The history of the calculator
Ever since recorded mathematics began, people have been making use of mathematical aids. Four thousand years ago, Babylonian scribes were consulting mathematical tables which included multiplication tables, tables of squares and square roots, and tables of reciprocals of numbers. These values were recorded as marks on clay tablets that were then baked hard in the sun—and some have survived to the present day. (There are several originals to be seen in the British Museum.)
Your calculator is one of the latest in a long and distinguished history of devices that have been invented to assist with the doing of mathematics. The list includes mathematical tables (stored on clay, papyrus, vellum and paper), the abacus and counting board, the slide rule, mechanical adding machines, and basic four-function electronic calculators. Some students will recall using a slide rule themselves (or seeing others working with them); others may remember using logarithm tables at school or work; still others may have had no exposure to either of them. Mathematical devices and calculating aids come and go.
In this course you will be using an electronic device known as a graphics calculator. It is capable not only of carrying out calculations but also of drawing graphs and other diagrams, of processing large amounts of statistical data and of carrying out pre-programmed sequences of instructions. There is a great deal of history in your calculator. Hundreds of years of mathematical activity and past thoughts of many people in different cultures have gone into producing and refining the ideas that are coded within this device. And all those human resources are available to you.