Where do all the manuals go?


I know this is a bit of a rhetorical question but it never ceases to amaze me how high the proportion of calculators sold without any manuals is against those sold with manuals on the second-hand market.

I gather that there are lots of 21S out there without manuals and that was how they were supplied but for surely all other machines, they came with manuals, and in typical HP style, comprehensive manuals too with supplements and other information.

I find it hard to believe that people simply throw the manuals in the bin or are so slack with things that they just get "lost". Losing a book as actually quite difficult.

Let's not forget as well that many of these manuals date from the time when people really did RTFM and use them for reference.

So how is it that thousands and thousands and thousands of HP manuals have simply disappeared over the years?

Maybe there is a magical planet out there where all the HP manuals gradually float off to?



Mark, I suspect that, believe it or not, this is due to HP's legendary quality. You buy an HP calculator as a student at the university. Then you graduate, get married, get a job, move a few times, then come the kids, you get other jobs, etc. You keep the calc because it still works (on the same set of batteries!), but the manual is misplaced over the years and is eventually offered at your parents yard sale, and doesn't sell so your parents trash it. That's probably what happened to all my old Beatles albums that I wish I had today.

On the other hand, I've seen many auctions where the manual is not included (because the seller can't find it), but after the item sells the seller finds the manual while poring through old boxes and sends it to the buyer. That happened to me once and I was very greatful.


Not just for calculators, either. Almost all used test equipment is sold without manuals. And often without other accessories that the equipment came with.

When I've looked for used HP 428A or HP 428B clip-on milliammeters, they almost always come without the probe, despite the fact that the probe ONLY works with the 428, is of no use with anything else, and that there's usually no reason to ever disconnect it.

The 428A/B was a great instrument, and it's a shame that they discontinued it since I've never found anything better to replace it, but don't buy one without the probe!


Well, on Ebay, some people put the manuals up in a separate auction to the calculator - and I must admit that annoys me quite a lot! Actually, I think that fairly recently, I saw one where the seller had split it into multiple auctions - calculator, psu, case and maybe battery cover as well! I believe he got bids on each item as well.

I am pleased to hear of Don's experience though when the seller found the manual later on and sent it to the buyer. That is good.



Yeah, I think it was a 17bii on Ebay a couple of years ago. She found the manual after I won the auction and before she shipped, so she included it in the box. That was great, and of course I gave her super-good feedback.


Yup, HP discontinued it and Agilent doesn't make it. But I'm in the middle of a job search and a little Bay area company named Applied Physics Systems was advertising for a tech writer. I jogged to their Web site and saw something very familiar, a milliammeter probe that looked positively 1960s attached to a digital metering box dubbed the 428D. HP made the 428A and B with this same probe, which I discovered contains a device with my all-time favorite name: a flux-gate magnetometer. It looks like Applied Physics has the tooling or the same supplier for that probe and has updated the instrumentation electronics for it. Still waiting to hear from the company about the job application. http://www.appliedphysics.com/milliammeters.html


Cool, thanks for bringing that to my attention! The only thing wrong with it as compared to the 428B is that it doesn't have a proper meter, only a seven-segment display. Oh well, you can't have everything.


...my all-time favorite name: a flux-gate magnetometer...

It's what makes time travel possible ;-)


No, for time travel you need a Welgunzer!


It's not just HP calculator manuals that get lost in that alternate universe with the magical planet, all calculator manuals end up there apparently. That's what prompted me to start scanning what I had and what many other people have contributed and put them together on my website.

So let me unabashedly take this opportunity to ask for more pre-LCD, non-HP, non-TI calculators manual contributions for scanning.



I, too, find that manuals are typically not available when buying a used calculator. It is even worse in the slide rule world, but there is a reason for that. In the olden days no self-respecting engineering student would be caught looking at a slide rule manual.


The GI bill provided us EE's with a Kk77E log-log duplex decitrig rule
known as the fog -fog gooflex guessitrig. In class with ME students we were finished with the tests while the ME's were staring at their rules with a glazed expression.I made good use of the Ohmite and Centralab cardboard slide rules, sufficient accuracy and no decimal point worries. Sam 80


My recollection at the University of Minnesota was that in 1946 every engineering student on the GI bill got a K&E Log Log Duplex Decitrig (or Trig) or an equivalent Pickett. There weren't enough to satisfy all those who qualified so some were back-ordered and not delivered in 1947. I was not a GI and the bookstores simply wouldn't sell one of the high end slide rules to me. In 1947 I belatedly realized that I might be able to get a K&E at the store in downtown Minneapolis. They didn't have one but referred me to the St. Paul store. After a two hour ride on the streetcar I had my log log duplex decitrig in hand. I told the other non-GI students and they quickly cleaned out the St. Paul store.

There was a reason for all of this. The bookstores were allowed to add a substantial processing fee to the GI Bill orders so they supplied everything the law would allow and more. One arts college friend got five or six colors of ink the first quarter. Every GI Bill student automatically got more railroad manila for scratch paper than could possibly be used. They gave what they didn't need to non GI Bill students.

That sort of excess was one of the reasons that the Korean GI Bill operated differently. The student could use the monthly compensation however he saw fit -- there were no vouchers for books and supplies.



Much to my delight when I was 18 or 20 and was always designing and building stereo and amateur radio projects, I inherited a K&E Log Log Duplex Trig, model N4080-3 with beautiful leather case from my grandfather, and used it all the time until I needed something programmable and initially got a TI-58c. I know he didn't get the K&E as a GI though because he was just slightly too old to be drafted in WWII and he became an accountant anyway. It says "Copyright 1947" on it, but it has a couple of vertical numbers on the left end, and I'm wondering if one of them is a serial number, and if that could be matched to a manufacturing date. On the trig side the slide has the number 806858. The body has the number 858 on it. And yes, I still have the manual. I still have manuals to virtually everything I've ever bought, even after the products went in the trash.

Edited: 24 July 2009, 12:26 a.m.


If somebody has interest and money :-)

Item number: 370220890450 (ebay)

Edited: 24 July 2009, 7:15 a.m.



If somebody has interest and money :-)

Item number: 370220890450 (ebay)

The seller forgot to tell buyers that an HP 97 (mint, NIB) is included with the $379 magazine :-)

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