The TI-83 Taboo

The Texas Instruments TI-83 scientific graphing calculator is an object of both affection and hatred for me. That was the calculator to have, back in high school. Especially the clear one (the TI-83 Plus silver edition) because it looked cool. Playing games during class was the hip thing to do: my favorite was dodgeball and whatever the icicle one was called. And, of course, Tetris.

Once college and finance classes came around, I found myself having to deal with other calculators. Finance professors like when students use financial calculators, and their reasoning for not allowing the TI-83 is because students can easily program them to assist in cheating. So students like me, who had no intentions whatsoever of even dreaming of programming the calculator to cheat, nor did I know how, were punished for the tiny number of people who actually did this. And if someone is smart enough to program a calculator, they probably don’t need it to cheat. The people who cheat most likely got the programs from the internet. The people who actually knew what they were doing in finance classes had no reason to cheat, and I can’t think of many ways you could cheat any finance calculations anyway.

It only bothered me a little that teachers were taking this precaution, until I realized how visual I am. Imagine typing a long research paper. Let’s pretend you can only see one word at a time, then it goes away once you start typing another word. No matter how sure you are of your good typing skills and vision, you still have the thought in the back of your mind that you could have made a mistake. How annoying would it be to have to write a paper like that? Well, that is how I feel when I use calculators. I am so obsessed with accuracy and seeing exactly what I input. Only after being sure of what I have entered can I trust the output. And with some functions such as present value and future value of money, you need to input multiple things, like years or months, payments, interest rates, etc. You’re telling me I am supposed to enter in a long array of separate things and just hope the computed result is right, without seeing exactly what went into it??

Screw the teachers. With the TI-83, the keys are big and spread out and the screen is huge. The screen holds so many numbers. No need for memory functions. No need to remember what you pressed last and hope it is right. Everything is on the screen for you. Everything you typed, easy to read. You can trust your answer when you see everything you put into the calculator. I have missed test problems before because of  a stupid calculator. One of the inputs, which is somewhere hidden in the calculator’s memory, was wrong, and if I could see it, I would probably have corrected the error. In my mind, it is not fair to just rely on something so loosely to come up with such important answers. And double checking is not exactly the easiest thing in the world in finance. In fact, sometimes you just have to hope you did it right the first time. That’s so stupid. In real life, computers do this work and, in the rare instances someone does use a calculator, more power to them if it is a TI-83 programmed to cheat, or to speed things up and come up with the right answer.

With the thought of actually missing test or homework problems because of not being able to see everything I put into a freaking calculator, and blindly relying on less than optimal technology only because of a few other idiots who cheated, I started losing my mind. In such an art, with the need for accuracy so imperative, it is not fair to use a dumb financial calculator. Naturally, I started sneaking in my TI-83. Teachers would come around and check our calculators, and I would put out my financial calculator for them to see. When they passed by, I would reach under my desk and pull out a hidden TI-83, the love of my life. I essentially cheated, even though I only used the calculator for its intended purpose. It felt even better because it was so wrong. But I also was making a stand for what was fair in my mind. I did get caught a couple times, but played the innocent, unaware card, which is so easy in classes with stupid business majors who are horribly inattentive.

Yes, because of a select few who cheated with their TI-83 calculators, I became a criminal every time I did financial calculations. It’s ridiculous that one of the most useful calculators in the world, especially advantageous to finance, cannot be used in any freaking finance class. I like to consider myself a patriot, though. I will defend my inalienable right to use a TI-83 and to be sure of the computed solution. Keep your heads up, fellow TI-83 supporters.