The rapid pace of technological advances has become something of a cliche in recent years. Sometimes, it helps to look at one of the few exceptions to appreciate just how sweeping these changes are. The Atlantic profiles the TI-83 — graphing calculator of choice for high schoolers everywhere — which has scarcely changed at all in its 15-year history:
Come with me back to teenagedom in 1999. You listened to Offspring (or the Backstreet Boys) on CDs inside a Discman. You made calls on a landline, which you probably just called “the phone.” It’s possible you had a beeper. You dialed up to the Internet on a desktop computer. The Playstation was the best game system. And your calculator of choice was the TI-83 Plus.Twelve years later, so much has changed. Beepers are gone, but cell phones are de rigueur. A tiny iPod Nano holds 180 albums of music. Broadband is everywhere and you might use a tablet or a laptop to surf the web. Videogames have gone from barely 3D to nearly photorealistic.In fact, every gadget a teenager is likely to handle has changed. Except one: the graphing calculator. That TI-83 Plus? It’s the best-selling calculator on Amazon.com.
The TI-83 is a technological dinosaur and an aesthetic monstrosity nearly twice as big as most cell phones. The contrast between the calculator and the iPad could not be starker.