Where technology brought us 

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Milan Surplus
I-280 Exit 15
Milan, IL 61264

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home Inc.
614 Main St
Davenport, 52803

Ward Chiropractic
1802 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Cannon Precision Manufacturing
PO Box 289
4th and Washington St
Keithsburg, IL 61442

Associated Environmental Management Services Inc
PO Box 586
1701 13 St
Viola, IL 61486

Edward Jones
1632 5th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265

Downtown Davenport Association
102 S. Harrison St.
Davenport, IA 52801

Donald J. McNeil, D.D.S.
1030 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265

Valley Dental Center
Dr. Margarida R. Laub
Route 6, Coal Valley, IL

It figures, calculators have become a necessity

By Laura Botting, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Chuck Thomas / staff
Davenport Central High School students Kelly Witt, left, and Julian Jarrell, right, use calculators during a physics lab to figure out a problem. The calculator, which is used in many businesses and schools, is one of this century's technological advances.

To Mark Richter, a high school pyhysics teacher, balancing a checkbook without a calculator makes about as much sense as working out a trigonometry problem without one does.

That's what's on his mind as he scans an array of calculators -- displayed in an electronics store showcase. He routinely shops around for bargain prices on the handy invention, to keep a spare stock on hand for students who don't bring one to class.

``You have to have them,'' said Mr. Richter, who teaches at Central High School in Davenport.

Do you really ``have'' to have a calulator to take on tedious tasks involving numbers? Not really. But, most people ``used'' to having one on hand to balance checkbooks or work out trig problems probably would agree with Mr. Richter.

There was a time, not so long ago, when calculator useage and certainly calculators in the classroom weren't the norm. Mr. Richter calls that time the period, ``somewhere in between the slide rule and the calculator,'' when you couldn't use the slide rule anymore to work out the problems in class, but you didn't have a calculator because of the attached expense, he said.

Then a high school student in 1978, Mr. Richter purchased his first calculator for $76.

``I remember, I carried it with me all through college,'' Mr. Richter said, ``because it cost $76.''

Today he owns 100 of them.

Maybe it's the convenience; maybe it's the speed. Maybe it's just that calculators are neat, little gadgets that are fun to operate. You tell the computer (via its keypad) what you know and what you want to figure out and voila! -- the calculator does the math for you -- and out comes an accurately computed response. No pencils or erasers necessary.

The wide array of calculators on the market makes it hard to imagine life before the calculator. There is the desk-top and folding pocket model, the scientifc calculator that graphs and enlarges, the business/financial calculator with preprogrammed formulas that figure cash flow and mortgage loan payment schedules.

Some are equipped with alarm clocks and calendars; others double as phone books, storing up to 40 names and phone numbers in memory. The list goes on and on.

They come attached to key-rings and organizers; they are powered by battery and by the sun.

Pat O'Connor was a teacher in the 1970s when he remembers calculators entering the scene.

``A friend of mine, a math teacher, showed me his new calculator,'' said Mr. O'Connor, dean of enrollment management at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.``It fit into a holster you wore on your belt. It added, subtracted, multiplied and sometimes even divided. It cost about $100.''

``Now, you can be standing in line at a local grocery store and see all sorts of calculators that will do everything, including starting your coffee in the morning, for about $5 -- and it doesn't need batteries.''

``Working out trig problems in class without a calculator? Even to balance a checkbook?'' Mr. Richter offered with a puzzled look, ``why would you want to?''

Hard to imagine.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.