Category Archives: Geek Culture

Legends are Reborn: HP-12C and HP-15C Calculators



To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the HP-12C financial calculator, HP are producing a limited edition of this classic calculator along with a reproduction of the 15C scientific calculator. Launched in 1981, the 12C became the de facto “badge of honour” for any self respecting businessman. Still a cult classic with fans the world over, it’s the longest selling HP product.

There’s some great reminiscing going on over at HP’s The Next Bench, including interviews with 12C’s creator, Dennis, who demoed the calculator to Bill Hewlett thirty years ago.

Pictures from the HP Museum by David Hicks.

Young’uns raised on Casio and Sharp calculators will be surprised that these use Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) for the entry of formulae, rather than the more usual “1 + 1 =” approach. RPN would say this is “1 ENTER 1 +”, if I recall right.

I remember my father having HP calculators – they had little red LED displays before LCDs appeared – and him showing me how RPN worked. And the way the buttons kind of rocked back rather than simply pressing down. Glorious and I want one. I shall have to keep my eyes on the HP’s UK site – the standard 12c is available but I’d be more interested in the 15C which hasn’t been around for years.

It’s good to see that HP can produce something that lasts longer that the TouchPad.


Scientists Need To Stand Up



If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the whole of science, I’d like to think that us geeks fit in there as a subset. Many of us come from a scientific background and appreciate science, scientific method and the benefits it brings to humanity. This isn’t to say that we don’t value art, but rather we have critical approach to life that uses evidence and method rather than doubt and misinformation. Theories aren’t always right but we value the outcome when they are disproved.

Regrettably science and scientists have often failed to engage with public, either retreating into academia or else becoming the boffins in the backrooms of organisations that capitalise on their work. The Internet has given plenty of space for pseudo-science to become widespread and thought of as fact. Validated research and evidence rarely gets the weight it deserves.

The New Statesman has published an excellent article on how the scientific community needs to take a look and learn from other social groups such as gays and blacks which have managed to get the respect that they deserve. Scientists need to stand up and speak out against pseudo-science and misinformation.

The UK’s Government Chief  Scientific Adviser John Beddington said, “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality… We are not – and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this – grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.


Reese’s Minis with Chris Pirillo



Jeffrey Powers shoots the breeze with Chris Pirillo over a few Reese’s Minis, the latest offering in the Reese’s line of peanut butter cups from Hersheys.

You’re probably wondering why Hersheys came to CES to launch candy. Watch the video to find out. Frankly, it’s tenuous but it’s fun.

Love them or hate them, Reese’s Minis are available now in USA and Canada.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

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Tune In



The most useful computer is the one in your pocket.

What really makes any computer useful is the software that you are able to run on it.

When I was a kid in the early 1960’s, one evening my Dad brought home a battery-operated AM transistor radio. I was immediately transfixed. That simple AM radio and I were inseparable. That was the start of my interest in technology and gadgets.

When podcasts came along, I stopped listening to conventional radio back in late 2004. Podcast listening is a much more efficient experience.

Can conventional radio listening be made into a more effective, efficient experience?

The answer? Yes it can. “Tune In” available for free from the Android Marketplace turns your phone into the most effective, amazing radio tuner/playback device you’ve never had.

Want to “Tune In” to local stations? Tune In knows where you are, thanks to your phone’s built-in GPS chip. You are instantly able to pick from all sorts of local radio station streams.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Want to listen to a particular song? Type a song or artist name into the search box, and Tune In will present you with a variety of stations currently playing that artist or song.

Select stations based on radio genre, music genre, or geographic location. In fact, find stations broadcasting from virtually anywhere in the world.

“Tune In” turns your Android phone into a powerful radio capable of searching and tuning in to thousands of conventional radio stations that are broadcasting from across the world.

“Tune In” certainly isn’t the first app to present streaming radio stations. However, “Tune In” does a great job of presenting streaming stations in a format that can capture one’s imagination on a truly portable pocket playback device that is connected to the world 24/7.

I can only imagine if I were a kid today and had access to a smartphone…


OTT Tsunami



We’ve been hearing quite a lot about Internet-delivered video content lately. Trends sometimes seem to advance slowly over a long period of time but then tumultuous market shifts seem to happen overnight.

Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy. Blockbuster was unable to reconfigure their business structure to compete effectively with Netflix. It seems that Netflix has won the ongoing war.

Streaming video and video podcasts have been around for several years – these are not new ideas. However, what is new is the proliferation and increasing popularity of set-top boxes.

Back in the 1980’s backyard satellite TV dishes were a hobby among people that were looking for something different and as many choices as possible. That quest for choice ended up going mainstream in the form of commercial cable and satellite providers offering hundreds of channels.

Starting in 2004 people began experimenting with Internet-delivered content in the form of podcasts. I believe that podcasting happened as a direct result of broadband availability getting to a certain critical mass, combining the existing elements of RSS, MP3’s, etc. into a new form of communication. This new form of communication offered something very different along with unprecedented levels of choice.

Internet-delivered content of all kinds is rapidly becoming mainstream.

I believe 2010 is the year of the app. Apps suddenly seemed to have come out of nowhere to seeming to pop up on every device imaginable. Why the sudden popularity of apps? Desktop and laptop computers have been around for a long time, along with full-blown applications. What has really happened is that computers have now shrunk down to the point where they not only are in our pockets in the form of smartphones, but they are also showing up in HDTV sets and plenty of other devices. These devices we are running these apps on are actually quite powerful computers in their own rights.

There is now a wide variety of content that is heading for every computer-enabled screen you own, especially your HDTV.


Amazon Kindle E-Books



Shortly after getting my HTC Evo phone, one of the initial apps I downloaded from the Android Marketplace was the Amazon Kindle app with the idea I’d probably check it out at some point. Weeks went by, and I pretty much ignored the app.

Yesterday I was talking to a good friend that is in the process of formatting e-books for an author friend of his, including formatting the books in the Kindle format. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned to him once again that I needed check the Android Kindle app out. He pointed out that there were free e-books available in the Kindle format on the Amazon website, including many books from 1922 and before that were now in the public domain, so after I finished his call I went on Amazon.Com with my computer and started digging around in the Kindle Store area of Amazon. Sure enough, there seemed to be plenty of free e-books available, so I started adding them. To get the Kindle app on my phone to synch with my Amazon account couldn’t be easier, I simply entered in my email address and Amazon password into the app. Any books in my Amazon storage area are quickly updated to the app.

Sure, some of the free books weren’t exactly my taste, but I was able to open them on my phone and finally see how well the Kindle app worked. Hummm, not bad – not bad at all. To make a long story short, I ended up finding a current book I really liked and purchased it for $9.99.

What a pleasant surprise I was in for. Reading a Kindle book on my HTC Evo is actually a good experience. The text is quite legible. The surprising part is that twice now I’ve carried the phone with me into restaurants and was able to easily read using the phone while eating. Of course, the HTC Evo has a handy built-in kick stand that allows the phone to sit on its side at an angle. I can eat and then periodically lightly touch the right side of the screen in order to make the Kindle app advance to the next page. The Kindle app even synchs the latest page I’m on back to the server, so if I open the book up again either on my phone or on my laptop, it opens up right at the exact page where I stopped reading.

At this point I have no plans on buying an actual Kindle, however I suspect I will be buying more Kindle e-books in the future. I often carry my phone around with me wherever I go, and because of the way the Kindle app works across all Kindle apps associated with my account, I have instant access to every Kindle e-book in my Amazon account storage area on every associated Kindle installation. There are often times I end up having to cool my heels waiting on something, and it’s incredibly handy to be able to use that otherwise often wasted waiting time reading. Ten minutes here and twenty minutes there really do add up over time.

All of this talk about, “Oh, the iPad has killed the Kindle” is bogus. Amazon has been very smart to put Kindle apps out for as wide a variety of devices as possible. Even if they don’t sell that many Kindle readers, the Kindle format e-book is a huge Amazon win, both for Amazon and for consumers like me.