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Keep the HP spirit alive!

Wednesday 22nd of December 2004

When looking back on the year that has passed there are two major aspects that for me, personally, stand out from the rest.

First of all this is the year when I have given up hope altogether about Hewlett Packard's calculator division. After endless email conversations with people at different levels in the HP organisation it is to me perfectly clear that HP will never do anything whatsoever (profit or non-profit) to serve its RPN user community - a user community that nonetheless is blindly loyal to the HP spirit of old days.

Just to name a few of the things I am thinking of -
  • HP will never release the HP-42S ROM to the public domain. Neither in binary format nor as commented source code.
  • HP will never put the HP-42S back into production again (so why being so strict on retaining the copyright in the first place!?)
  • HP will never start to include Hrastprogrammer's HP-42X with every sold HP-49G+ (that might however been good a way to boost sales figures killed by the rumours about low keyboard quality - remember high keyboard quality was once something HP was famous for!)
  • HP will never include Emu42 and the HP-42S ROM in the factory setup of their Pocket PC:s (why not include the HP-17BII and the HP-27S ROM at the same time and no-one would ever ask for another calculator program installed on their PDA:s...).
The fundamental laws of business hasn't changed so much in the 21st century that it is now possible to ignore your customers - rather the opposite. And most ironically at the same time as the HP calculator business is fading away the HP spirit lives on stronger than ever - outside HP...

Because (and this is the flip side of the same coin) there are values buried deep in the HP spirit strong enough to bring together developers and users from all over the world willing to take the HP-42S into the future. Here the commitment to high quality, accuracy and reliability unites and this is what the HP spirit in essence stands for. It is indeed much more than just being nostalgic about an old calculator considered "the best ever made", it is about the true belief that persistently paying attention to the triplet of quality, accuracy and reliability will eventually push the very limits for our capabilities forward. Quality lives on, cheap solutions are only for the moment.

The last year more things has happened on the HP-42S horizon than, I would say, the five years previous to that.
  • Emu42 by Christoph Giesselink was released after a successful campaign (again thanks to all contributors!) and now makes the HP-42S available in emulated format both on Windows and Pocket PC:s. I would say that Emu42 is an essential piece of software for any RPN enthusiast.
  • Thomas Okken announced his work on Free42 and has shown an impressive pace with new releases every week. There is a long way to go before full compatibility can be achieved (LOAD / SAVE, decimal arithmetic, internal representation etc.) but I am not doubtful that all this will once see the light of day. Most imporantly Free42 is already today a working HP-42S calculator for both the Palm Pilot and Linux platforms and as it is built as a reverse engineering of the HP-42S there are no copyright issues.
  • HP-42X by Hrastprogrammer was ported also to the HP-49G+ thereby becoming the fastest handheld device for running HP-42S programs with a calculator keyboard.
  • Luiz C. Vieira produced some very good looking TTF fonts for both the internal LCD display and for the IR printer.
  • Several contributions to the Program Library where made by Paul Dale, Christoph Giesselink, Richard Garner and Ton van de Burgt (thanks!). I would also recommend trying to get hold of the latest issue of the HPCC Datafile which contains a very enjoyable article by  Valentin Albillo - "Long live the HP-42S!" - with an elegant program listing for a solver for the "Eight Queen" problem, that also displays the solutions graphically).
  • Nelson M Sciuro discovered that a 32K RAM chip could be soldered to the place holder for additional ROM and provide continues memory for testing small Saturn Assembly programs. Much more convenient than entering them into unused memory of the RPN program area.
This is keeping the HP spirit alive!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Erik Ehrling (Sweden)