a moon landing on a programmable pocket calculator. And I was immediatly hooked! Hadn't my father recently bought an ultra expensive pocket calculator? And didn't he forbid me to touch it? Well, if these guys can make a pocket calculator to simulate a moon landing, why shouldn't I try it myself?

Adler 81 Pocket Calculater ca. 1976
Adler 81 pocket calculator - My fathers first pocket calculator is still in my posession. (Photo: Archiv Howard Fuhs)


Problem was, back in 1977 I was 14 years old and I had no idea how to write programs. After a thorough inspection of my fathers pocket calculator, I coudn't find any "special" keys which I could use for programming. But to solve the puzzle, the guys in the TV were using a Texas Instruments programmable pocket calculator for their moonlanding simulation and my fathers pocket calculator wasn't programmable at all. Nonetheless - I WAS HOOKED!
BTW, I was tempted to shorten "pocket calculator" into "PC" for this text, but for obvious reasons I distanced myself from the idea.

"My powers of recall are diminishing as I grow older."
- Adam Savage
But I also had one advantage. My father had his own electronics company and therefore tons of electronic-related journals and newspaper in his office. So it was just a little feat to find out what a Texas Instruments programmable pocket calculator was, where to get one and what it costs. It was quite a shock for me to see that my desired TI-58 was far beyond the 500.-DM price tag which I coudn't afford as a pupil. So the only alternative was nagging. To nag my father into buying me one. Which was considerably hard regarding the price of the TI-58 and the fact that it wasn't very high on his list of priorities.

But finally I was some sort of successful. In September of 1977, right for the start of the new term, my father provided me a Texas Instruments TI-57, my first programmable pocket calculator. Now I was in the business of becoming a programmer.

Stay tuned for more memories of the computational stone age.

Have fun and stay healthy!
Howard

How everything started - Part #2

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