You’d assume that calculators would have been one of the many technological casualties of the smartphone, joining MP3 players and point-and-shoot cameras as standalone devices no one really uses any more. But there are apparently still enough calculator devotees for HP to resurrect a model that’s been kicking around for over 40 years as a “Collector’s Edition,” complete with a price tag that might have you doing a double take.
First released back in 1982, the HP-15C debuted when HP was still calling itself Hewlett-Packard. It arrived about a decade after the Busicom LE-120A Handy—the first handheld electronic calculator with an LED display—and followed several other iconic HP calculator models released in the mid-to-late ‘70s, including the HP-65, which was actually programmable using a built-in magnetic card reader.
By comparison, the HP-15C was a pocket-sized scientific calculator with “built-in support for complex numbers, matrix math, numerical integration, and root solving”. It featured a 10-digit segmented LCD display, and had such a loyal following that, to this day, HP-15Cs still sell for a couple hundred bucks on eBay.
The original HP-15C was discontinued in 1989, but HP resurrected it again in 2011 as the “HP 15c Limited Edition.” 12 years later, the calculator is now returning once again as the “HP 15C Collector’s Edition.” It looks and functions exactly like the original did, complete with a 10-digit segmented LCD display that seems almost ancient at this point, but should offer dramatically improved battery life thanks to a pair of CR2032 coin cells. Interestingly, according to HP, it’s also “up to 100x faster processing speed,” which sounds like it could make this calculator a hacker’s dream.
The original HP-15C sold for $135 in 1982, or closer to around $425 when adjusted for inflation. That almost makes the HP 15C Collector’s Edition’s $120 price tag (you can pre-order it in the UK for £95.83 with delivery in July) seem like a bargain, until you remember you can now buy a $10 desktop calculator with a touchscreen that runs Android and has enough processing power to play Doom and N64 games.