HP Marketing and User Manuals



#16

The classic HP user manuals and ads are a pleasure to read. The HP-97 manual starts off with, "Congratulations! With your purchase of the HP-97 Programmable Printing Calculator, you have acquired a truly versatile and unique calculating instrument. Using the Hewlett-Packard RPN logic system that slices with ease through the most difficult equations, the HP-97 is without parallel." And on it goes. The manual winds up, "With the HP-97 the problems of the world can be solved!"

Such rich imagery and bombast! It was pretty florid even for its time, and in the present day, you just have to laugh sometimes. Nobody would take that kind of stuff seriously today (I wonder if the writers were taking it 100% seriously even back then.) They make it sound like, given enough batteries and thermal paper, you could singlehandedly design the Space Shuttle or rescue the economy of a small nation. And the graphics are equally over the top. It seems like every manual has a montage of a serious-looking man in front of a background of gears, line charts, and mysterious scientific equipment.

I wonder what kind of people HP hired to do these manuals? They must have been professional writers and marketers. They must also have been given quite a free hand by the management. I'm picturing a group of ex-hippies who write some copy, then break for a quick joint in the parking lot and another chapter of Jerry Pournelle's latest novel. Does anyone have any background on how the manuals and ads were produced?


#17

Good point Grant. I think the optimism in those manuals went with the times. We had stood on the moon just four years before. Skylab was two years ago, Apolo-Soyuz was a reality and the space shuttle was gearing up. The war was over. Nixon was out. A retired Naval officer who was a moral man and an engineer was elected president that year. IBM had not yet shown us how to make the ultimate computer and Microsoft had yet to give us the perfect operating system. The internet was still a bright possibility and not just a popup-choked, moron-laden porno pipe.
This was a world still leading up to the hp 41, not one that had replaced it. The world still might have turned out right.
BTW: I think most of us hippies read Vonnegut, Ellison, Dick, and Le Guin. Pournelle is a fine writer but more of a techie.


#18

Hello, "db"

A fine post from a long-time reader, and much more philosophical than my own contribution...

A general sense of US optimism in 1976 might also have stemmed from the Bicentennial celebration, and the (albeit short-lived) recovery from the first oil crisis.

Product-wise, perhaps the HP-67/97 was something to crow about, as a big leap forward from the HP-35 and HP-45 of just a few years prior.

-- KS

#19

Quote:
and Microsoft had yet to give us the perfect operating system
and never will, given Bill's philosophy.

My introduction to HP manuals came from my 1986 HP-41cx and, a year or two later, my 71. I always skip the first pages with the congratulations and "put the batteries in and turn it on this way" and "no user-serviceable parts inside," but was very impressed with how they start with the basics and build on them layer upon layer, until you get to the end and feel like you never got to the expected "hard part" even though you now know the machine. I've tried to pattern my own manual-writing after these HP manuals.

E-mail addr: wilsonmineszdslextremezcom (replace the z's with @ and .)

#20

Hi Grant,


Quote:
They make it sound like, given enough batteries and thermal paper, you could singlehandedly design the Space Shuttle or rescue the economy of a small nation

I think you have to remember the times - until the HP-35, all designs for planes, trains, bridges, etc, was done with slide rules. To someone used to calculating with a sliderule, the HP-67 must have seemed to be a miracle. I'm not sure what the increase in calculating power was, but it must have been 10's if not 100's of magnitude of power.

No wonder the manuals were so enthusiastic.

I think the writers of the manuals took it very seriously - just as I did when I read the manual to my first HP calculator.

Bill


#21

"I think you have to remember the times - until the HP-35, all designs for planes, trains, bridges, etc, was done with slide rules. To someone used to calculating with a sliderule, the HP-67 must have seemed to be a miracle. I'm not sure what the increase in calculating power was, but it must have been 10's if not 100's of magnitude of power."

Not quite true.

Yes, indeed, the HP35 and successors were wonderful machines, and definitely a great advance over the slide rule for math you could hold in your hand, but...

There was substantial computer power available long before that. I was running FORTRAN on an IBM 1620 in 1963, and 10 years later (about the same time that the '35 appeared), the IBM 360/370 computers provided an awful lot of computational capability. I'd argue that these latter machines exceeded an HP35 by a far greater factor than a '35 exceeded a slide rule, and I'm sure that Boeing et al. owned more than a few of them!


#22

Quote:
"I think you have to remember the times - until the HP-35, all designs for planes, trains, bridges, etc, was done with slide rules. To someone used to calculating with a sliderule, the HP-67 must have seemed to be a miracle. I'm not sure what the increase in calculating power was, but it must have been 10's if not 100's of magnitude of power."

Not quite true.


NOT AT ALL TRUE. At Honeywell engineers had access to the Honeywell Computer Network (HCN), a time-share terminal network using a DDP-516 computer system based in Minneapolis but accessible anywhere over landlines anywhere with an appropriate terminal. There was a large library of application programs. The extended BASIC available with the network included double precision calculations and array processing commands. There was virtually unlimitd memory available for storage of files. The terminal provided tabular printouts on 8-1/2 inch wide paper. The major limitation was the requirement to go to a terminal -- I couldn't convince Honeywell to provide me wth a terminal at my desk!


#23

Quote:
NOT AT ALL TRUE. At Honeywell engineers had access to the Honeywell Computer Network (HCN), a time-share terminal network using a DDP-516 computer system based in Minneapolis but accessible anywhere over landlines anywhere with an appropriate terminal. There was a large library of application programs. The extended BASIC available with the network included double precision calculations and array processing commands. There was virtually unlimitd memory available for storage of files. The terminal provided tabular printouts on 8-1/2 inch wide paper. The major limitation was the requirement to go to a terminal -- I couldn't convince Honeywell to provide me wth a terminal at my desk!

It's funny you all seem to fight: "mine was bigger than yours..." :-)

Obviously, IBMs, DEC's PDPs and all other computer manufacturer's offerings were definitely more powerful than HP calcs but at what price and size and weight?

Taking your calculation power from lab to lab, from home to the office with no effort more than giving it some room in you briefcase was definitely incredible.

I guess that is the main difference. And honestly, I love slide rules for what they represent and am a fond collector of Picketts, Aristo and others, but doing additions through LOGs on a Graphoplex or whatever other brand is a pain in the *ss compared to my first HP21 +-x/.

No flame or polemics intended in this post.

Have a good day


#24

[quote]

It's funny you all seem to fight: "mine was bigger than yours..." :-)

[quote]

Size matters. My first digital computer program was written for a RemRand 1103 at the University of Minnesota back in 1960. The computer filled a building.

Convenience matters. To run my program on the 1103 I had to submit a paper tape and got a paper tape as the output. I then had to take the paper tape to a flexowriter to get a printout. Later when I did some FORTRAN on a Sigma 5 I had to submit my program on IBM cards. In my mind the only good thing about IBM cards was that I could use the discarded boxes to organize my personal effects. I much preferred the HCN. I admit that some of the hotshot programmers looked down their noses at anyone who didn't program in FORTRAN.

Computational power matters particularly if one is doing what we used to call "number crunching". For those of us who had access to capabilities like the HCN the capabilities of the early pocket programmables were disappointing. The loss in capability was too great to justify the loss in power. And, progrsmming was a pain in the butt. Who really wants to wrestle with an I register if there is any other alternative?

I admit that the pocket calculators were a big step up from slide rules. I loved my K&E Log log Duplex Decitrig that got me through engineering school. It's biggest deficiency wasn't that it had limited resolution but rather that I couldn't concatenate addition and subtraction with multiplication and division. Slide rule books and courses discussed the use of the log scale for addition and subtraction but I never knew a slide rule user who really did that sort of silliness. Once the hand-held "four-bangers" came out the slide rule manufacturers recognized the deficiency. One "solution" was the combination of a slide rule with an Addiator on the back as with the Faber-Castell 67/22R in my collection. Again, I never knew anyone who really used that feature. Of course, the "four-bangers" couldn't do trig and exponentials like my K&E could. Yes, I know, that a slide rule userr can conceivably do exponentials using the log scale, but again, I never knew anyone who really did that. Until the HP-35 came along we used our handy-dandy book of mathematcal tables for that.

#25

Okay, Good point on that there were a lot of mainframe computers around and that a lot of major design work did take place on them.

But I would like to point out that a lot of design (maybe preliminary) takes place by the individual engineer away from the mainframe computers. I really doubt if very many design engineers of the day took home their mainframe computers or even had remote access to them from their home. The design engineers I know do not only work at the office but continually mull over design problems at all hours. The ability to have the calculator power "at the ready" is incredible.

I'd still bet a lot of prelimenary design (back of envelop) design was done by the individual designer without the use of the large mainframe computers of the day.

Bill

#26

Grant --

An interesting-to-read post!

The florid language and verbal license from the HP-67/97 manual of 1976 may have been just a phase.

The HP-35 manual from 1972 was fairly austere and definitely no-nonsense.

The HP-41C manual from 1979 was detailed and also quite professional, with some mild artistic license in the form of photographs at the beginning of chapters that related to the topic. (These were not carried over to the redesigned and non-spiralbound HP-41CX manuals of 1983.)

The HP-34C manual from 1979 was perhaps the finest calculator manual H-P ever produced, in terms of depth of content to the capability of the calculator. Thick, spiral-bound pages lithographed in three colors, too!

The Voyager-series manuals from 1981-82 were also highly impressive, particularly those for the HP-11C, HP-12C, and HP-15C. Supplementary books of equal quality were available, and the Owner's Handbooks were expertly translated into German, French, and Portugese.

Here's one of my archived posts:

http://www.hpmuseum.org/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/hpmuseum/archv016.cgi?read=100763#100763

-- KS


#27

Quote:
The HP-41C manual from 1979 was detailed and also quite professional, with some mild artistic license in the form of photographs at the beginning of chapters that related to the topic. (These were not carried over to the redesigned and non-spiralbound HP-41CX manuals of 1983.)
Frankly, when I got my first 41C, I had to wait for page 57 to understand that functions not printed on the keyboard were accessible through the XEQ key...

At this time, back in 1979, it didn't seem that obvious and I would have appreciated they mention it earlier in the manual.

But definitely, I admit that quality of manuals was here.


#28

Interesting replies, all. I do not mean to knock the HP manuals. Readability and a little entertainment value go a long way in technical papers and documents.

I also like the examples. If they want to show you how to add two vectors, it's never "Suppose you need to determine the resultant force from a pair of ropes supporting a weight...", it's "You are the navigator on Starship X-456, and you need to gimbal your twin ion thrusters so as to vector your ship towards Alpha Centauri..."

#29

The HP-35 manual may have been austere and no-nonsense for the most part, but I always liked the introduction, including "We thought you'd like to have something only fictional heroes like James Bond, Walter Mitty or Dick Tracy are supposed to own."

#30

I think what you're not appreciating, and what a few posters have pointed out, is that the 97, and the 67 and 65 (and later the 41), were very revolutionary in very significant ways. It's true that more powerful computers existed, and had for several years, but until the likes of the 65/67/97 came about, there was no wide-spread personal access to that power. Although these calculators were expensive, they still represented an order of magnitude price reduction in computing power compared to the mini-computers or even the desk-top programmable calculators of the day, and they were highly portable where none of the alternatives were. The price was affordable to most engineers, so for the first time you could have a personal mini-computer, something that had never been true before. The advent of the personal calculator is an extension, and a significant one, of the whole development of electronic, or even mechanical, computation that took place during the latter half of the 20th century. For hundreds of centuries before, the development of sophisticated mathematics was bogged down by the limitations of hand-computation or minimally aided hand-computation. The hand-held programmable calculator was a liberation a long time coming. It was not at all insignificant.


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