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Everything retro - big and small! Live from Perth, Australia!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Reviving a 1970's Texas Instruments TI-30 Scientific Calculator

I've mentioned many times before on this blog how much I love the Lazy Game Reviews YouTube channel. It's honestly one of the major inspirations for my own channel - mixing in a fantastic and balanced mix of humour, good information and production values. It was because of Clint's channel (the creator of Lazy Game Reviews or 'LGR' abbreviated) that I started creating PC gaming content for instance.

Well, Clint, you've done it again.
Inspired by one of his most recent videos called The Calculator Wars, (which is a part of his excellent Tech Tales series) Clint explores how the portable calculator market exploded in the 1970's and highlighted the rivalries between the major manufacturers at the time.
I knew there was an old Texas Instruments calculator in a bottom drawer of my kitchen that belonged to my Mum in her high school years - so motivated by the video I pulled it out.
As it turns out, sitting inside a cupboard for many years with a battery inside does not bode well for electronics. Just ask my N64's Rumble Pak. The 9-volt battery (yes, this requires a 9-volt battery!) was completely corroded and thus attached to the battery connector inside. There was no way to forcefully pull them apart without breaking anything, so the cavalry was called in.

And yes, by cavalry I'm talking about vinegar.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the battery stuck to the connector - but throughout the process, the negative contact came clean off the battery but was perfectly content to live out its existence still stuck firmly to the battery connector.

Hopefully, this photo properly shows the extent of the batteries corrosion. Its replacement looms in the background...
After a bit of messing around involving dipping the connector into a cup of vinegar and the dexterity of a small flat-headed screwdriver, the contact was finally free. 

As you can see in the second photo, I did have a pack of 9-volt battery holders at the ready if something went amiss but they weren't needed. I successfully cleaned a good portion of corrosion off, and after inserting a replacement battery it was confirmed working!

You wouldn't believe how hard it is to focus two calculator displays at the same time (even more so when one is illuminated).
A quick test of 1 x cosine against my HP 50g confirmed that the brain of the TI-30 was working correctly. I was chuffed.

The TI-30 I found comes with a groovy leather (I think) carry case, and the original instruction manual. At the back of this manual, the serial number and date of purchase have been hand written by (I assume) the original vendor my Mother bought it from.
The date of purchase was the 9th of November, 1976 - the same year this calculator was released.

The TI-30 was considered a fairly major deal in its time - at least big enough to have its own Wiki page, anyway. It was considered to be quite cheap compared to the competition, costing only US$24.95 and went on to sell 15,000,000 units by 1983.
It was plagued by battery problems, however - provoking a rechargeable battery kit to be released later to combat the issue. I couldn't help but notice that in the manual it stated "You can always take weeks of computing power with you wherever you go by simply carrying a few extra batteries."
These were 9-volts too. Good grief.

Regardless, I find the TI-30 a cool piece of hardware. It's actually inspired me to rerelease my short-lived Retro Unrelated series; the only post of which was about the Olympus Trip 35 camera.
Instead of in blog form, though, I'd like to turn this into a video series for my YouTube channel. I have plenty of old unrelated to gaming devices hanging around for a sustainable series. Stay tuned.

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