HP34C Manual - 30 years ago


Having just kindly received an HP34C manual I would like to add my first impressions after reading the manual for a few hours.

In a word... awesome... and saddening.

The Manual itself is a masterpiece of clarity, instruction and examples. I tell myself.. this book was obviously written by engineers and technical writers who took PRIDE in their work. It reflects and distills the core values of the "old" HP. One reason I take pride in my HP34C.

It really does demonstrate what HP say about their calculators on the (1979) inner first page:

"Each of our Calculators is precision crafted and designed to solve the problems its owner can expect to encounter throughout a working lifetime."

Saddening because it amply demonstrates how quality has dropped over the last 30 years.

Today... a manual is a CD ROM afterthought. It says a lot about society. Really.

Edited: 15 Nov 2008, 2:57 p.m.


Agreed. Fine manual-writing is a lost art.


I just received an HP-65 Owner's Handbook (from 1974) yesterday. From page 10:

If the manual does not answer all your questions, contact your nearest HP Sales and Service Office, or, if you are in the U.S., dial (408) 996-0100 and ask for Customer Service. We want you to be completely satisfied with your HP-65.

For $795, they thought that customer satisfaction might be important. Imagine that! It is indeed too bad that most current corporations don't exhibit this level of concern for their customers.


Ed --

Fully agreed. In fact, in terms of the ratio of content and quality to capability of the calculator, I'd say that the HP-34C Owner's Handbook and Programming Guide was the finest H-P ever made. The excellent and extensive content was provided in a thick-stock, spiral-bound, three-color book.

The HP-15C Owner's Handbook was also excellent, but changes were made: It was printed in only two colors, some content was exported to the extra-cost HP-15C Advanced Functions Handbook, and some later editions and foreign-language versions were flat-bound.

-- KS

Edited: 15 Nov 2008, 6:04 p.m.


Ed, actually it came with a Quick Reference Card, laminated and folded in four parts, explaining stack, indirect register, program memory usage and error messages. Then there was also a plain thick paper/thin cardboard card with a small update on the 34C's integration function. In addition to these little things were two booklets with soft covers stapled on the folds, "Solving Problems with Your Hewlett-Packard Calculator" and "HP-34C Applications".

I suppose the former booklet is like today's included user manuals with the current HP calculators, and the spiral bound high content manual was like perhaps the HP-48G Series Advanced User's Reference Manual, explaining in detail the actual programming and what happens when, and how to press the buttons on the keyboard.

(I still remember the off white/brick red box! The box didn't last too many years, though, unlike the calculator and manuals.)


Many thanks for the responses.

I now appreciate that the manual gives me as much enjoyment as the calculator and is really quite an essential.

Which brings a question to my mind... Given that the 12C has had such a long run - did the earlier 12C's have more substantive documentation than the new ones?

I can imagine the early 80's 12C came with quite substantial docs... whilst the new ones come with nothing like the earlier model (analogous to the purported decline in build quality).

Edited: 15 Nov 2008, 8:11 p.m.


I think the manuals also reflected the fact that the calculators being leading-edge and miles above the junk sold by many competitors, HP engineers were proud of their product.
The selling price of the calculators also made it possible for HP to involve many persons in every project, which in turn enabled them to invest a lot of time into things which other vendors could not really afford: best technology, high quality and uncompromised attention to every detail, including manuals.

Of course many things have changed, including the selling price of calculators and everything else, and not only at HP. Calculators have become much more affordable, and this change is not only about price -- it means the business model of the '70s is a thing of the past.

And so are the wonderful manuals!

Joel Setton


The HP-34C was the 1st calc ever with INT & SOLVE and you could use them both in the same program. AND The Manual! It is simply fantastic!


I just wish mine still worked.


Mine is still working – or rather, working once again thanks to a generous member of this forum who sent me a working LED unit.

What’s more, I still use it and while I don’t use the manual very often now, I agree that it is excellent. My first HP, a HP25, had a wonderful and instructive manual too. Compared to them the manual to my HP49 is a disgrace.


My favorite HP manual is the one that came with the HP-67 I bought in 1977.

The HP-34C and its manual also are certainly gems. I missed a chance to get this milestone development when it was being produced. IMHO, it's the best LED calculator ever made.

I had to use ebay to obtain an almost new condition 1981 HP-34C and manual set for $300. It was a bargain, because if I had purchased this calc in 1981 it would not be in new condidion today, and the price that I would have paid, adjusted for inflation, would have been well above that ebay price.

I wish there had been a Woodstock calculator that had all the capability of the HP-34C. The Woodstocks were much more mechanically rugged than the Spice models.



Just wanted to send BIG thanks to Veli-Pekka who sent me an HP-34C manual, true to the spirit of this community of HP-calculator fans!

Thanks again Veli-Pekka, and now I have some serious manual reading to do!!!

Joel Setton


A high school, even university level student could learn some basic mathematics just from that manual... at least get a better sense of it. I did!

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