A Simple RPN Calculator with Deque

Learn to build a simple RPN calculator with deque.

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An RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) calculator is a stack-based calculator that uses postfix notation, where the operator follows the operands. It's commonly used in printing calculators and, notably, the HP 12C, the most popular electronic calculator of all time.

After becoming familiar with its operational modalityThis refers to the specific mode or method by which a system, process, or organization operates or functions to achieve its goals. many people prefer an RPN calculator. (I've been using the HP 12C and 16C since they were first introduced in the early 1980s.) For example, using conventional algebraic notation, to add 11 and 22 we would type 1+21 + 2. Using RPN, we would type 12+1\:2\: +. The operator comes after the operands.

Using an algebraic calculator, we would need to press an == key to indicate that we want a result. With an RPN calculator this is unnecessary because the operator processes immediately, serving a double purpose. On the other hand, an RPN calculator often requires an "Enter" keypress to push an operand onto the stack.

We can easily implement an RPN calculator using a stack-based data structure. For example, consider an RPN calculator with a four-position stack:

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