33S key press problem



#2

After using my 33S for about one and a half years, the demical point becomes not so responsive to key press. Any similar behaviour or suggestion?

People in this forum often ask HP to reproduce the old-model calculators, but even if HP does, I doubt if the quality can be reproduced as well.

KC


#3

I have, among others, a HP-33S and a HP-9G; well, both are a second-purchase: the very first HP-33S had the 0 key not responding; the very first HP-9G had the four arrows not well responding. I had, for both, a direct change from HP. In EU warranty extends to 2 years so, if you live in EU you could change your calculator with a brand new.

But this is only half of the answer:

Quote:
People in this forum often ask HP to reproduce the old-model calculators, but even if HP does, I doubt if the quality can be reproduced as well.

If making up a calculator (in the sense of designing, assembling, testing and selling it) is left to concepts like economy, low work-costs, blister packaging, low effort on producing manuals well, there's few hope left that HP could reproduce old-model calculators with old-model quality. I wish I had more hopes.

-- Antonio

P.S. good luck with your 33S: after all it's one of the best calculators in the market, despite its keyboard and some bugs spread here and there...


#4

Couple of things here to consider.

1 ) The HP33s costs around $60, which, in 1977 terms would be about $20 or so. At the time, the only calculator near that in capabilty might have been the HP29C, which cost $195. So, the HP33s in real dollars costs about 1/8th what it would have in 1977. This leads to...

2 ) Sadly, we live in a disposable culture. If your VCR or DVD player breaks, you don't repair it, you get a replacement. If I get 4 years out of a device, that's probably pretty good seeing as how I might pay $50 for said DVD player.

3 ) While I too wish quality would come back, there just is not a large enough market for the quality calculator out there costing $250 or more to make and sell one. If HP made the 33s bullet proof and charged $250 for it, their sales would probably be 1/10th what they are at $60. As such, it would never get made in the first place. Concepts like ROI, NPV, etc., come into play here.

4 ) That said, there is room for improvement that HP CAN make in these products. And, despite many naysayers, HP has made improvements in certain areas, such as...

... fixing the decimal point problem on the 33s
... adding parentheses to the 12cp
... fixing the keys (finally) on the 49g+ and now 50g
... continuing to have some of us work on updating the 48GX AUR for the 49g+ model
... finally realizing you couldn't read the color choices on the HP39g+ at all
... making GOOD color choices on the 50g
... etc

I too can wonder why on earth these decisions were ever made in the first place, and I have no idea on some of these, but expecting a gold-plated $250 instrument is not being a realist in this day and age.

While I wish they were sturdier, if I have to buy three HP33s calculators over a nine-year period, I have still paid much less than the price of a HP29c for a much more capable machine.

My 2 cents (and worth that much)

Gene


#5

Quote:
Couple of things here to consider.

1 ) The HP33s costs around $60, which, in 1977 terms would be about $20 or so. At the time, the only calculator near that in capabilty might have been the HP29C, which cost $195. So, the HP33s in real dollars costs about 1/8th what it would have in 1977. This leads to...


Well, 30 years of technological progress alone should reduce that $195 (in 1977 dollars) by quite a lot.

Total human labor is ultimately what determines how much something costs to produce in a highly competitive environment. This is true even of raw materials. You can see that this is true if you think about it -- just trace back all exchanges of money for goods back to a source, and you'll find that they all eventually end up being used to pay someone for their labor.

Technology in the form of automation is a human labor multiplier. It allows you to produce much more for the same amount of total human labor (which includes the labor required to make and maintain the automation itself) than you could without it.

[Incidentally, this is a very large part of why I'm opposed to offshoring of manufacturing -- it reduces the incentive to automate. Automation is the only long-term way to reduce the real cost of goods without also reducing the average standard of living, which in simple terms is what the average person can get for their labor.]

30 years of technological progress should significantly increase the amount of automation available to produce a calculator, which will significantly reduce the final unit price of that calculator in a competitive environment.

Quote:
2 ) Sadly, we live in a disposable culture. If your VCR or DVD player breaks, you don't repair it, you get a replacement. If I get 4 years out of a device, that's probably pretty good seeing as how I might pay $50 for said DVD player.

That's true, but it's independent of the quality of the device. It would be true even if the device were built to last 20 years. The reason is that manufacturing is subject to productivity improvements (i.e., what you get for your money) through automation, while repair generally isn't.

The quality of a product is determined by a combination of its design, the selection of materials used to build it, and the quality and precision of the machinery used to manufacture it.

The cost of producing a good design is primarily related to the talent of the engineers who produced the design, which is strongly related to their salary. A truly talented engineer might cost twice what an average engineer would. But the cost of designing a mass-produced product is almost always tiny compared with the cost of materials and the manufacturing equipment over the production run. Let's be generous and call it a 10% increase in cost per unit.

The cost of the production machinery is generally so high that I expect it is capable of producing goods of pretty much any quality level desired. Such equipment has to be very future-proof because it's such a large investment. Certainly manufacturers in China have consistenly claimed that they can produce goods of whatever quality level is desired, and all that changes is how much it costs. The bottom line here is that I think it's safe to say that the quality of the production machinery is generally fixed at the high end of the scale. So we can treat it as a constant.

The cost of materials depends on the selection of materials and the quantity (and, sometimes to a great degree, on the design). Companies producing cheap goods attempt to minimize both. Companies producing quality goods will attempt to minimize both within the constraints of maintaining the requisite quality. The increase in per-unit cost for quality materials depends greatly on the difference in cost between the chosen materials, and to a lesser degree the difference in quantity (the amount of material required to build a calculator doesn't vary a great deal, perhaps by at most 30%, while the choice of material could increase the cost of a component by as much as 200% or more).

If you look at the materials used to build the HP calculators of the past and compare them with those used to build the calculators of today, I think you'll find there's not that much difference.

Finally, to counterbalance the increase of materials cost, technological improvements cause better materials to become available over time, often for much less money than previous materials. The plastic compounds available today are more advanced than they were 30 years ago.

So after all that, it's hard for me to see how you'd have to spend more than, say, an extra 50% for materials to build a calculator with quality equivalent to or better than those HP manufactured 30 years ago.

That brings the total extra cost to 80%. So a really high quality calculator should cost roughly 1.8 times what a cheap calculator with equivalent capability would.

To pay 80% more for a calculator that will last 400% longer is a bargain.

No, the reason for the loss of quality isn't in the cost of building quality. Even though people are price sensitive, that doesn't hold true for all goods, especially engineering calculators, which are targeted at people who by their nature tend to value quality more than the average person.

Remember that HP at one time did produce calculators that would last 20+ years. The quality we're talking about isn't a fantasy, it happened. And HP made a profit doing it, too.

The economics of that period of time aren't much different than the economics of today. No, the reason HP's calculators aren't built with the quality they once were has little to do with the willingness of the buyer.

Quote:
3 ) While I too wish quality would come back, there just is not a large enough market for the quality calculator out there costing $250 or more to make and sell one. If HP made the 33s bullet proof and charged $250 for it, their sales would probably be 1/10th what they are at $60. As such, it would never get made in the first place. Concepts like ROI, NPV, etc., come into play here.

But if they made the 33s bulletproof and charged $110 for it, I expect their sales would be quite a bit better than 10%. They might not be as high as they are now, but I think they would be enough for the line to be profitable.

No, the primary reason HP doesn't build calculators with the quality they used to is that HP's management has a completely different set of core values than they used to. Hewlett and Packard built a profitable company, but their focus wasn't on maximizing profits. For them, what they valued were sufficient profits to keep the company prosperous, and within that constraint to build the best equipment they could. Quality came first and was constrained by the necessity of keeping the company afloat and of keeping the resulting products inexpensive enough that people could afford to purchase them (even if they were more expensive than competing products).

That strategy worked. HP had its ups and downs over the years under the tutelage of Hewlett and Packard, but it survived when other companies (such as Commodore) floundered and failed. Their strategy had long-term value.

Today, HP's management is concerned only with maximizing profit. How does this relate to the quality of products? Simple: a product built the way HP used to build them would last a very long time. During that period of time, the purchaser would not be buying another one. The total revenue for that product line would thus be less than it would be if the product didn't last as long. So the primary reason quality of goods today generally isn't as high as the quality of HP's products back in the day is to force people to buy more of them. This approach turns the cost of production versus longevity equation on its ear. Today, HP generally produces products with quality that is barely good enough, just like everyone else. Nobody is focused on producing quality first and profits second the way Hewlett and Packard did.

Don't confuse the values of corporate management with the viability of the market. They're not the same thing at all.

Quote:
I too can wonder why on earth these decisions were ever made in the first place, and I have no idea on some of these, but expecting a gold-plated $250 instrument is not being a realist in this day and age.

Here I think you're wrong. Would you buy a 33s for $110 as opposed to $60 if you knew it would last 20 years? I bet you would.

People who lament the demise of quality in the modern world all seem to believe that there's no market for quality. There is. And the proof is in them, because they would buy better quality goods even if it cost more if such goods were available. And so would I. There are many of us out there. What prevents that market from being fulfilled is the drive on the part of corporate management to maximize profits above all else. A market in which the quality of the product is very high is almost by definition a market in which profit cannot be maximized.

So the unrealistic market isn't that of quality goods, it's that of corporate managers that are willing to make high-quality products at the expense of some profit.


- Kevin


#6

A lot of words, but it boils down to a few thousand of us who might have paid lots of $$ for a product to last 400% longer, but you cannot make money doing that on such small volume.

The world is changed with regard to calculators. They are educational tools primarily and we get to play with them only because they are sold in quantity to students.

If they were priced at $250 or more, they wouldn't be bought by students.

And, since TI dominates the educational market, their pricing strategy drives what HP is really able to do.

A $250 calculator today that does what the 33s can do that would last 20+ years would not sell enough to make it worth doing.

Period.

Disposable world today, partly because not enough people will pay what it takes to have more expensive, longer lasting goods...especially when we're talking about calculators.

Gene


#7

Quote:
A lot of words, but it boils down to a few thousand of us who might have paid lots of $$ for a product to last 400% longer, but you cannot make money doing that on such small volume.

A few thousand? I suspect the actual market size is more like a few tens of thousands to maybe a few hundred thousand, depending on how much of the world you can sell to. Remember we're talking about engineers and engineering students here. There aren't as many of them in the U.S. as there used to be, but it's still a sizable market. The HP 50g wouldn't have much of a market if that weren't the case.

Quote:
The world is changed with regard to calculators. They are educational tools primarily and we get to play with them only because they are sold in quantity to students.

If they were priced at $250 or more, they wouldn't be bought by students.


Really?

When we were students, we bought them, and for the equivalent of $600 or so in today's dollars at that. And that was even when we had access to personal computers that were much faster than the calculators.

But I'm not talking about selling a $250 calculator. I'm talking about selling a $110 calculator built to last 20 years or so.

$110 is at the high end of the viable price range, but it's within the viable price range. The 80% premium over the $60 that the 33s sells for should be roughly enough to get you that additional quality.


Quote:
And, since TI dominates the educational market, their pricing strategy drives what HP is really able to do.

TI has always manufactured calculators at a far lower price point than HP, at least until relatively recently. Remember the TI-30? It was $25 back then. HP had nothing to compete with it.

And yet, among engineering students and professional engineers, HP was the calculator of choice, despite the very large price difference between TI and HP. Why? Because HP calculators were simply better, period.

Quality sells to people who care about quality. You obviously think there are very few people like that around anymore. I disagree. Part of the engineering mindset involves caring about quality. It's almost an instinctive thing.

Quote:
A $250 calculator today that does what the 33s can do that would last 20+ years would not sell enough to make it worth doing.

Period.


I agree. But what if it sold for $110?


Quote:
Disposable world today, partly because not enough people will pay what it takes to have more expensive, longer lasting goods...especially when we're talking about calculators.

And this is where I simply must disagree. I think the people who would buy long-lasting quality products for a bit more money are out there in large numbers. But the companies who are willing to sell quality goods to those people are not, because producing and selling long-lasting quality goods automatically means undercutting your own ability to maximize profit.

HP did it before Hewlett and Packard left the scene. Cheap goods that competed with HP's products were available then as they are now. The only thing that's different now is that HP is under a management team whose goal is to maximize profits above all else.

One of the reasons HP was able to succeed at it was that they had a solid-gold reputation for building quality products. People who wanted the best knew that HP was the brand to buy. HP had been making high-quality instrumentation and other products for so long that there was no question in anyone's mind.

That's no longer the case. HP has destroyed their own reputation in their pursuit of maximum profits. It'll take time for them to regain their reputation, should they choose to do it. Given the market conditions, they'll have to start off by building higher-quality products and selling them at only slightly higher prices than their competition. They can slowly ramp up the quality and ramp up the prices at the same time, though the quality will probably have to lead the price.

If they somehow regain their reputation and manage to hold onto it, I think you'll find that people will once again be willing to pay a premium for their products. Just like we were.

Human nature hasn't really changed, as much as we sometimes might like to think it has.

- Kevin

#8

About the quality, I have my 30S now for a couple of days (they were offered at 1 EUR and I couldn't resist) and must say, its hardware is quite ok. All keys register perfectly, allthough keytops are a bit wiggly but that's not much of a problem. The display is big enough for old eyes. The software is the problem, methinks ;-).

#9

The quality is not even close to what it used to be. Instead of serious tools for an engineer that could be expected to last a long time they make disposable concumer electronics now. I had the decimal key become loose on a 33S after about 8 months of moderate to low usage. To replace it, HP sent me one of the earlier units with the invisible decimal point, and it was also scratched up and had ink stains on it.

Call HP and tell them about the problem and insist they send you a new one. Tell them you want a unit that has a serial number of CNA5 or higher because you want a unit with the improved display and keyboard.


#10

Thanks for all your responses. I might call HP to replace one, but the chance is small as my warranty expires already. That said, even if all else fails, the good thing is that I can purchase a new 33S with affordable price, together with a bigger decimal point.

I do own a 32S, 42S, and 48G, but I don't want to use them for eveyday work.

Best regards
KC


#11

My 42S is my primary work calculator and I keep a 33S as a backup. I know that one day my 42S will die, but it would be a shame to have it dormant. That is one awesome calculator-my absolute favorite.


#12

Like you, the 42S is my primary calculator. I like the display much better than the 32Sii. In fact I like everything about it except that it has no way to back-up my programs.

Over the last 5-years I have taken steps to make sure it is always around, and with me at work. I have purchased three of them (very good - let's say mint condition) all at over $200 apiece. I use it at work and don't worry about it being stolen or dropped. It is an important tool, and I like, and am willing to pay for good tools.


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