What's HP Equivalent Today?


For years, Hewlett-Packard calculators were my benchmark for quality in technical consumer electronics. At the time I bought an HP-65 to replace my HP-45, I was reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and the two shaped my views on quality for years to come.

These days, I use a notebook computer much more than a calculator, and my IBM Thinkpad pretty much occupies the space in my mind that HP calcs used to. I'm on my second Thinkpad in two years - a T22, having passed my old 600e on to my better half - and while it's not as durable as the Classic calcs (I don't think the keyboard or display will last as long, for example) it seems to exemplify the same good design principles and quality.

Are there other products or brands that others here feel are modern-day equivalents to the old HP calcs for either quality or innovation?


--- Les [http://www.lesbell.com.au]


As reference products, I would choose some Compaq (not all), some Sony (design and innovation rather than reliability and user choices), Garmin GPS (excellent support and free firmware upgrades on the Web) some cellular phones (many manufacturers, including Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia), Fluke instruments, Canon Digital Still Cameras such as the S100 and S300...

HP had a recent product that, in some sense, is true to the old calculator line: the Capshare 920 handheld scanner. Some info about it appears in http://www.hp.com/cposupport/prodhome/hpcapshare11626.html.

There are many similarities between the HP Capshare 910/920 and classic HP Calculators (I mean 1972-1986 models):

It costs about U$S 300

It uses AA size rechargeable batteries

It offers an innovative functionality, only available at a desktop before.(scanner with memory for many pages, copier,fax, document assembly)

Is a neat portable device

It has a "gold" key

It has adequate documentation

It is simple to use, but the user needs to learn and think before benefiting from its funtcions; which is a rewarding experience

If somebody picks it up, it is not obvious how it works

It is a well thought product, and since there are no comparable products in the market, it's design is shaped by creativity ("invent") and not by competitivity (The product has a cost and is worth it)

A last similarity: Sadly, despite user loyalty... HP discontinued it. The following is HP web site verbatim:

"HP Capshare 920 Portable E-Copier - HP Capshare 920 Portable E-Copier Sells Out by Popular Demand"

"The HP Capshare 920 e-copier has been discontinued and taken off the Hewlett-Packard current product list as of October 1, 2000. HP may release future products with its patented "Page Processing Technology" embedded."

If the similarities are good enough, my HP Capshare 920 will be worth U$S 1000 on eBay or similar sites by 2010... but I think I would not sell it ever!


Two nominations: Victorinox Swiss Army Knives -- I don't go anywhere without my "camper" model! And my Makita 9.6v cordless reversible drill has been a real workhorse. (But I don't have wide experience with their other products.)


I strongly second the Victorinox Swiss Army knives - at least if they are as well made as they used to be - I've never needed another one since the one I bought about 1974!
(and they don't ever run out of battery power)

HP is still king of the laser printer makers as far as I'm concerned. My LJ II is still going strong on its third or fourth computer, on my home-away-from-home computer. Over the years, I've tried at least three other brands (Corona - anybody remember them?; QMS, and OKI) and always gone back to HP. My current primary printer is an HP 2100, and I have an HP 932 for when I need color and for my "upstairs" PC.

ALL my computers are used with an original IBM PC/AT keyboard - the best ever made for durability, feel, and having the function keys on the left, where they belong (for use with WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS - still the fastest word processor on the planet: I can block and move a batch of text with the function keys before you can reach for your mouse). I own four of these, and I think they will never wear out.



As we seen to talk about quality products, I'd like to mention some of my favourites;-)

Leatherman pocket survival tool. BTW: the company sits in Portland, Oregon, not too far away from Corvallis where the good HP calcs used to come from (sniff..)

Rolex Datejust watch. Mine is twenty years old, and runs as fine as can be. They're still made with the same quality as in the older days. One reason could be that the company doesn't have to care for stockholders too much...

Both of the items above work w/o batteries;-)

I'm writing these lines on my old HP C1405B keyboard from 1992, w/o Win95 keys, of course;-)

Talking of keyboards: My second favourite is the predessor of the C1405B, the 1405A. Somewhat bigger, but extremely good key contacts and keys.

For my spare PC's, I use the good old IBM PS/2 keyboard with key click;-)

(oops, maybe slightly off-topic)




I'm with you on the Leatherman tool; I've had one for the best part of fifteen years, trouble-free, although the leather belt pouch is almost worn through at the base. The *one* thing I wish the Leatherman had, though, is a corkscrew. I mean, living without a decent red wine at meal times can hardly be termed "survival" - it's merely "existence". <g>

Adding to my list: I'd agree with some of the Nokia mobile phone designs, like the 6110 (although I swear that their influence on the design of the HP-49G is a *big* mistake). Also some Sony electronics and the Canon digital cameras, although I've always had a soft spot for my Olympus OM-1 and OM-4 cameras. The OM-1 is a magical little mechanical camera, while the OM-4 has one design flaw: it eats batteries when operated with flash.

Overall, though, I can't think of many products that have the same quality feel as the HP Classic calculators. . .


--- Les [http://www.lesbell.com.au]


> Overall, though, I can't think of many products that 
> have the same quality feel as the HP Classic calculators.

Canon T90, the HP41 of cameras :-) Oops, that's out of the 80's too.


I would put a plug for the TRGPro , Handera 330 line for the PDA world.


today? the new model MSR g type stove looks good. i've used my older model at 19500 ft and the one for this millenium can be adjusted to simmer. there is progress after all. //
i can agree with les bell about olympus cameras. iv'e used my OM2 since the 70's. // how about the P38 can opener? reliable as a brick, light, cheap, and still in production.


Don't forget the great Leica cameras! The old qualities still live on in the range finder M6 with an all mechanical shutter. A lot of money, but worth every penny...



I agree regarding the Leica rangefinder camera. I will also add the Steiner marine binocular.


There are two manufacturer's products that I buy and appreciate for their quality, reliability, and resale value. They are a pleasure to use, and simplify my life/job because now there are two fewer things in this world that I need to worry about (letting me down):

1) HP calculators

2) Toyota vehicles



Doesn't get any better than Krell. www.krellonline.com


Krell is known for making $100 audio equipment that they sell for $2000. A total rip off, IMHO


What audio equipment do you prefer? Please feel free to email me since this is not an audio related board.


I would go with Leatherman, Fluke, Maglite (by Mag Industries), Dupont lighters, and the good old Pentax K1000. Of course just like quality HP calcs, the K1000 is no longer produced.


Hmmm, this is hard. HP always embodied *both* quality and innovation, but you said quality *or* innovation, so:

quality: SureFire flashlights (www.surefire.com), e.g. E2 Executive. Zero Halliburton briefcases. Photon Micro-Light (www.photonlight.com).

innovation: Tivo (www.tivo.com). Rio MP3 players.

But, like so many other commenters I have difficulty thinking of a current production product that embodies *both* quality and innovation.


We all agree on the quality and functionality of our beloved HPs. But there are other things on which we agree.

Like Victorinox (or Leatherman) knives, the Mini-Mag Lite, the Cannon T90, Marantz audio systems, and so on.

About computers, has anybody taken a look at the Omnibook series? Since the first models, which had ROM-based Windows, to the latest series, there is a feel of quality only matched by IBM (remember the PS/2?) They might lack the aura of calculators but are a refined product indeed. And what about the Apple Macintosh? Windows is a bad copy of its operating system.


Well, it's a little off topic so I think I'll resist the tempation to go into the Windows/ Mac OS discussion.

Sticking to the topic at hand I would say that Apple has certainly had some products that are innovative, but are perhaps lacking in the quality arena. The first example is the Newton. More recently (and even more back to the topic at hand) Apple has current products that are again innovative (the original iBook and the new iBook), but again are lacking in the quality area.

As mentioned by another person on this thread, some of the Sony notebook PCs certainly qualify (on both the quality and innovation points), especially the ones with the magnesium cases. In contrast I think that the HP Omnibook PC's have a "me-too" look and feel that reminds me of the TI TravelMate notebooks just before TI got out of the notebook PC business. In what ways do you believe that the current Omnibook notebook PCs shine wrt quality and innovation?


It's interesting that nobody has mentioned the obvious company whose current products embody the dual ideals of quality and innovation, as well as the other two traditional -- though less-than-desirable -- HP attributes of relatively high price and marginal market acceptance.

Three guesses, anyone?


Mercedes-Benz and Lear?

Pfizer (Viagra) and Lilly (Prozac)? (Ooops -- not exactly "marginal" acceptance!)

Boeing Aircraft and General Dynamics?

Smith & Wesson and Glock?

T.McVeigh Delivery and T. Kaczynski Gifts by Mail? (TRULY marginal acceptance!)


LOL! :^D

10 out of 10 for creativity, but minus several hundred for good taste -- for the last one, anyway. :^)
(Personally, I would have gone with H&K instead of Glock or S&W, given the four attributes mentioned. And Boeing can hardly be considered to have "marginal" market penetration.)

Actually, I was thinking of a company whose product line overlaps a segment of HP's own offerings. Care to try again?


Think different.

Apple Computer. I'm not an Apple user myself, but I do admire their sense of style. If nothing else, the Mac Cube is the coolest looking computer since, well, the Next Cube. The Newton was a slick piece of hardware, too, at least in its later versions.


Well, Apple certainly has 3 of the 4, namely innovation, relatively high price and marginal market acceptance. But I don't think Apple has the Quality aspect covered. (IMHO)

Next Computer certainly had all four attributes, but again we are restricting ourselves to current production products only.

The "slightly overlapping with HP" hint is intriguing. My guess is Handspring.


> But I don't think Apple has the Quality aspect covered. (IMHO)

Yes, "Quality" is definitely a subjective, er, quality. ;^) I do believe that the products Apple has produced within the last few years have been solid, but your milage may vary.

It's funny that you should mention NeXT, since I was thinking how similar NeXTStep and OS X feel. But I digress.

> The "slightly overlapping with HP" hint is intriguing. My guess is Handspring.

Handspring is a good guess. They certainly embody several of the listed attributes, but the "innovative" part is questionable. Yes, I know that the folks who started Handspring also started Palm Computing (care to guess where they worked before that?), but their current line is, nevertheless, somewhat derivitive. In some ways, it's a shame that they are no longer in control of their creation (Palm OS). Some of the features of the Handspring units are really cool, and I'd love to see what they could do with it if they had full control. Oh well.

The only quibble I have is that their units don't feel as nice in your hand as a Palm V or m505. They're kind of light, oddly balanced, and toy-like. I'm always afraid I'm going to break the things.


> Think different.

> Apple Computer.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! :^)


Well, as I said earlier I think that Apple has certainly (at times) done a good job on 3 of the 4 points, namely innovation, relatively high price and marginal market acceptance.

Quality (being the more subject term) is at times lacking. (IMHO) I'll cite a few examples to illustrate.
-key caps on the original iBook
-touchpad on iBook and Powerbook
-OS lags Windows

Key caps:
Often I can gauge a product's robustness by visiting the local computer store and examining the demo models. Those chintzey plastic key caps on the iBook are often smashed, twisted, fallen off and missing. I've seen the same thing on WinTel laptops but nowhere near the same level. QED.

OK this is a really sore point with me bcus Apple pioneered the introduction of the touchpad (on the powerbook). After an initial adjustment I came to love the touchpad and I still think it's the best pointing device there is. But, it must be properly set up. I have encountered many people who claim to hate it and when I show them how to set it up properly they love it too. They key is that the movement and acceleration controls need to be set so that you can easily move the cursor from one corner of the screen to the diagonally opposite corner in *one* (fast) movement. No picking up your finger and swipping multiple times. When you can traverse the entire screen in one movement you can forget about the pad and just look at the point on the screen to where you want to move the pointer. The acceleration allows you rock your finger back and forth to do fine positioning. And it works for any sized finger.

Now, the trouble with the iBook and Powerbook touchpads is that the control panel doesn't have an acceleration setting. Therefore there is no way to get accurate, effortless, smooth positioning of the pointer. I've tried and it just doesn't work. I've watched others using these machines and it's amazing how much time they waste lifting their finger and using multiple swipes just to get the pointer positioned where they want it. It's very frustrating.

(To be fair, some WinTel laptops don't provide the proper controls either.)

-OS lags Windows
(OK, here goes the big one):
I think that the MAC OS (and I mean the core GUI functions) lags behind Windows.

To be fair, I have NOT yet seen and played with MAX OS X. (Although I am overwhelmed by a shortage of strong recommendations too.) So I'm talking about everything up thru MAC OS v9.

And what I observe is that using (navigating) on a MAC is much, much harder than on Windows. Part of it has to do with that darned mouse (see touchpad note above). From the very first time I touched a MAC GUI (in 1983, on a Lisa), after about 30 minutes I wanted to take that darn mouse and throw it against the wall. The reason is that *everything* must be done with the mouse. When doing reptitive tasks (which is what you tend to do with a computer) that's fine the first few times, but after a few hundred times I long for a quicker, faster way. The MAC GUI does not allow this. Now this I find strange bcus Apple did the studies on what makes a good UI and published the results as the Apple User Interface Guidelines. And in there it says that different users learn how to do things differently, so a good UI provides *multiple* ways to do the same operation. For example maybe you can select a menu option, click a toolbar button or use a mouse gesture. Now, IMHO Windows provides that type of support in spades, whereas MAC OS does not. For example, just the [simple] addition of another button on the mouse allows for an *class* of ways to do something - i.e. you right click on some object and see what set of options or commands can be applied to that object. Windows also provides hot keys for the most frequently performed operations.

So, again I watch people using the two types of systems and I see MAC users continually taking longer to do the same task as a Windows user. And I'm not even talking about a power Windows user that rarely even needs to touch the mouse once they get going.

People are quick to beat up on Microsoft, esp. about Windows, but you must admit Microsoft has kept advancing [innovating] Windows' core functionality, while Apple's seemed to have remained mostly constant.

I'm curious to see what Apple has done in MAC OS X. John mentioned that MAX OS X and NeXTStep feel somewhat similar, so maybe Apple was just focusing all their efforts on MAC OS X. Certainly NeXTStep incoporated many useful extensions beyond the original MAC OS.

Also, I've seen a few comments lately that Linux or BeOS are better than both Apple and Microsoft and again I could offer hard analysis that shows that's not true.

In terms of marginal market acceptance, remember this:
Apple has 1.5% of the computer business and for that is often cited as an also-ran. Yet, BMW and Mercedes (together) have less than 1.5% of the US auto market; yet they are both precevied as substantial players in the auto industry. So, we shouldn't be too hard on Apple, afterall, being known as the BMW and Mercedes of the computer industry would be quite a compliment.


*shrug* Whatever.

If your last experience was in 1983, you may want to take another look, though -- the Lisa was a *very* different beast. And those funny little characters at the end of most menu options are keyboard shortcuts. FWIW.

BTW, I just heard that Palm, Inc. bought Be, Inc. Odd, that.


No, 1983 was not my last use of a MAC. I have access to a MAC Quadra and an iBook at work, and a friend has an iMac. I just don't find those machines nearly as productive as a WinTel PC. Yes, I know that the MAC has *some* keyboard shortcuts with some applications, but I was also referring to the core keyboard shortcuts that are part of the OS itself. As far as I know, MAC OS provides none of those. e.g. combinations for switching from one open app to another, minimizing a window, switching to another document within an MDI app and so on.

Hmmm, Palm and Be, that *is* an interesting combination. I wonder what they are up to?


I was very interested to read your remarks on Windows vs. Mac OS. To me the whole issue of whether Microsoft is a monopoly comes down to one question: why hasn't Apple ported Mac OS to the PC? I say this is the central question because if the acceptance of Windows makes Microsoft a monopoly, then one has to ask where are the products that could compete with Windows, and Mac OS would appear to be the one that could beat Windows. (I don't mean to ignore Linux, but it just isn't supported in the contractual sense as are strictly commercial products like Windows.)

So having stated the (IMHO) central question, I now give the answer: Apple hasn't put Mac OS on the PC because it is hard. Very hard. Apple has always had the luxury of knowing exactly what range of machines Mac OS will have to run on. I understand there is a company in Austin building Mac compatibles but they are under license to Apple. What has made Windows successful is that it runs on almost any combination of hardware you throw together. Microsoft set out to do a very hard thing and they succeeded.


Ellis, sorry, but I can't let that one pass.

No Microsoft operating system "runs on almost any combination of hardware you throw together". In fact, they are no different to the Apple OSes in that respect. Ironically, the only one of the three you mentioned that comes even close to being hardware-neutral is linux.

Microsoft publishes a hardware specification for each of its target platforms (e.g. http://www.microsoft.com/winlogo/hardware/hwoverview.asp). Hardware makers ignore these at their peril. The Windows architecture does allow the interposition of software shim (device drivers) that provide some latitude WRT what is implemented in hardware and what is not.

The key point is that the OS-platform interface is mandated by Microsoft (and Apple). All other comers must dance to their tune. Linux, on the other hand, offers a malleable interface layer which can ebb and flow as the platform designer's needs dictate.

All that aside, the key issue about monopoly power has little to do with either market availability of platforms or the ease of porting the OS to a different platform. Rather, it is that Microsoft competes in both the OS and Application marketplaces and that the inside knowledge that comes from building and maintaining the OS gives their applications an unfair competitive edge.

Now I don't have a lot of knowledge about American corporate law so forgive me if this is a moot point. Assume though, for the sake fo the discussion, that there are two corporations: App Corp makes apps and OS Inc makes operating systems. If App Corp secretly approached OS Inc and offered a financial inducement for OS Inc to alter their operating system to favour App Corp's products, would this be considered an illegal or unethical cartel arrangement or would it be a perfectly legitimate business practice? (If the answer is the latter, I concede that my argument falls to the ground. In Australia, such an arrangement would be highly illegal).

In the Microsoft case, App Corp and OS Inc live, work and eat lunch on the same campus. And they share a common financial interest and a common investor base. To suggest that they don't collude--even if informally--is laughable.

(Hey Bill, I'm doing that new widget for Word. That XYZZY API blows chunks. It would be much slicker if it behaved in such-and-such a way. Wow Tom, that's a great idea. We can change that. How about we...)



Cameron: Right on!

How would Microsoft(apps) fare if they got their OS specs the same day, and in the same format, and with the same degree of completeness that everyone else did?

It sure would be nice if the outcome of this case were not "restraint on innovation" (as Bill likes to cast it), but simply a level playing field for all would-be Windows developers.


I understand the significance of the Apps + OS combination and I don't know enough about the law to know whether it constitutes monopoly. But I've wondered for a long time why Apple has never made the Mac OS available for PC compatibles. I seem to recall that Steve Jobs said they would when he went back to Apple. And as the installed base of PCs grows, the reason to do it would seem to increase. Even though a lot of people don't upgrade their OS till they get a new computer, Apple could sell to the computer manufacturers just as Microsoft does. Of course, Apple is a hardware maker first and supports an OS for the sake of their hardware business, but I understand that when Amdahl and other companies took a large share of IBM's mainframe business away, IBM made a good business of supporting those "plug-compatibles" with their software.

When I say (almost) any combination of hardware, I mean you can mix-or-match parts from a huge range of suppliers, but I suppose that is the case because of the combination of standards and the fact that there are so many suppliers because of the larger size of the market for PCs (sort of like a self-fullfilling prophecy).

I guess the whole "Microsoft question" is a chicken-or-egg problem... is the market big because Microsoft was successful or is Microsoft successful because the market is big?


I think Microsoft is successful because they happen to be an OS monopoly in an environment where free market competition is relentlessly driving down the cost of hardware.

Because IBM chose off-the-shelf components for their original PC, and because the BIOS was reverse-engineered, competition was introduced into the PC hardware arena. Competition has resulted in steadily increasing performance and capacity coupled with steadily decreasing prices. That hardware market is vastly more attractive to corporate buyers than is the Apple (single-source) hardware arena (OS elegance notwithstanding).

IBM's name lent "critical mass" to the PC in a fragmented early market, and the early applications providers were induced to develop for the machine, further enhancing the PC's value. Much tremendous development has arisen out of the competitive applications environment that has grown with the PC.

Now, it seems a too-cozy relationship between Microsoft's Windows people and Microsoft's applications folks is threatening competition in the application arena. Just has nasty, in-the-trenches hand-to-hand fighting among hardware (clone) vendors has greatly benefitted the consumer, free competition among applications providers is the best guarantee of rapid progress in software development.


Questar Telescopes. They have wonderful optics, craftsman-like fit and finish, and are as beautiful to look at as they are to look through. Calling them innovate today may be a bit of a stretch - the Questar 3.5" scope has been in production for 50 years. Today's scopes follow the same basic form as those of a half-century ago, though there have been many incremental refinments and improvements to the design over those years.

Questars are not inexpensive. Per inch of aperature, their price puts them above most commercial scopes. With reasonable care the a scope purchased today could easily be used by the purchaser's grandchildren at the mid-century point. If current trends hold as they have since the 50s, that scope will also be worth a substantial fraction of it's original purchase price in real dollars.

I own one and love it. It's a jewel.


HP41 and hp48 still are at the top of the heap as far as calcs go.
When it comes to other equipment, then there are a few simple rules;

Hewlett Packard makes Spectrum Analysis equipment,

Marconi makes Signal generators,

Tektronics makes Oscilloscopes,

Nokia makes mobile phones,

and Phillips makes toasters ;-) (I really could not understand the design descisions that they made with their test equipment.).


I recently acquired an HP Jornada Pocket PC, the 548 model. After using HP calculators for over 20 years, this product evokes nearly the same emotional response from me.

The product is cutting edge, it's robust, and it has features that most other PDAs do not. It also costs a lot, just like the early HP calculators! I realize that some of the functionality is actually driven by Microsoft, since they have some say in what features the product has, but in terms of the hardware, this thing is great! Stylish, elegant, timeless. Much nicer than the Palms IMHO. And, I dare say, a worthy successor to the HP calculators of old.



regardless if one likes WinCE or not:
I own a Jornada 690, and it is a great machine, too.
Very robust, big and clear display, good keyboard, very fast connectivity to Terminal Server via NIC, etc...

- superior quality
- superior price
- not too many sold (I think)
- errr, what was the fourth criterium?

Just my 2 cents;-)



I just can't understand why they don't have an RPN calculator on these machines. (At least as an optional calculator.) I know there are third party emulators available, but I mean a real HP offering.



They do!! The Landware Omnisolve calculator built into the ROM of the Pocket PCs and Handheld PCs sold by HP are actually switchable between RPN and algebraic (like the 17Bii and 19Bii sold today). So you CAN have an RPN calculator!! I use mine all the time!! It's not a genuine HP calculator, but I have to say that the Omnisolve interface on the Jornada 720 looks A LOT like an HP-11C! Check it out:



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