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In a quick glance around the site earlier on today, exploring what’s new in the Community Centre and any new members that might have joined us, I came across one of the most unusual categories I’ve ever seen on Ciao. Whilst discovering in which areas one can receive 1p per read, I came across this little beauty. Calculators. To say I never knew it existed was an understatement; I hadn’t even seen the category ‘Electronic Accessories’ before today. But it filled me with inspiration and intrigue, and so, I decided to write an opinion on it.

I’ve had my fx-83WA (who chose that name?) for about 3 years now. I originally chose it because it was in the mid-cheap price range of calculators at Smiths, costing about £8 (I believe this is still the approximate price, although it varies, so shop around), and looked fairly simple to use. It hasn’t got an overload of extremely scary-looking buttons; however, on the other hand, it has everything that one would need to use for lower school maths.

The calculator is a greyish-black colour, with clearly displayed numbers and basic signs (such as addition, multiplication etc.) and is divided into three main sections. The bottom section is where the more everyday functions and symbols (i.e. Numbers and + and – signs) are situated, the middle section is for more complicated calculations such as ‘sin’, ‘cos’, ‘x²’ and ‘x’ buttons, and the top row is one which allows you to change the mode and also to turn the darn thing off.

The layout is clear and very easy to follow, even for a first-time user, and there is a shift button which is conveniently located at the top-left for quick use, which effectively halves the number of buttons needed. It comes with a set of very useful instructions, and a quick-reference guide for anyone who forgets how to do simple equations, which fit very neatly into the rather clever case.

The thing that I think is spectacular about this calculator, however, which I am sure exists on other models but which I have still yet to see elsewhere, is that the machine not only allows you to see which equation you have keyed in as you’re doing it, but also allows you to replay it after you’ve completed the equation and pressed the ‘=’ button, up to a maximum of 256 characters. So you can see if/when you have gone wrong even after the calculator has been turned off, which is very handy when you are dealing with big numbers.

At the time when I first acquired it, the fx-83WA was fairly new to the market, although before long, after people realised just how useful this particular model was, the sales began to boom, and now most people in my class, and, indeed my school have one.

But is it really all that useful? And does it have any faults? Well, it depends who you are and what you’re looking for in a calculator. If you are a student studying higher and more advanced mathematics, then this calculator may not have all you’re looking for. It’s got functions such as ‘e to the x’ and the ‘hyp’ button, both of which are covered in Upper Sixth (Pure Modules 2 + 4, I believe) or first year degree courses, but beyond that it isn’t that much use.

There’s no graphical display on the screen, which you wouldn’t expect paying that price, and some of the more complicated calculations can be a little difficult to grasp, seeing as the calculator is designed for middle-school mathematicians more than anyone else. Ultimately, I would recommend this calculator, but only to students who are just starting senior school or, at the latest in year 10. For anyone younger, it’s a little too complicated, and a little too simple for anyone who’s in higher level maths.

If you get the right age range, this calculator is exceptional. Its layout is easy to use and the durable battery and solar power only add to the number of reasons why this calculator is one that's a must for all students and adults alike! An essential purchase!

I remember when I was 13 years old and we went on our first holiday abroad (Spain), mum and dad bought me a scientific calculator (they were cheaper out there). I still have it somewhere - it's a Casio, and yes it still works!

clanmac4 01.11.2001 18:27

Good detailed opinion on a calculator. Yaaaawn! lol ;-)

moose 26.10.2001 11:34

I just had to read the potentially dull opinion but you have made a good job out of it - its actually quite (note quite as it is a calculator!!!) interesting!! But then again....I will never buy another scientific calculator as long as I live....eeekk! Too many bad memories of GCSE maths!!!