Count on old school fun with these new calculator emulations

Enlarge / Graphical representation of a parabola on the TI-83 Plus calculator emulation.

Because of its price, size, and capabilities, I still remember the graphing calculator I used in high school, even though I haven’t needed to plot a parabola in ages. The Internet Archive has just made it easy to recreate that era by releasing a series of clickable online calculator emulations.

The Internet Archive's 14 calculator emulations.
Enlarge / The Internet Archive’s 14 calculator emulations.

Announced on Sunday, The Calculator Drawer includes 14 calculators. Most are from Texas Instruments, including my old TI-83 Plus and the 1995 Texas Instruments TI92, which looks like a portable console. But there are also options from HP. The oldest calculator is the VTech Electronic Number Muncher toy from 1989.

In addition to supporting keyboard input, calculators allow you to click on-screen buttons for input, making the experience even more realistic if you’re using emulation on a touchscreen. Some calculators even have power buttons and sound effects.

The calculators use the MAME (Multi-purpose Emulation Framework) team emulator, which has emulated thousands of vintage platforms and gadgets, like computers and arcade machines, for 25 years.

And for those who need to brush up on their calculator skills, the Internet Archive has also uploaded manuals for calculators.

The Internet Archive blog post announcing The Calculator Drawer details the emulation process. He noted the challenges of emulating a small set of LED lights or LCD numbers while incorporating the rest of the gadget, which is mostly an immutable chassis.

To “render an emulated device that needs an ‘additional’ drawing to augment the part of itself that reflects the device’s screen or lights”, as the Internet Archive puts it, they called the Artwork function of MAME, which makes it possible to click on these calculators. MAME Artwork allows The Calculator Drawer to have an image of the calculator on the screen while supporting interactivity. It also doesn’t require “extensive knowledge of programming”. This method was selected on MAME’s ability to do vector drawings and is looking for volunteers to provide high quality photos of old school technology.

The Calculator Drawer is a fun way for math buffs to relive some memorable gadgets, though it’s smaller than other Internet Archive collections. It can also provide a free way to use a very capable calculator, which can cost around $100 or more.

Below is a full list of emulations currently available in The Calculator Drawer:

  • Hewlett-Packard HP 38G (1995)
  • Hewlett-Packard HP 48G+ (1998)
  • Hewlett-Packard HP 48GX (1993)
  • Hewlett-Packard HP 49G (1999)
  • Texas Instruments TI-73 Explorer (2003)
  • Texas Instruments TI-81 (1990)
  • Texas Instruments TI-82 (1993)
  • Texas Instruments TI-85 (1992)
  • Texas Instruments TI-86 (1996)
  • Texas Instruments TI-89 (1998)
  • Texas Instruments TI-92 (1995)
  • Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus (1999)
  • Texas Instruments Voyage 200 (2002)
  • VTech Electronic Number Muncher (1989)

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