HP-35s I/O and Memory



#2

To All:

I've been following the HP-35s discussions here with great interest. The 35s seems like a great machine for its price but I'm concerned about its lack of I/O and smaller memory footprint. I realize that HP is trying to keep the 35s from from competing with the high-end calculators, like the 50g. But, with no I/O and smaller memory that's a bottleneck that could come back to haunt a user. Why didn't HP put 128K of memory in it? Memory is dirt cheap these days.

Specifically, if the 35s crashes and in doing a restart clears user memory, then you are screwed as they only way to put the programs back in is through the keyboard if you wrote down the latest updates to your programs. In my imagination, since I can't save a program and remove it from the 35s, its memory would build up over time with old programs. Given how much memory each step takes up, that would be a lot of programs; until you write one that needs a lot of data storage.

As I understand it, program and data memory is dynamically allocated. If you write a program that requires lots of data storage, you have lost that memory to programming. Depending upon how many programs you port from other calculators as well as new ones, this bit-bucket has a lot of space for lot's of programs and data. In essence, mass storage for the 35s is your hand-written documentation. Isn't that a step backwards? Also, can you drive a printer like an 82240 via infrared from a 35s? If you can do that then you can print out your programs in for later re-inputing.

Also, as the 35s becomes loaded down with programs and data, does it slow down because of background housekeeping and memory packing? I would like to hear about how it handles these situations. Finally, what happens if you leave it sitting around for a few months and the batteries run down? If it does a "memory lost" I don't think an owner would be very happy. How long will the 35s hold its memory with the batteries removed? Is the battery compartment sealed to battery leakage to protect the rest of the calculator from damage? I hate it when batteries leak. I've got two HP-41Cs out for repair due to battery leakage. If I pull the batteries out of a 35s for long-term storage to protect it from battery leakage, how do I keep the calculator from losing its user programs?

It looks like a promising new calculator. With answers to these questions, I might very well buy one.

Thanks,

Gerry


#3

I may be wrong, but as far as I know Lithium batteries don't leak.

#4

The 35s is a calculator, not a computer. The 50G (and the 48 series and the 41 before it) were/are miniature computers. Programming power on a calculator becomes a problem when the memory gets to be too big, as it then becomes a major chore to store/retrieve it. In this current world, anything that long will be written on a computer, if the user is rational about it.

There is no reason to put the "computer-like" features into a device that is designed for the niche of being a really good functional calculator. If you want miniature computer power, there are two other paradigms already available: the handheld, and the graphing calculator.


#5

I would have liked to see an SD, or SD mini/micro slot on the HP35S. This would have fixed the memory size, need for backup, and communications with a PC, points in one shot. The SD, or SD Mini/micro cards are very cheap now, and any files required could be put onto the card with a card reader on a PC. And, of course, the card would be removable if the calculator needed to be hard reset. In addition, multiple cards could be used to hold different applications, as well as making it possible to sell software on ROM type SD cards (similar to the way the "Dark Side" used to sell software for their late 70s-Early 80s machines), a potential revenue stream for HP.

I don't buy the argument that this would compete with the 49G+/50G machines, as the 35s doesn't have graphing capability, nor would it have any I/O other than the card slot.

Kostas


#6

Mmmh, I think I agree... I never thought about it, but I agree...

- Antonio

#7

But having this capability removes the major market: education. Having no I/O is desirable for a calculator that is to be used in a closed testing environment. And for engineering, it is silly to use a calculator for anything that really requires saving!

#8

I have been thinking along those exact same lines. I think the lack of I/O decision may have been prompted by a concern about using the calculator in a testing enviroment. I don't think the addition of a micro SD would cause any grief there. I confess that I am not fully aquainted with the arguments about this conflict.

I will take the idea one step further. Can you imagine developing your programs on the PC or the Calc, then storing them in the micro SD? Then you move the micro SD over to the HP or third party devolper's micro DAQ/Data Logger (battery powered of course) peripheral. The peripheral then runs programs (in calculator native code),collects the data,and stores the data on the micro SD. You do a quick check of the data integrity and statistics on the calculator in the field. When you return to the lab, pop the micro SD in the PC card reader, graph, document, backup the data, and email the results to all parties concered.

Calculators are still more preferable than laptops for collecting data in the field. Would you rather lug your laptop in your backpack through the forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains, or your "HP 41S" in your shirt pocket. Sometimes serious "data collection" has to be accomplished before serious "engineering" can even begin.

I think this type of calculator would be the the answer to the abandoned 41CX community. This would be a cousin of the 50G, but running the simpler RPN system rather than than the RPL. RPL is wonderful, but the learning curve is much too steep compared to the RPN system in the 41 series and the power of RPL is wasted in a large majority of the "I need portablity" applications.

KISS!

Like the 41C system which was implemented in an amazing number of applications (that may have flown under the HP maketing radar),a system design similar to what is being discussed ( micro SD providing a non-traditional form of I/O) would only be limited by your imagination rather than by a crippled design.


Edited: 18 July 2007, 1:03 p.m.


#9

Quote:
Calculators are still more preferable than laptops for collecting data in the field. Would you rather lug your laptop in your backpack through the forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains, or your "HP 41S" in your shirt pocket. Sometimes serious "data collection" has to be accomplished before serious "engineering" can even begin.

The 50 G is the appropriate tool in the current environment.

If you really want to use 41C style code and RPN you can run an emulator on the 50G.

Otherwise, you can use the RPL :-)

#10

Quote:
I would have liked to see an SD, or SD mini/micro slot on the HP35S. [...]


I don't buy the argument that this would compete with the 49G+/50G machines, as the 35s doesn't have graphing capability, nor would it have any I/O other than the card slot.

Have HP ever made any kind of public statement as to why they discontinued the HP-42S? Given that they keep selling the HP-12C after 25 years, I'm inclined to suspect that the 42S was axed because it didn't sell well enough; that the vast majority of power users want the most powerful model they can get, whether that means they have to learn RPL or not. While there is a market for lower-end programmable calculators, which they've continued to serve with the 32Sii, 33S, and now the 35S, it isn't clear that there is much of a market for fancier RPN models, as much as it pains the HP-42S fan in me to admit this.


Adding hardware features like I/O or an SD slot to the 35S would probably only eat into HP's margins on the machine, while enticing only a handful of additional buyers. Just my $0.02...

- Thomas


Edited: 18 July 2007, 2:38 p.m.


#11

Quote:

....
Adding hardware features like I/O or an SD slot to the 35S would probably only eat into HP's margins on the machine, while enticing only a handful of additional buyers. Just my $0.02...

- Thomas



Thomas:

I agree that it will increase HP's costs, but I think that adding the SD slot would also result in a price increase for the machine, and from indications here (which, I will grant, are not indicative of the general population) would be acceptable for the added feature/ functionality. Personally, an added $10-$20 added on to the selling price of a 35S (resulting in a HP35SX/HP35SD/HP35MC/HP36, or whatever they want to call the model with the SD/SD micro slot) would be very acceptable. If this can be done on something as price sensitive as a cell phone, I don't see why it couldn't be done on a calculator. I do believe that a $10-20 cost increase would improve HP's margins, not reduce them. I am also not hung up on SD/SD micro
cards, the card used could be a Transflash/SD mini, SD-HC (probably overkill) or M2 Micro (Memory Stick Micro, Sony proprietary). The advantage of any of the micro flash card form factors is that they will take up the least amount of physical room, resulting in a smaller overall size. All of the mini/micro sized cards have capacities of at least 1GB, easily allowing for more storage than most would require, and for those who need more, buy a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) card. To keep the calculator acceptable in test environments, limit the card slot to memory usage only, do not allow SDIO type cards to be used.

This opens up a huge world of possibilities, even allowing program development on a PC/MAC with download to the flash card, or turn key software on ROM cards. This would still NOT cannibalize sales from the 50G, and allow the machine to stay smaller, and much simpler.

Just some thinking out loud (or in email, as the case appears to be).

Kostas


#12

increasing the cost would decrease sales.

While they might gain a new cat, it would only eat into the 50G which most would be happy enough to use for large mem apps.

#13

Quote:
Personally, an added $10-$20 added on to the selling price of a 35S [...] would be very acceptable. If this can be done on something as price sensitive as a cell phone, I don't see why it couldn't be done on a calculator.

Can't agree with you there. Fancy cell phones like the Motorola RAZR, BlackBerry Pearl, Nokia E70, and Samsung Blackjack, retail for $300 or more (you may get them for free when you sign up for a wireless account at the same time, but that's only because the phone company folds the cost of the handset into the subscription fee). On a device like that, another $10-20 isn't a big deal -- not that it matters; those devices *need* external I/O in order to allow them to be backed up and updated using a PC.

On the other hand, adding $10-20 to a $50 calculator, for a feature that most of that calculator's potential customers will not be very interested in, is a very different proposition.

(Being able to back up your cell phone's address book and appointment calendar is a lot more critical than being able to back up a couple of 200-line programs from your calculator -- and most 35S users will never go beyond that.)

- Thomas


#14

Gimme a break!

You people are just as jaded as I am.

I guess I can't predict what would happen in the world maketplace, but just for fun lets pretend.

Say Gene W. posted a hypothetical message about his forth coming review of the new HP 35sx (the one with the micro SD slot). With a link to the HP web site where they could be ordered for $100.00 USD. I would bet that 99% of the forum participants would have smoking keyboards from their frantic efforts to be the first to puchase one.


#15

LOL

#16

True, but a handful of frothing fanboys (myself included!) hardly make a compellingly large enough user base to justify R&D for a new product like that.

(All the same, I would have said the same thing about the 35s about a year ago. So one never knows.)

Also, somewhat OT: Personally, you know what would make me happy? Just moving the "Enter" key on the HP 50g back to traditional spot, like the 48S and 48G series. That's really all. Give me that and my RPL happiness meter would go right back to "FULL". I've had my 50g for almost a year now, and I still fumble sometimes when hitting Enter!


#17

More LOL

...and we are also the same bunch that trip over ourselves tryign to buy the early versions of machines--so that we can experience the bugs!

I even have an early 33s :-0

#18

I agree with Seth -- it's hard to break the habit of looking for that big enter key, even after 30 years. What's perhaps worse is the tease that the 17bii+ (and ilk) have with the big INPUT key, right where there should be a big ENTER key -- that's almost painful to me. :-)

I remember how hard it was when they moved the +-x/ keys to the other side and flipped them upside down. In fact, looking at my poster, I see that they are all across the board with order of the math operators; oh well, time changes everything it seems.

thanks,
bruce

#19

Some sort of memory card option might seem like overkill for a calculator at first thought, but keep in mind that this thing IS programmable, and HP went to fairly great lengths to expand the address space of the HP-35s so that people could enter longer programs and create more programs. If HP weren't shooting for that kind of enhanced programmability, they could have very easily just left it the same as with the HP-33s. They didn't, however.

The 15c, 11c, 12c, etc., were/are memory limited. You have far fewer program steps available than you do even with the 33s. The 41c, 48s and 49/50 families all had some sort of IO option. Of "recent" programmable calcs, only the 32 and 42 families didn't. Then there was the 33s, but its memory was small enough (or should I say, restricted enough) that if you lost a program, it wasn't a nightmare to re-enter it.

But with the 35s, you're looking at potentially big, long and multiple programs. LOTS of variable space. In fact, whereas the 33s had very few user-contributed programs, I fully expect that the 35s will have quite a few user-contributed programs in a short time. It begs to have some way to backup, restore or simply *enter* a program easily. Got a great program to do XYZ? Or play game ABC? Love it! But to enter it by hand -- in this day and age -- is almost enough to make me skip it completely.

I totally understand the lack of IR comms, as that would never fly with the testing agencies. The ability to IR print would have been nice, but that only addresses the "backup" side of things. A simple SD card slot, with a minimal Filer application, would be sufficient to fill all needs; it would allow backup, restore and ease of entry, and it would certainly increase the number of programs that users create and share. If not an SD card slot, then just a USB connection would be enough. Even the TI-89 has this ability.

HP wouldn't take a hit on adding that at all. Heck, virtually every HP product out there (laptop, PC, printer, etc) has some sort of SD card slot. Their cost for those must be mere pennies. I suspect there was another reason, which we may never know.

Or, maybe the future will tell...

I hope HP will follow up the 35s with a version that has some sort of communication option. I personally think it would go over very well with both casual user and collectors.

thanks,
bruce

#20

Quote:
I've been following the HP-35s discussions here with great interest. The 35s seems like a great machine for its price but I'm concerned about its lack of I/O and smaller memory footprint. I realize that HP is trying to keep the 35s from from competing with the high-end calculators, like the 50g. But, with no I/O and smaller memory that's a bottleneck that could come back to haunt a user. Why didn't HP put 128K of memory in it? Memory is dirt cheap these days.

Well, it still costs money.

I believe that the 35S uses a single-chip microcontroller with the RAM on board. Extra part = more complexity, inventory costs, more failure points (and failures), more complex PCB perhaps, possibly additional EMI/RFI susceptability, etc.

It's also getting harder to find 'small' RAM chips that are not high-grade/high-speed as these small amounts of RAM show up on microcontrollers now.

Adding that $0.75 - $1.25 RAM chip raises the showroom cost of the calculator at least 3X that. The calculator might not fit in the right 'price slot' after that. Remember, lotta money is already burned up for case/keyboard (and apparently elevated quality), packaging (it's not a $3 four-banger), and support.


Bill Wiese

San Jose CA USA


#21

I think that all it will take is for a few people to lose some large, or important, programs before the need for some form of backup/non power dependent storage method becomes obvious. Whether it is due to the need to do a hard reset, or loss of battery power, losing a program of 200 or more steps/lines gets old really fast (I used to own a TI-58 (non C version)) from my own personal experience. This would also be a really great way to do firmware updates should bugs arise (I have done this on my HP 49G+, works great).

HP 65s only had 100 program steps and had the magnetic cards for storage/backup, and the HP 67s had only 224 program steps. The HP 35S has up to 1500.

Kostas


#22

Quote:
...losing a program of 200 or more steps/lines gets old really fast
...

HP 65s only had 100 program steps and had the magnetic cards for storage/backup, and the HP 67s had only 224 program steps. The HP 35S has up to 1500.


Technically, the old models were the HP-65 and HP-67, which didn't even have continuous memory (to which you alluded in your mention of the TI-58). All programs and data were lost each time the power was switched off, rendering the magnetic cards a virtual necessity for practicality. HP-41, Voyager and Pioneer-series LCD models with continuous memory and CMOS circuitry could store information reliably, even through battery changes (excepting certain HP-42S models).

Let's hope that the HP-35S can do as well, because backup storage capability probably "ain't gonna happen", for reasons discussed earlier, despite the 31 kB of RAM.

-- KS


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