Note: Your mileage may vary significantly if you’re a finance and accounting type, I know nothing of those calculators.
I have a long history with calculators. Growing up, I was bad at math in elementary school. Adding, subtracting, and dividing all those endless problems made my head swim. The problems didn’t confuse me so much as bore me, and I recall having asked on at least one occasion, “Why can’t we all just use calculators?” The common refrain from teachers when I was growing up was, “You’re not always going to have a calculator in your pocket.” The cellphone in my pocket begs to differ.
Fast forward to today, where mental math and making good estimates are part of my daily life. Yet, if anything, I need a calculator more than I ever have before. For this, I submit to you what I believe is the best calculator in the world: The TI-30XIIS.
I’ve reached this conclusion because I recently lost mine, and have been using a backup calculator, a very similar TI-30Xa. Also known, to me at least, as an inexcusably crappy calculator. In truth, all scientific calculators are pretty much the same, and probably none are truly bad. The problem is that it’s not at all are as easy to use.
Calculators have reached a sort of technological singularity. No one is comparing frame-rates and processing power. They all pretty much do as they’re told, unlike the bad old days when low battery or supply voltage could actually affect your calculations. The real distinguishing factors in my mind come down to intended use and user-friendliness.
I’m not a true calculator geek. I learned how to spell BOOBS (80085) BOOBLESS (55378008 upside-down) early on, and a few Arabic words are available as well. I experimented with patterns in numbers sometimes when I was bored, but I never really mastered all of the functions of my calculator. I remember taking calculus for the first time in high school and having to buy the TI-83 Plus: A behemoth of a calculator that came with a novel of an instruction manual that could speak Greek, knew all the good sex positions, and make Frappacinos. I was really excited when I first got my hands on what seemed to be a real grown-up calculator. Over the years, I have almost never used it for anything that I couldn’t do with a simple scientific calculator. It’s overkill, and any high school that requires its students to use it better be getting some kind of serious kickback from Texas Instruments. What I’ve found is that for anything complicated, a computer is far superior to a graphing calculator. Everything else can come in a smaller, considerably less expensive package. Although, the TI-83 is great for playing Galaga or Galaxian.
This is what I like about the TI-30XIIS:
- Solar powered. I don’t do much work where there is low to no light anyway. I need something that won’t conk out on me in the middle of an exam.
- Good space in between keys. I hate fat-fingering a calculator and getting my arithmetic wrong. I do it all too often.
- Has an exponential mode.
- Has an “ANS” button, the single most frustrating thing about using the TI-30Xa is that it does not have an (ANS) button or similar function that is easily accessible. When you’re stringing together large multi-term equations, it’s really important to be able to process previous outputs easily and quickly. With the TI-30Xa, you have to store the output to memory, first.
- Two-line display allows you to recall old inputs, and see and correct errors in your inputs. I’ve literally had to start from scratch countless times using the TI-30Xa because I had no way of knowing if I was missing a term in my equation. With this, checking your work is easier, quicker, and more convienient.
- Looks good. It’s a good-looking calculator, for whatever that’s worth. It’s available in a gajillion different colors, but the basic model is blue.
In conclusion, it’s all the calculator I’ll probably ever need. Feel free to recommend your own.