Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Algorithms for RPN calculators

Algorithms for RPN calculators by John A. Ball.  Hardcover published by Wiley-Interscience 1978.

My most recent postings on this blog have been rather light hearted (some may disagree) and I have decided to keep up the tradition of the last few weeks by writing about this charming book.  “Calculators” was what first attracted my attention… “RPN” was the unknown and “Algorithms” is… ummmm… something you do on a calculator???  So I read the publishers blurb and RPN stands for Reverse Polish Notation… I can see you all shaking your heads thinking, yes of course it does… I didn’t know this, but I am now partially enlightened by the concept.  A fellow bookseller (Paul Perry of Allsorts Books in Northcote) who is a man truly enlightened with these sort of concepts, started to further enlighten me about RPN and before he got too far into his explanation and my eyes became permanently glazed over, I figured its “something you do on a calculator”… ok a bit more than this did sink in and its something to do with the use of memory in old school calculators… you know the ones, with all those extra buttons that most of us don’t understand and would never use.  The truth is that the importance of me understanding what RPN means is totally irrelevant to me selling this book.  What is important, is that someone who does have an interest and understanding of this subject, finds my listing of this book and buys it.  My bookselling understanding of this book is that RPN is a very specific thingy that you do on a calculator and that someone out there may be interested in it… of course I also understand that most people no longer use RPN or vintage calculators and that this book only has a retro scientific appeal.

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