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Oh, 07734! Internet Archive debuts vintage calculator emulator
MAME adapted to bring your favorite TI and HP graphing machines back to life
The Internet Archive has delivered a nostalgic treat in the form of a collection of 14 vintage emulated calculators, now available to play with online.
The Archive's "Calculator Drawer" – as it has named the collection – includes classic machines from Texas Instruments' graphing calculator series. You'll find the TI 73 Explorer, 81, 82, 83 Plus, 85, 86, and – the holy grail – the 89. All of these became ubiquitous because they were allowed into college entrance exams and various standardized tests. Many a calculator that started life in that role ended up in a university student's backpack and – failing theft or misplacement – eventually landed in the engineer's work drawer.
Also in the drawer is 1989's bright yellow cartoonish calculator geared for children, the Vtech Number Muncher, plus HP's more sophisticated 38G, 48G+, 48GX, and 49G models.
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For anyone who lost their calculators long ago, the muscle memory needed to make them work returns quickly when using the emulators. The reasons why one might need to compute integrals and derivatives, maybe a little less so.
The Internet Archive does provide manuals for ten of the fourteen calculators. But for those who can't be bothered with the 527-page guidebook for the TI-89, the look and feel of the emulator's design is enough to jolt one back into user mode.
The renditions of the user interfaces are not only accurate, but also in some cases – like the HP 48G+ and Vtech Number Muncher – include sound.
What is missing is any type of haptic feedback. Given the effort required to get the emulators to the impressively realistic point they are at today, complaints could be withheld.
The calculators employ the MAME Artwork System. That allows for open-source emulator MAME to move beyond vector-based drawing and render digital clones of devices that reflect the original's screen or lights, thus creating an actual image rather than a line drawing. It's the same tech used to recreate classic arcade games within MAME and has been used on over 1400 systems.
And while these calculators aren't exactly arcade games, they still lend themselves to some wistful footling. So, as the Internet Archive puts it: "go forth and literally multiply."
Just don't forget to turn them on. ®
Bootnote: Here's the perfect soundtrack if you take the emulators for a spin.