dream HP calc...and fire HP's MBAs!



#2

[... flaming...]

Folks,

Don't think it surprises many of us that HP's calculator quality, fit & finish - and to some extent usability - have gone down over the years. My HP2X "Woodstocks" can just about be used as wheel chocks and still function; the fit to my hand, keyboard layout and "click" feel all contribute to the aura of a quality, durable, useful product. (And my HP46 desktop is built like a tank - IBM Selectric-grade keyboard, metal case, robust power supply. This was definitely a piece of "capital equipment" in the early 70s.)

The latest HP48 series is so feature laden it's difficult to use and is almost NOT a calculator. Unless you're a student - for which the 48 seems to be designed - it's easier to turn to Matlab, MathCAD, or other programs on one's PC, laptop or workstation. The goal of a decent calc, in my mind, is quick elegant solutions to smaller problems, not as a computer replacement.

While overall I'm a big fan of the 41C series and the 42S, there's always something a bit "cheesy" regarding the post-Woodstock HP calcs. In particular I'd have liked to have seen the 41C in a larger Woodstock-type case, and not have those inter-board elastomer connections that don't age too well.

While I love the 42S - and would choose it for a calc over the 48 anyday, it does not have as nice a keyboard - layout, feel, durability - as the orig. 41's do. It also lacks an input port - something w/8KB or more of RAM should have at least IR I/O and/or serial I/O connection.

We've prob. seen the last of "real" calculators - they're now either commodity $10 - $25 items sold at a drugstore or feature-fat near-computers designed to attract teachers, students, and parents who like to spend money on their kids thinking a cool calculator will get their kid a good grade in math.

Perhaps we could convince HP to squeeze one more iteration out of the Voyager series before the MBAs take over totally -- a "42S-II" that has more RAM, real serial and infrared I/O ports, flash ROM for customization, financial and other application functions.... I miss 4-level RPN on the new HPs.

I'd also like to see HP put a good non-48 RPN calc app out for their handheld Jornada 420. Perhaps this is the one to add more bells & whistles to....

The Jornada 820 notebook WinCE machine (12+ hrs. battery life, great for a notebook!) and its 190MHz StrongARM CPU would be fine for a Matlab/MathCAD style application. Somebody's gotta port the public-domain Octave app over to Jornada's WinCE - that would be a great math platform!

--Bill



#3

Bill, you are spot on!

I've been through a bunch of HP calcs since 1974: a 45, 65, 67, three 41's and a 16C. Even given a couple of stat/business HP's to SWMBO. This year, I pestered her to buy me a 48GX for Christmas. I tried, I really tried, but the thing is WAY too complex for my everyday 'on the run' calculations.

If I want to manipulate large arrays, do fourier transforms, etc. I've got a bunch of computers here which are much better for editing, saving and printing large chunks of data. For symbolic math, there's free programs like yorick and the biggies like Mathematica. If I want to save personal data, remote-control the TV, etc. I'll use a Palm Pilot.

Looking back, I think the 41 was the 'sweet spot' in terms of size, programmability and I/O. Bring it back, give it more RAM to eliminate (or rationalize) the extended memory kludge, add infra-red and serial I/O and most of us would be in hog heaven.

Best,

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

#4

During media coverage of the recent announcement that HP will be split up, I was amazed to hear analyst comment that the computer side of the company had been held back for years by the straight-laced and old-fashioned approach of the engineers in the rest of the company!

For my money, HP's computers - particularly the PC's - have always been lacklustre, over-priced, clones (I'm excluding things like the HP3000 and the HP-UX boxes here, obviously). If it wasn't for the prestige lent to the brand by the instrumentation side of the business, the computers would never have sold.

And, IMHO, it's that kind of thinking that has driven down the quality of HP products to the extent that one might as well buy Casio - and most folks do.

Best,

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


#5

You're completely right. As they said, they'd split the company, I thought they should give the computer company another name and leave the measurement company the name "Hewlett Packard". The low cost hp Personal Computers have pulled down the reputation of the whole company. (except the price). Same goes with IBM, Compaq, ... and the cheap HP printer line. It's a shame, that these products are just selling brand names and not equipment which adds to the reputation of the company (and the satisfaction of the user).

BTW: the calculators are in the better part of the company, though the quality is lowering (and the machines tend to get too chear, so that _everybody_ can afford a HP calculator for just $6.95).

1984 I prefered a HP-71 over a Sharp PC 1401 (which had cost 1/10 of the 71s price). I worked a long time in my holydays to afford one. (I went to school then.) I wanted it because the 71 was the leading Basic programmable superior over all the other portables (including Epsons HX-20, PX-8, ...). I used it for five years. I learned assembly programming and did some commercial hardware projects for this little machine. You can be sure that this was one of the last high-quality machines.

Now where's the difference between HP-48 and TI-92? The TI has the faster CPU (but non-optimized).The TI is another example for the over-powered thing, but it's nice to play with, as is my 48SX. I don't own the TI.


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