Saturday, 31 July 2010

Introducing the 100% Open Source HW/SW R-Based Graphing Calculator

The childhood geek inside me is running, screaming, jumping around with joy, and hacking it's way into servers it shouldn't even know about. I'm definitely totally nerding out over here, I can type this up, my fingers are jittering around so much.

I can die in peace, for the day hath cometh, wherein...

With Koen, Thom, Chris, Mark, and Will's help, I built this 100% Open Source Hardware-based, Open Source Software-based KICK ASS REPLACEMENT for my two most trusted allies in life: my TI-89 and my HP-50g scientific graphing calculators.

Don't get me wrong, the TI-89 and HP-50g are awesome. Some might argue, they're too awesome, since neither TI nor HP have been able to make a better calculator that I'd buy. And I know my calculators, so if a better one came along, I'd definitely buy it. (Just ask anyone who's ever been to the Liquidware Lab to see my calculator collection). And I'm not talking about the TI-200 "Voyage" (choke, gag), which came out around the same time the dot-coms were around, and IMHO is everything that was wrong about the dot-com era (plus the keyboard made it illegal on the SAT).

Also, there's two big problems with the TI-89 and HP-50g in my book:

1) I didn't make it myself
2) They're not open source and hackable

But this... calculator has 1,000,000 times the coolness factor of those two calculators above:

  • It runs Linux (HP: no, TI: no)
  • It runs R (HP: no, TI: no)
  • You program it in C or Perl (HP: no, TI: no)
  • It has a Wifi connection (HP: no, TI: no)
  • It runs a web browser (HP: no, TI: no)

The only sad part is that my scientific graphing calculator doesn't run HP's cool reverse polish programming stack which is not so much intuitive, but actually quite fun to program... especially with its list manipulations, inspired from the Forth programming language.

Oh wait. Just kidding, my calculator can run a full Forth stack using gforth, or a Fortran stack (using gfortran)!

Here it is with a full keyboard and mouse, just for kicks... although obviously it doesn't need those because I can use the on-screen keypad because it's got a touchscreen OLED using the BeagleTouch module.

The colors got a little white-washed on this one, but it gives you an idea for the size:

The screen is plenty bright:

And here's a video showing my doing R matrix manipulations:

In my opinion, there is nothing nerdier or cooler than a pocket sized graphing and programmable scientific calculator that runs R. Nothing. Hands down. Like this is the kinda stuff that makes NSA Trekkies jealous... bring it on! :-)

I've uploaded the Open Source R-Based Calculator it as a kit onto the Liquidware shop, as an option to the Tablet Pack, to make it come with R pre-loaded and pre-installed from Koen (I'm assuming people have their own keyboards and USB ports, otherwise I'd include those too).


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