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Every bit adds up

Professor's calculator collection numbers 461

Monday, September 8, 2003

By Karessa E. Weir
For the Citizen Patriot

When Mark Bollman was a boy, he became fascinated by the power of a brand-new technology. Today, that fascination has become something of an obsession.

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Bollman, professor of math at Albion College, is the proud owner of a collection of nearly 500 calculators.

"Part of it is that I was a kid in the mid '70s when calculators were just coming on the market. I was fascinated by what they could do," Bollman said. "It is really calculators that got me into my profession as a math professor."

His collection began with a 1981 Texas Instruments 58C which took him through his last year in high school, through college and the masters' program at Central Michigan University, and finally through his first two years of teaching.

"I retired it when it wore out the second rechargeable battery cell, and I found out they weren't making them any more," Bollman said.

Bollman, 39, surfs Internet auctions to find some of the original models that first appeared in the 1970s. Then, the instruments made only simple calculations and cost between $80 and $100. Now, he finds them "reasonably cheap" on eBay.

He also trades with a collector in Germany, acquiring some calculators that are made and sold in Europe.

The 461 different models in his collection include everything from a Mickey Math calculator to calculators that figure the equations needed to drill wells or add chemicals to a swimming pool.

And many of the calculators that grace his office on the third floor of Palenske Hall are more than just for show. His students regularly use graphing calculators in his college math classes.

He also teaches math for elementary school teachers, where he prepares them for the fairly complicated uses of educational calculators.

"It is useful for them to practice with them and get acclimated with them before they have to use them in class," Bollman said.

© 2003 Jackson Citizen Patriot. Used with permission

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