Who buys HPs these days?



looking at the calculators HP launched after the 48-series they left the path "from engineers for engineers". Rather flashy designs and cheap plastics. The 50g and 35s giving small indications for a change to the better. But RPN still going strong, at least.

So I sometimes wonder what type of customer are HP´s marketing cracks aiming on?

Watching this forum one can say that the average age seems to be beyond 30. Many technicans and engineers in the middle of their career. The 48G / 50g is used by many, but sometimes I get the feeling it is a kind of toy to complete the collection and have fun with rather than the choice for daily number crunching on the job. Here most of us are looking for a good scientific with some easy programming in a small form factor. I/O in shape of a SD or the like would be welcome. Solver and numerical integration is a must. Graphics are of minor importance.

Then we have the freshman at college/university and kids at highschool learning their math etc. Here graphics are a must. These customers want? flashy colours. Doing your homework a capable machine like the 50g is a perfect companion. But then, during exams or tests the choice of calculators is limited. No I/O is allowed. The 33s ist a good example for this kind of stuff.

So there are a number of questions:

1) Are we "elder" engineers still a target group?
One could say yes and no. Yes, since HP still supports the HP user conferences, and yes because RPN is alive after all. One could say no, since our dream calculator is still not there. Will say a machine like the HP-45s.

2) Will there ever be a chance to see a 45s from HP?
I would say it is not likely. The 33s is a top seller. Why this? It is simply the best performing calculator among the ones allowed for exams (no I/O). Do students love it? Who knows? Many needed to learn RPN only some weeks before their exams. Can´t be comfortable if one is used to its AOL/CAS TI.

Will be fun to share your thoughts.


Hi Frank. It's an interesting question. Other than the geeks who frequent this forum, who buys HP calcs?

If you look at the business supply stores that sell calculators, the only HPs I see there are the 12c (for the financial and real estate industry), the 17bii+ (also for the financial industry, probably the newer guys who aren't afraid to try something other than the 12c), I think a 10bii, maybe for the low-end financial, and that's it. No scientifics at all. No 33s, no 35s, no 50g. Walmart used to carry the 33s, but doesn't anymore. I have yet to see any 35's or 50's in a place where you can buy it off the shelf. I have often wondered about the number of HP calculators sold. It seems the 12c and 17bii must sell reasonable numbers, but I can't believe that the scientifics sell that much, since they are only available on the Internet (and maybe stores like Frys, we don't have those stores where I live).

As far as students, high school is strictly TI territory. I've never seen an HP in the public schools (other than my own!).


Yes, these questions are fascinating and knowing the answers would go a long way to explaining HP's decisions. A few things seem obvious to me:

1. The newer, flashy styles indicate HP decided either to market to younger customers, or they are trying (again) to siphon off some of TI's market share, or both.

2. The 35s is a "trial baloon" to see if there is still much market left among the traditionalist engineers out there (their original base).

3. Whether or not there is a 45s (or 55g?) largely depends on the outcome of the 35s experiment. I bet HP makes the 35s at least long enough to compare sales (including demographics) to the 33s.



Hi Don, I have seen the HP-50G on the floor of my local Circuit City (Manchester NH USA), and they also have a version of the HP-12C, as does my local Best Buy.


Hey Chuck, you're right, I looked online and my local Circuit City (Louisville, KY) has the 50g. I didn't know that. I've never seen it in Staples of Office Depot or Office Max, though.

I think I'll drive over and take a look.


Hi Don,

local Circuit City (Louisville, KY)

I grew up in Southern Indiana and worked many years in Louisville.

I'll be visiting my sisters in the week before Thanksgiving.

Maybe we could meet up and exchange HP stories?

Drop me an email and I'll let you know the exact dates.



I've never seen it in Staples of Office Depot or Office Max, though.

Maybe you'll find it at "Test Tubes", "Lab Depot", or "Science Max"! :-) :-)

I guess the 50g and 35s aren't really business calculators, so they probably wouldn't sell too well at those kinds of stores.




But I do know that OfficeMax, Office Depot in particular DID sell HP calculators at one time. They stopped carrying HP scientific or graphing calculators after the HP-48 series. Too bad!


I bought an HP off the shelf yesterday. But it was a second-hand store and the calc was a 19C, so I suppose it won't affect HP's market research in any way.



buying an HP calculator used to be more than simply spending some bux and having a merchandise in return. Who actually does more than that these days? Buying an HP calculator used to be buying the tool for the job. And this used to be a serious choice. The chosen model was supposed to go ahead with usefulness. Hey, some of them went into space...

I must agree with the fact that I have most of mine for the pleasure of knowing how to use them and, if having the chance, explaining how to do that. Appart from the HP12C series, this nas not been so very often these days, though.

My 2¢.

Luiz (Brazil)


What you say is very true for students, who need to get a calculator with the capabilities they need to do well in certain courses. I bought a HP-34C to shorten my report writing time for physical chemistry lab.

Nowadays, I really DON'T have to use a programmable scientific (only a regular scientific), and especially not a graphing calculator, but they do make things easier and the programming especially makes things easier, but since we are now all progressed past our college or high school days, we can do what we need to do other ways, particularly with the PC. But I like having a small, light, eminently portable device that I can quickly program to make some tasks shorter or more pleasant. In my own case, I've calculated cubic x-ray reflections and used Arnold Moy's HP calculator periodic table and brief chemical database for the 48 or 49 series, for example, and prevented me from having to get up out of my seat to grab some book or reach over and navigate over to some software on my PC.

I don't know about engineers and surveyors however; I assume engineers stationed in the lab, office, or plant have access to more powerful, more standard computing and those on the field or surveyors may actually NEED something powerful, like a programmable or graphing HP calculator, outdoors.


I've been at my university now for about 3 years or so. In the past 6 months the ratio of hp/ti calcs in the engineering department has increased quite a bit. Of course this is just my observation, but I've always kept a look out for this. It used to be until just recently about 1-2/10 of the students in the study areas would have ti's. It's increased to about 3-4/10 now.

I really don't know why, but they are definitely much more prevalent. About 1/3 are 49g+ units, and the other 50gs, with a spattering of "my brother's old 48g". Don't know if that means engineering students with HPs are just becoming stupider and need to study more, but I doubt it. :-)



I can confirm TW's observation. I have seen more engineering students either with 50g's or an interest in buying them than when I started at my university. Though I think, as was originally suggested, that this very slight increase I have seen is due to "getting older", and not because of an increased market appeal for college students.


In Davis, Ca the book store at the college carries HP up to the
49G+ and TI up to the 200 voyage. There is more TI models in
the store than HP. But at least there is a choice.



Sigh... Remembering the old old days going to the Bergen University's book store. To get to the store you had to walk a coridor. The walls here where filled with posters of Einstein pushing HP calculators. When you entered, the first thing you met where the machines on a display in a glass cabinet. Placed so all could have a good look.

Last time I visited I did not see any calculators at first. Then I did see a small collection behind the counter so you can't realy get to them. And all ti and casio, except one single HP 17bII+. The last HP standing.... and its a financial model...


The walls here where filled with posters of Einstein pushing HP calculators.

Einstein died in 1955! So he must have had one REALLY EARLY prototype... ;-)


I always wondered about that! Surely HP would not take advantage of Him! So I always assumed him being The Master Of The Space Time Continuum did a time travel and grabbed a 15c...

Another one I liked was the one telling me the space shutle was controlled by a 41.


Yeah, that space-time-thing must be the explanation ;-)

Another one I liked was the one telling me the space shutle was controlled by a 41.

That one however is partially true, as far as I know. Not that the shuttle was controlled by 41's, but the crew was issued them. You may begin your reading here.


Another one I liked was the one telling me the space shutle was controlled by a 41.

If memory serves me (going back to junior high days!), the space shuttle design as of 1979 had 4 main computers--a primary and 3 back-ups. The crew had HP-41Cs for use in the event that all 4 computers failed. The idea in 1979 was that the HPs would assist the flight crew in piloting and navigating the shuttle in the event of multiple computer problems. So, it would not be untrue to say that the space shuttle could be "controlled" by an HP-41C.


I know that ofcourse... But HP sure took advantage of the fact the 41 flew... Imagine a student going to shop calculator in those days: Gee, what to choose... I can have this cowboy thing over here or this one here that NASA uses. Hmmm, do I realy have to eat next month?

Edited: 2 Nov 2007, 10:59 a.m.


Actual while on the topic....

From the litle information there is on the topic I belive one can learn that the calculators where used in flight. It was the one particular 'center of gravity' program to be used during re-entry that luckily never had to be used (it would ofcourse have saved the day).

Edited: 2 Nov 2007, 10:58 a.m.



The idea in 1979 was that the HPs would assist the flight crew in piloting and navigating the shuttle in the event of multiple computer problems.

The Space Shuttle has fly-by-wire controls like most of the modern airliners do. The inputs of the pilot's control sticks are fed into multiply redundant computers (5 in total) that calculate the necessary amount of control surface deflection required to achieve the response desired by the pilot. The control surfaces are activated hydraulically with no (zero!) direct link to the control sticks.

In case all flight computers should fail, the pilots can start playing with their hp-41 and continue to do so, as long as their oxygen lasts. However, no matter what they do with their pocket calculators, this will not move the control surfaces at all.

The control software of the Space Shuttle has a total of about 500.000 lines of code (written in "HAL/S", a dialect of PL/1, see here: http://www.brouhaha.com/~eric/nasa/hal-s/ ). Again, no way to fit any useful part of it into an hp-41 I'm afraid...

Greetings, Max


According to an official HP-paper:

According to the NPD Group:

HP Financial Calculators are rated No. 1 in U.S. dollar share sales;

The HP 33s Scientific Calculator is rated the “Best Seller” in the Scientific Programmable Calculator category in both units and dollar share;

All four HP Financial Calculators (10bII, 12c, 12c Platinum, 17bII+) are top ten “Best Sellers” in the Financial Calculator category in both units and dollar share.

After the rather massive critics in this forum concerning the 33s the biggest customer group seems to be students "forced" to buy it if the want to have access to a programable calculator during exams.

How many 33s might have been sold to professionals?

Adding I/O to the 33s or the 35s would have banned these calculators from the educational market. And that is why I don´t think we will ever see such a feature either. I believe the times are over HP could make good money on calculators aiming at proffesionals. Now the have to keep track with TI and the educational market.


After the rather massive critics in this forum concerning the 33s the biggest customer group seems to be students "forced" to buy it if the want to have access to a programable calculator during exams.

How many 33s might have been sold to professionals?

It's true that the biggest market for the 33S is probably exam candidates, specifically for NCEES exams, which are required in the US for engineering and surveying licensure. For proof, simply look at the 33S page at amazon.com, which is loaded with ads for FE/FS and PE/PS exam study guides.

But most of these exams are taken by professionals with several years of experience, not students. The FE/FS exams can be taken in the final year of school, but many people take them after leaving school. The PE/PS exams are taken after you have graduated from school and have several years of work experience.

So while it's probably true that most 33S sales are for exam purposes, it's also probably true that most buyers are working professionals, rather than university students. In the US, some engineers (particularly civils) and surveyors still have to take exams, even after they have been out of school for several years.

The NCEES exam market is real, but it is very small compared to the traditional university student market, which in the US is dominated by TI.

Edited: 2 Nov 2007, 12:41 p.m.

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