April 12 A Calculator Is Needed In Space

Last Update: Apr 12, 2021

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Today is the actual date in 1981 when the space shuttle Columbia took flight. Last week we learned that 5 computers were on board to control the navigation.

Today we learn that the HP-41 calculator also was selected to take the flight. The astronauts used it daily as a clock and a calendar, but its biggest role was to calculate the exact angle at which Columbia needed to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. They may have used it in other ways as well because it was the first calculator that could display alphabetic characters as well as numbers and it was fully programmable.

What! A Calculator Can Substitute As A Computer?

In 1979 this was the way many people were introduced to computer programming because the cost of the HP-41 at $295 was much less expensive than buying a personal computer.

In fact it acted just like a computer with its Interface Loop which allowed modules to be plugged into it to expand its memory, and connect to peripherals such as printers, plotters and mass-storage devices. It even allowed users to assign functions to the keys. Very amazing!

Creativity Can Outsmart The Competition

Dennis Conner thought the HP-41 was very amazing because he used it to continually computed Freedom's distance ahead of and behind the competition. Who was Freedom? Freedom was his 12-meter yacht that won him the America's Cup in 1980.

Congratulations to the HP-41 programmable calculator and of course to Dennis and his skills.

So the HP-41 calculator has played many big and small roles.

What’s The Application?

Of course we have to apply this day in history. What will that be today?

Aha! We all started with the same training, WA Online Certification. And that was a terrific medium to get us to where we are today. But each of us has applied it differently.

Enjoy your online business today and think of new ways to take it to new heights!

Recent Comments


Always enjoy your technology expertise, makes me think of what I want to accomplish today. Thought provoking!!!

Glad you enjoyed.

That's too funny, George! It's amazing to see how much all the hardware cost back then! I have dinosaur equipment now which would not fetch a dollar at a yardsale, but back then it was "cutting edge"!


Yes, It's amazing. Times certainly change when it comes to computers.

And FAST, George!

Interesting as always. I had not heard about this calculator on that flight.

Glad you enjoyed.

A great reminder, my Mum was horrified I could use one for my maths exam, I think she was actually pleased I failed! Good story...

Yes, I remember parents not understanding how a calculator could be used in a math exam.

Glad you liked the story.

Haha I remember those, we still have one or two lying around.

Thanks for a wonderful blog post.

Glad you remember the days. We have one yet too!
Glad you enjoyed the blog..

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