Long live Texas Instruments

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You’ve gotta hand it to Texas Instruments. They always have, and still do, make quality products that last forever. To wit, the following is the tale of my beloved TI-31 scientific calculator.

Picture it (with apologies to Sophia Petrillo), Autumn, 1986. I had completed 10 years of school at the same elementary/junior academy school and had just begun my Junior year at boarding academy. One of my early student jobs was light custodial work in the boys’ dormitory.

Texas Instruments TI-31 calculator.

After finding this TI-31 calculator, it eventually became mine. Fast forward 37 years, it is still fully functional and has remained on my desk at work.

One day as I entered the stairwell shaft to sweep under the bottom flight of steps, I noticed a thin blue rectangular piece of plastic. I picked it up, turned it over, and realized I’d found someone’s TI-31 calculator that had apparently dropped, fell between the flights of stairs, landed on the floor, and slid well under the first flight where it would never be noticed without climbing over the rail as I did for cleaning.

After turning the calculator in to the dormitory dean, it sat in the lost and found box for about a month. I eventually inquired casually with the dean if he ever figured out to whom it belonged. He said no one claimed it and asked if I wanted to keep it. I gladly accepted.

I used it for the entirety of my last two years of high school, four years of college, and now coming up on 31 years working for the same organization in various capacities. There’s probably no way to know exactly how old it is, but this model was introduced in 1977 and discontinued 1986. Therefore it’s somewhere between 37 and 46 years old. It still functions perfectly. It looks great after recently cleaning off years worth of schmutz that had built up on the buttons. Best of all, in spite of being a 1970s design, its slim form factor with a nifty slide on/off plastic cover makes it still look relatively modern, especially since that cover reverses to slide on to the back side for safekeeping.

Prior to boarding academy, the only calculators I ever needed were either devices my parents had laying around at home, or ones my school had available to use (if they were permitted at all in math classes). Receiving the TI-31 early in my Junior year was perfect timing, and I occasionally pause a moment while using it to think about where it came from and how perfectly it has served, and still serves.

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