Elektronika B3-34

Elektronika B3-34

Soviet Calculator - Riddle

Russian version

By Sergei Frolov. Thanks to Kenton Green for help with correction English grammar of this page.

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This story is also suitable for following calculators: B3-34, B3-54, MK-52, MK-54, MK-56, MK-61.

To Soviet users, it is likely well-known how to calculate on this calculator. Nevertheless, soon there will come a time when this calculalator will only be seen in calculator museums or with collectors.

If you do not know how to calculate on this calculator, visit page "How to calculate on B3-34".

Everything that you find on this page refers to the B3-34. All the material also applies to the similar models MK-54 and MK-56, and with some restrictions, to MK-61 and MK-52.

I want first to bring it to your attention that in the final models, there were some changes in the indicator [display]. Initially, the display was 12 digits with 12 decimal places. The left-most digit was used to indicate negative numbers, and the right-most three [for exponent?]. A similar display was used in the B3-35, B3-36 and MK-66. However, somewhere after 1985 there were changes made in the display: the left-most digit now contains only the "minus" sign segment, and the third digit from the right does not have the bottom segments. The three top segments of this digit on the B3-35, B3-36 and MK-66 indicate the presence of numbers in the memory registers.
Because of such changes, some undocumented features of the display are not visible. An image of this "2nd generation" display with all segments lit is shown below.

Most of the material placed here is taken from magazines that were popular in the USSR, "Science and Life" (shown at right) and "Engineering for Youth) (at left). The material was [collected?] into a manual by M. Pukhov and Ju. Pukhachev. A huge thanks to them!

Since 1983 ("Science and Life") and 1995 ("Engineering for Youth") articles about the calculator B3-34 were published.

"The True Truth" by Mikhail Pukhov (from magazine "Technics for Youth"However, in my opinion the enormous popularity of programmable calculators began in 1985, when Mikhail Pukhov initially authored a fantastic story -- the game "The True Truth", followed by a no-less interesting "Way to Earth". If someone is willing to clean up my English translation of the stories, I will place them on a web page.

Most remarkable is that to generate special effects on the calculator ("the ship on the bright side of the moon"), undocumented features were used:

Clear X register Divide function (Error display message) Exponential key Function key Common Exponential key Sign shange key Index functions key Minus key (Error display message) Store Memory Key (with n - register number)

On the indicator is seen:

("the ship on the bright side of the moon": E is earth, 0 is moon, - is ship).

If you then continue by entering:

Clear X register Divide function (Error display message) Exponential key Exponential key Exponential key (Error display message)

("ship on the dark side of the moon")

Aren't these remarkable graphics on the display, whether true or not?

Now enter this:

(Error display message) Exponential key

The number displayed has an interesting property: if you multiply it by a number smaller than one you get zero, and by any other number, you get that number!

It is possible to get the letter :

Clear X register Square root key (Error display message) Exponential key "Enter to stack" key .

If you store this letter in register 0, and then use the command "index recall memory 0" , you will see the number . By repeating this command, you get successively: , , .

If you enter the command with these numbers in the display, you will get them in exponential form.

Furthermore, it is possible to apply these commands to them: or Exponential key , than .

Most likely, the developers of this calculator forgot to place microcode blocking operation after an error message had occured.

By the way, different errors result in different internal conditions, even though they are displayed on the display the same. For example, the overflow error caused by squaring a number larger than 1e50 differs from a 'divide by zero' error. The first error can be stored in a memory register, while the second cannot.


Continued on the next page.

Last update: 2003-03-10