I'd used scientific calculators in high school. Graphing calculators, even. In fact, I think I killed three or four of them -- remember how the screen used to pop off? -- but this was different. You did your inputs backwards, punched a few buttons, and only then did the answer reveal itself. These were financial or engineering calculators: ugly, inelegant, squat, sideways, brown, backwards calculators -- and I was a journalism student. We didn't use calculators in J-school.
My, how things change.
The calculator above isn't quite the same -- it's the slightly better-looking cousin of the HPs that used to scare the heck out of me. But the principles are the same, and as our first final exam approaches, I'm taking on a dual-study program: Teaching myself how to use it while trying to remember the past 13 weeks of Financial Accounting. And you know what? I realized a funny thing.
Technology makes us dumb.
All these years, I've judged myself inadequate next to the financial "whiz kids" wielding the ubiquitous HP-12c. But now that I have an HP of my own, an interesting thing has happened: While teaching myself "how" to do certain things, I have forgotten just how to do them.
Let me explain: This calculator takes the formulas out of the equation. Now, this is a good thing -- it speeds up calculations, and lets us concentrate on interpretation vs. mechanics -- but it's also kind of bad. For example, I think it would be an interesting experiment to round up a room full of financial types, take away their calculators, and ask them to write down the equation for double declining balance depreciation. Without their backwards calculator buttons of PV, FV (salvage), N and I/YR, how many of them would know (Cost-A/D) x 2/Y ? I mean, I started using that equation regularly just before getting this calculator, and even I've already put it out of my mind.
I'm no longer intimidated.
If anything, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. We're 7 days out from our Accounting exam, I have 8 chapters to study, and I'm feeling good in a not-cocky-but-sort-of-confident way. I'm looking forward to knocking out some journal entries, lease tables, and the like. I'm enjoying punching buttons and getting the right answer (most times). In fact, having this tool in hand makes things go so much more smoothly, I'm thinking I'll have a decent shot at finishing early on Saturday. And that will be a good thing.
After all, technology shouldn't be intimidating, right?