HP 20b converted



#2

There was an attempt in an earlier thread to convert the new HP 20b platform into something useful for science and engineering. Obviously, as several members noticed there, this attempt was based on the naive assumption that 20 years of technological progress would allow for a user interface maintaining at least the level of the HP 27S, 42S, or 17bII, to name some well known examples. Alas, I was told this is not the case.

Additionally, repeated wishes were heard for a non-programmable scientific calc. So, after some discussions with my one-man rapid prototyping team (the other half of me), and some thoughts about a transition from HP 42S to 42SI, SII, and SIII, eventually a 42SN emerged. "N" stands for "NON-programmable" here. Everything else may be featured like in a programmable calc - please see the respective models. FWIW, this is how said 42SN is looking now:

With the aid of the recent 2 editions of Datafile, the menu structure and almost everything else shall be self-explanatory ;)

Ceterum censeo a full dot matrix LCD is worthwile.

Best regards, Walter

Edited to correct typos and to delete the FLAGS menu Don rightfully criticized in his post below.

Edited: 26 June 2008, 5:18 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


#3

Looking good as always.

I've started converting the interface on my super-4banger to match the 20b's display. Test mode only at the moment but this ought to give some idea:


 ###   ##  #      #       ##   ##
# # # # # # # # # # v INPUT = ####-
# # # # ##### # # # #
### # # # # # # # == BEG STO RCL
# # # # # # # # # #
# # ## #### ## ## RAD 360 RPN

- -
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | - - -
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- - -
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | |
. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Time to start doing the rest of the 42sn...


- Pauli


#4

Pauli,

Quote:
I've started converting the interface on my super-4banger to match the 20b's display.

Why not choosing the display of the 17bii+silver instead? Looks far more versatile to me. And allows for real menus.

#5

We know we'll be able to reprogram the 20b and it is cheap enough to not be too concerned about bricking.

- Pauli

Edited: 29 June 2008, 8:57 p.m.

#6

Walter, good work. Couple of questions, though. It sort of looks like an enhanced 35s, so wouldn't these two compete? Also, why FLAGS in a non-programmable?


#7

Don, you're right, FLAGS makes real sense for programs only. And you're right once more: "It sort of looks like an enhanced 35s..." Since after having worked with the 35S for a while, I think this is a nice anniversary calc, resembling the shape of the 35, returning to the slanted keys, but not the sci calc living in the pockets of professionals. Too less power per space (please see previous threads). So, my 42SN contains all the functions I missed in the 35s. All packed in the housing of the 20b, because I want (or have) to pick up the guys where they are.

Edit: Don, I took care of your remark in the root of this thread.

Edited: 26 June 2008, 5:20 p.m.


#8

Flags may just have a non-programmable purpose, as a mode-setting function; but only if there are some modes not suitable for the "modes" menu...

It seems the 20B is a nice platform, but I also agree with the plea for a better display (as the one in the 17Bii++ Silver).

#9

Excellent, as always Walter!

My 2 cents worth:
The primary Y^X key is wasted IMO. To me a primary LOG key would be MUCH more useful.
So I'd have a primary LOG key with 10^X as shifted, and Y^X shifted on the 1/x key.

Also, I'd have LN primary with e^X shifted.

Also, I'd probably swap the SQRT and I (or parentheses) keys. It looks out of place at the moment.

Dave.


#10

Dave, good points.

My reasons for placing the SQRT there: replacing SQRT by XEQ and SIGMA+ by R/S, I'll reach a programmable calc most easily - the only other changes necessary are the top line looking as in the previous draft and some more menus, of course. If operated in natural (= RPN ;) mode, the parentheses key is needed for equations and matrices only. So the primary functions of the lower 5 lines make a "basic RPN 4-banger" as many posters requested earlier.

The "i" is next to the memory keys, because it's for indirect addressing, too.

For "y^x" etc.: well, students learn about "y^x" before they come to "LOG", don't they? And real students work with "e^x" and "LN" instead of "10^x" and "LOG"... But no casus belli - I simply looked to my Voyagers and Pioneers, and had to drop one key.


#11

Quote:
Dave, good points.

My reasons for placing the SQRT there: replacing SQRT by XEQ and SIGMA+ by R/S, I'll reach a programmable calc most easily - the only other changes necessary are the top line looking as in the previous draft and some more menus, of course. If operated in natural (= RPN ;) mode, the parentheses key is needed for equations and matrices only. So the primary functions of the lower 5 lines make a "basic RPN 4-banger" as many posters requested earlier.

The "i" is next to the memory keys, because it's for indirect addressing, too.

For "y^x" etc.: well, students learn about "y^x" before they come to "LOG", don't they? And real students work with "e^x" and "LN" instead of "10^x" and "LOG"... But no casus belli - I simply looked to my Voyagers and Pioneers, and had to drop one key.


I don't know about students in general, but as an Engineer (and a former engineering student) I use LOG probably 100 times more often than Y^X, an that's not an exaggeration.

My most used function keys (in order) would probably be:

1/X

SQRT

X^2

LOG

ENG

LN

and from then on they go into the "don't really care" category!

I've left out SIN/COS/TAN from that list.

YMMV

Dave.


#12

Heh, heh, that was the "student trap" again :) I was talking about students (in a secondary school) and you about students (in an university or engineering school - "real students" in my post since I don't know a better word). A "basic RPN 4-banger" may catch the students already ;)

#13

but I use y^x more often than log. It is a toss-up.


#14

Quote:
but I use y^x more often than log. It is a toss-up.

Sure, and that's why a good scientific calc needs a LOT of primary keys. HP are one of the worst offenders in this department IMO.

I won't even mention the dreaded HYP key :->

Dave.


#15

Quote:
... that's why a good scientific calc needs a LOT of primary keys.

IMHO that's why a good scientific calc needs a LOT of functions on the keyboard (prmary, secondary and ternary) - I still want a pocket calc, not a Chinese typewriter ;)

#16

Quote:

IMHO that's why a good scientific calc needs a LOT of functions on the keyboard (prmary, secondary and ternary) - I still want a pocket calc, not a Chinese typewriter ;)


You can have your calc and eat it too, it's called clever product engineering, and having the will to add as many keys as possible of course.

Look at the new 20B for example, notice all that wasted space at the top with the logo? Notice the larger gap between the bottom set of the keys and top set? Notice the gap under the bottom row of keys? Classic cases of wasted front panel space.

If HP wanted to I'm sure they could have engineered the same size calc to have another row of keys, without sacrificing key size or spacing.

And there are countless more calcs with the same problem.

It's amazing what you can add when you tweak a mm here and a mm there in the early design phase.

All it takes is someone driving the specs to say "we need as many keys as possible" from day one.

Dave.

Edited: 1 July 2008, 5:35 a.m.


#17

Quote:
You can have your calc and eat it too ...
I appreciate your advise, though I doubt I'd do that ;)
Quote:
..., it's called clever product engineering
Eating a calc is called c. p. e.? New to me. I'd not regard this being clever.
Quote:
Look at the new 20B for example, notice all that wasted space at the top with the logo? Notice the larger gap between the bottom set of the keys and top set? Notice the gap under the bottom row of keys? Classic cases of wasted front panel space.

If HP wanted to I'm sure they could have engineered the same size calc to have another row of keys, without sacrificing key size or spacing.

And there are countless more calcs with the same problem.

It's amazing what you can add when you tweak a mm here and a mm there in the early design phase.

All it takes is someone driving the specs to say "we need as many keys as possible" from day one.


Fully agreed. But all we can do here in this forum is to show something to the guys, telling them our reasons and where we see the crucial points, and hoping for some understanding. Since I'm not sure about their will to change anything at all because of us here, I focus on the essential gaps to be filled. IMHO, for HP pocket calcs right know, these are keyboard and LCD allowing for a continuous line of softkeys as explained several times before. I'd try to keep unchanged as many of the other hard calc features as possible for the reasons mentioned.
#18

hello,

>All it takes is someone driving the specs to say "we need as many keys as possible" from day one.

I know that this is against your philosophy, but I would disagree with you and say that most calculators have too many keys and functions leading to a hunt and hunt and hunt and hunt and finally pick problem for most users (ie: not advanced users), therefore the drive for a reduced set of keys and simplified keyboard.

regards, cyrille


#19

Quote:
...for most users (ie: not advanced users), therefore the drive for a reduced set of keys and simplified keyboard.

So, the hopefully upcoming new 45s, which is clearly aimed at advanced users will have another row of keys? ;-) Thanks for giving us exclusive insight...


#20

Couple of thoughts:

1) More keys = more expense to design and make. This is not an insignificant consideration. Fewer keys = cheaper to make = more sales due to lower cost = more profit.

2) More keys and (sadly even to me) more shifted functions makes a calculator seem more complicated to many users today. I believe this costs sales. Yes, some of us nuts here would like as many keys as possible and 3, 4, or 5 shift keys. But we are such a small minority in the market that it is my belief that sales would suffer. If sales suffer, it is a tougher sell to management as to why to invest scant resources on something that will not sell many units.

Note that I'm not happy about these thoughts, but I do believe they are true.

Gene

P.S. I too do not know why there is that seemingly empty space between the top two rows of keys on the 20b and the rest of the keyboard. All I can assume is that someone really thought it looked neat and liked it. Go figure! :-)


#21

Quote:
Fewer keys = cheaper to make = more sales due to lower cost = more profit.

Let's all hope they don't drop the number of keys to ZERO for that very reason ;-)

And yes, I think your assumptions are correct. But nevertheless, the market for a calculator that has more scientific functions than the 35s has is already very tiny. And to this group, MORE keys wouldn't hurt and wouldn't cut down sales...


#22

What? Something like the simplified 35s below? Press it one time for a 1, two times for a 2, ... 10 times for ENTER, 11 times for addition, ... 26 times for sine, ... if you don't press it for at least 3 seconds, it adds a zero to the displayed number.

:-)

What I am hoping for is a slightly LESS capable scientific 35s. I want a $25 RPN scientific to have lying around.


Edited: 1 July 2008, 12:51 p.m.


#23

Quote:
What? Something like the simplified 35s below? Press it one time for a 1, two times for a 2, ... 10 times for ENTER, 11 times for addition, ... 26 times for sine, ... if you don't press it for at least 3 seconds, it adds a zero to the displayed number.

:-) Very eloquently I say: Muhahahahha! and LOL! (I never thought I would use these in this sacred site... Sic transit Gloria Mundi!) BTW Is Gloria Mundy the wife of Al Mundy?

Quote:
What I am hoping for is a slightly LESS capable scientific 35s. I want a $25 RPN scientific to have lying around.


Yessss, I hereby pre-order 25 items for me.

#24

:-D Nice recycling, Gene d8)

Quote:
Press it one time for a 1, two times for a 2, ... 10 times for ENTER, 11 times for addition, ... 26 times for sine, ... if you don't press it for at least 3 seconds, it adds a zero to the displayed number.

Looks pretty near to the menu system of the 20b. Did you grant them a license? ;)

Quote:
What I am hoping for is a slightly LESS capable scientific 35s. I want a $25 RPN scientific to have lying around.

Feel free to take the 42sn above and wipe out anything you want to drop. Looking forward to your 42sn- ...


Edited: 1 July 2008, 2:44 p.m.


#25

Well how about keeping all 35s keys where they are but reprogramming them so they function all the same way. Then implement a full morse code - so you could do text as well while you have 42 backup keys in case of key failure.

BTW, this might not be as silly as we all think - when watching some kids working through pages of SMS on their mobile with their thumb, it makes you think that there are some alternatives to full keyboards....

Saying that I would hate to see a programmable graphing calcs with 3x4 key layouts.


#26

Quote:
BTW, this might not be as silly as we all think - when watching some kids working through pages of SMS on their mobile with their thumb, it makes you think that there are some alternatives to full keyboards....

Jay Leno had a competition between two "texters" who were champions, versus two ham radio operators with morse experience. He asked a young audience member who she thought would win--and she was certain that the texers would.

Of course the morse defeated the stupid cell phone text messaging hands-down--and they didn't even use the super-fast "paddle" style key! (Of course receiving is the real bottleneck in morse anyway).

Edited: 2 July 2008, 10:52 a.m.


#27

Bill,

More on your line of thought. I was a US Navy signalman in WWII using mainly 12" blinker lights. Radiomen were twice as fast in both sending and receiving than we were. The ear is better at code than the eye.

tm


#28

Interesting!

#29

But where are the thirty four different coloured shift keys to go with the button?

- Pauli

#30

Tactile feedback aside, the ideal is NO keys -- but rather a touchscreen. Then you have the ultimate flexibility. It can have different keyboards for different uses. I guess we might just as well continue emulating classic HPs, and the HPs of our dreams, on our iPhones.


#31

Right. But that's the whole problem: the lack of tactile feedback. It is the good feel of the HP more than any other aspect that makes it a joy.

The proliferation of non-tactile tools is far more profound than most of us realize. The whole generation of children growing up are accustomed to nothing having real tactile feedback--or quasi at best: from iphones to ipods to using a mouse to click on virtual radio buttons, to pc-based or mac-based video games to non-feedback arcade games....it is a different world. The young don't seem to mind it. But I mind it terribly. I suppose I will be retired with a paintbrush in one hand and a calculator in the other.


#32

I agree that tactil is what HP is (was) about. Hp Calcs are (were) the best, and that is why I have three HP42s calcs. But audio feedback works almost as well. I don't like it as well, but I can easily use a calculator that has an audible click when the key contact is made. (Operative word here is contact.)

My understanding is that the keyboard is the reason for the most complaints, and presents the highest number of repair or replacement requests. So the problem is to produce a non mechanical keyboard that has feedback. (Maybe audible instead of tactil.) The question is, will it cost more than the normal keyboard (when you factor in the repairs and complaints on the regular keyboard). Dont know.

I can picture a pda type keyboard that can be changed to anyone's preference with their preferred functions, but I wont be using it if I have to have a stylus to pick the keys.

Forrest

#33

Quote:
hello,

>All it takes is someone driving the specs to say "we need as many keys as possible" from day one.

I know that this is against your philosophy, but I would disagree with you and say that most calculators have too many keys and functions leading to a hunt and hunt and hunt and hunt and finally pick problem for most users (ie: not advanced users), therefore the drive for a reduced set of keys and simplified keyboard.


So we are supposed to "hunt & peck" for shift keys and soft menu options instead?

To my mind it takes *more* effort (mental and physical) to find and execute a shifted function or menu function than it does a dedicated key.

One of the massive advantages of pocket calculators over PDA's and computers etc are the dedicated keys. More is better. But I can see for your point for less advanced users.

To mind mind though, anyone who buys a scientific and/or programmable calc is an advanced user who wants those functions accessible and would really appreciate more keys. Not a huge amount more, but another row helps a LOT.

Dave.


Edited: 1 July 2008, 5:38 p.m.


#34

I think perhaps you miss the intended point. My guess is that the logic goes something like this:

99% of users perhaps use only 10% of a calculator's functionality, even something like the 35s. Most people who buy a scientific or graphing calculator are not advanced users like you and me. They are test takers who need it for one purpose only or students who need it because the teacher tells them to buy it.

Adding a row of keys for the 1/10th of 1% of users who would benefit from having more functions on the keyboard costs $X per unit.

The cost/benefit calculation loses out.

It is also possible that a good percentage of potential users may not buy the calculator at all if it looks too "complicated". I heard that statement from professors at the university myself. Hard to believe, but true.**

Gene

** I fully remember the 32s -> 32SII change over because the 32s looked like it didn't have enough functions. But, that was also 20 years ago when calculators may have been less of a "commodity".

Edited: 1 July 2008, 8:57 p.m.

#35

Sweet. Hopefully the 42S has the gamma function and some solvers (polynomials, simultaneous, general solver).


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