Clout it with a hammer if it starts playing up

Casio electronic calculator circa 1983 P1050383

Technology. Specifically, digital technology. Isn’t it wonderful? Not!

Obsolescence (we’ve another one planned for next year). Firmware “upgrades” (it wasn’t working right when you bought it but now we’ve fixed it). Malfunctions (it’s not supposed to do that, must be an undocumented glitch). Component failures (not our fault). Increasing complexity (look, there’s all these extra features that you’ll never use). Power failures (you’ve killed the battery by… er… charging it). Incomprehensible manuals (we couldn’t find a literate translator). Lack of standardisation (we like to be different even though it’s more hassle for you). Non-intuitive interfaces (well, the designers thought it was stylish). The list is practically endless.

Whatever happened to the good old days (pre-digital) when you’d buy a bit of kit and, apart from very simple and basic maintenance (clout it with a hammer if it starts playing up) you’d have it for life without needing to constantly nursemaid it. Doing what it’s supposed to do. No fuss, no hassle. And you could sus out how it worked just by fiddling with it a bit.

Casio electronic calculator circa 1983 P1050395

Now I tend to have one of those notorious “love/hate relationships” with all this digital stuff. It appeals to the gadget-freak in me and, I have to admit, it does occasionally make certain tasks easier and quicker. Plus it opens up whole new areas and disciplines that, to someone transported forward in time by a century or so, would appear to be, in the words of a mate, “dark magics”.

And let’s face it, if it weren’t for the digital era I wouldn’t be doing stuff like this blog for example. Or photography even! So it clearly has some things going for it. Ahem.

On the hate side, I get infuriated when things don’t work as they should. Or, perhaps more accurately, as I expect them to. Even more accurately, how all the marketing hype has led me to believe they’d work. And “user friendly” so often means “you won’t be able to fix it yourself when it goes wrong”… as it inevitably will.

I detest having to update stuff to a new version or whatever. Yeah, these “upgrades” may well be taking advantage of the latest innovations etc… but that’s a game without end. And what it basically resolves into is just paying out ever-increasing amounts of dosh. If not for the thing itself then for the things (inevitably digital) that work with it or are needed to make it work… or all those extra “must have” accessories.

Allied to which there’s generally some sort of additional learning curve involved as well. That I also detest. Once I’ve learned something I want it to stay learned… not get myself locked into a perpetual cycle of having to re-learn the basics every couple of years or so. I have far better things to do with my time.

Casio electronic calculator circa 1983 P1050392

Another thing that irritates me is the lack of standards. Example… I have five laptops (yeah, I know, I’m a sad git). Each with their own power adaptor. None of which are interchangeable. And even if they were, the plugs on the laptop side are all different! So if one of the power adaptors fails (as has occasionally happened) I can’t even press one of the others I have into temporary service cos it won’t bloody work with a different machine!

Same thing with mobile phones. Here’s another, and even more ridiculous, example… a few years back I had a Nokia mobile phone. Worked fine for a couple of years or so, then I started having battery problems with it. And other problems. So I replaced it… with a Samsung. And inevitably there’s a different power charger and a different sort of plug.
Then, not all that long ago, I acquired another Nokia phone. But guess what? Different charger to my original Nokia. And a completely different plug! From the same manufacturer!

Oh, I could go on and on… but I won’t. For what sparked this particular little topic was the sudden realisation that I actually have a favourite bit of digital kit. An absolute favourite… no qualification. And I never even knew it!

Casio electronic calculator circa 1983 P1050393

A bit of kit that I’m almost unaware of using… even when I’m using it! And I use it virtually every day. Not for long admittedly, but hardly a day passes without it being used at least once (and very often a lot more). It’s just there, ready to hand, and performs faultlessly. Every time. It’s become practically indispensible.

It’s never let me down. It’s never needed an “update”. Neither did I have to study a badly translated tome of a manual to find out how to use it. And it’s never even needed to be plugged in or have its battery recharged!

Er… well, that’s the thing y’see. The battery, or “power supply”. It’s one of them solar thingies. Gets its power from sunlight. Or any bright light for that matter.

Problem is, for the past few months I’ve been using it in a somewhat poorly lit environment. Which must have depleted its “reserve power” or whatever. My first hint that all’s not well with this little gadget is the LCD display. Not as crisp as it once was, and then sort of fades out after a few moments.

“Oh pooh!” thinks I, unquestioningly accepting that it had finally reached the end of its useful life. Cos I know these LCDs have a limited lifespan (which is yet another annoyance). And I’ve become far too accustomed to digital stuff just giving up the ghost.

But then, there I was, for once in a brightly lit environment and needing to use my little gadget, that just happened to be with me (hadn’t quite given up on it). And whaddya know? Soon as it sees the bright light the old LCD sparks into life, crisp as ever. And stays on until its job is done.

So it’s still my most favourite digital gadget. No qualification.

Want to know the best thing about it? It’s not new, or even newish. In fact, it’s quite old. Practically vintage. And I didn’t even have to buy it!

Bought for me it was. As a sort of spontaneous pressie or something equally strange. By a lady-friend of mine. Who, I much later discovered, had actually been a sort of secret admirer. And I never even knew! Not that it would have interested me much anyway cos at the time I was otherwise committed. But how absolutely typical of my luck. Finding things out too late to do anything about them, that is. Particularly where the fairer sex are concerned.

Anyway, this ’ere gift… bought for me back in the early 80s. 1983 or thereabouts I do believe. Which means that this indispensible digital gadget that’s still functioning (virtually) flawlessly is nearly 30 years old! That has to be some sort of whacking great WOW!

And if you hadn’t already guessed from the accompanying pics what this amazing piece of (digital) technological wizardry is… it’s a calculator! The Casio MC-801S Electronic Calculator to be precise. That possesses nifty little conversion functions for converting between various units of measurement (like Fahrenheit/Centigrade and vice versa, inches/centimetres and vice versa, and so on). You just don’t realise how incredibly useful a function like this is… until you need to do such a conversion.

Casio electronic calculator circa 1983 P1050400

Now battered around, crud-encrusted, scratched and fag-burned, but still in full working order. Best digital thingie I’ve ever owned.

Casio electronic calculator circa 1983 P1050389

About fotdmike

Occasional photographer; occasional writer/blogger; occasional activist; occasional computer-geek. Bit of a fool really.
This entry was posted in Kit, Not Photography, Rants, Stuff and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Clout it with a hammer if it starts playing up

  1. tam says:

    BRAVO! One question though, were you standing behind me yesterday listening to my friend and I chat about hating technology? She and I were barking up a storm about how we hate what technology has done to us all. I mean, we can’t go to the ladies room without carrying our cell phones!

    How do you like the phrase “barking up a storm?” Typical southern thing…. “insert word hereup a storm”. HA HA

    Our “hate” conversation started with me complaining about my indecision of “should I flush the toilet.” NO LIE! OMG! I see a blog post in this…..perhaps I should type on my blog…..

    Anyway, she and I were complaining about technology and I perked up and said, we needed to go back in time before the age of cell phones, laptop computers and so on… She agreed. I even suggested we should go back further, back to the days when women stayed home, raised kids, took care of the house and actually cooked (and not in a blooming microwave…of which I don’t own!) GASP!


    • fotdmike says:

      I hope you weren’t actually in the loo when you were discussing this? Cos if you were then that’d mean you’re implying I may have been there too. Now I ask you, do I look like the sort of bloke that’d hang around in ladies’… um, on second thoughts, don’t answer that!

      And why on earth should you be undecided about… no, I don’t think I wanna know. Though I may just happen, purely by chance, to take a sneaky peek at that blog of yours.

      “Barking up a storm”… I’m sure we have some similar sort of phrase over here, but I can’t quite bring it to mind.

      As for all this technology stuff, I think its like a lot of things: a good servant but a very bad master. And sometimes I’m filled with this nasty suspicion that we’re creeping ever closer to the latter. In many ways our lives may have improved because of technology… but at what cost?

  2. OMG The things we love to hate ..

  3. technogran says:

    How many laptops? Are you mad? Or at a loss what to do with your hard earned money? Stickler for punishment are you? Then you have the audacity to do this post where you say you hate all things technical! Hmmphh! Five laptops indeed! that’s just greedy! And there’s this poor pensioner making do with her one Dell desktop! 😉

    • fotdmike says:

      Well, I think its five. Let’s see… there’s the Toshiba, the Acer, the Samsung, the Sony, and… um… the baby Acer. Yep. That’s definitely five. Best I don’t mention the three PCs I guess.
      But y’see, that’s why I hate technology. I’m surrounded by the damn stuff. Can’t get away from it. It seems to be everywhere I go.

      And yep, I’m definitely mad. Its the infernal machines wot did it see. Heh heh


  4. David says:

    Calculator? No I don’t own one of them, or at least I probably own a few but wouldn’t have a clue where to find one, I usually use my mobile or my laptop for such purposes, but have calculators and both have conversion apps so can do everything I need, and I know where to find them when I need them.
    Personally I am all for minimising the number of gadgets I have so it is basically a laptop a mobile phone & a blue tooth stereo headset, which can be used with both of the former items. these can do most of what I want/need, no MP3 player, when my phone has a perfectly good MP3 player on it, no calculator when my other devices can do those jobs, no electronic organiser, or manual handwritten diary, when I can do those things on my laptop and my phone, and sync them to each other & to the web automatically, OH almost forgot, the other accessory is of course the camera, along with a myriad of lenses and filters etc, but that’s a bit different, I don’t even poses a little point & shot camera, my phone has an adequate camera for such casual usage if so desired. its also my dictaphone, note taker, e-book reader, email reader (although I rarely answer e-mails on my phone!) and so much more, I think my mobile phone is my key favourite bit of technology, take everything else away but not my mobile, yet i so rarely use it for making phonecalls.

    • fotdmike says:

      Ah… but will either your mobile phone or laptop still be functioning faultlessly, without any updates, or being plugged in, or having batteries recharged, in 30 years or so having been used every day for the entire duration? Now that’s the question!

      Heh heh

  5. m o brien says:

    hi i have got a casio mc 801s , it is everything you said it is , i would love to buy the same again as this one cant go on forever .
    any possibilities ?

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