35s strangeness



#2

I gave a 35s to my honey's daughter for her astrophysics class and she really likes it. So far she only uses it in algebraic but i'm not going to rush things. Anyway; she came home saying it was in some weird mode. It was. It was locked up in hex and when i tried to put it back into decimal it just gave me a "syntax error". It said that when i tried to put it into RPN too. I tried the paper clip method. No dice. It also wouldn't reset by shorting both the battery contacts. I finally got it back to newborn status, and able to change modes and logic systems, by reversing the batteries (so it just shorted the contacts - it won't reverse the power) while holding down the reset for 10 seconds. She didn't have any programs or data stored so this was acceptable.
Does this happen to anyone else or does the dam thing just miss me?


#3

I have not experienced that problem. But up until this past week, I was more or less satisfied with the unecessarily bulky but still portable 35s, despite its well-documented shortcomings (e.g. lack of straight-forward polar to rectangular conversion, useless checksums, shifted STO, and the list goes on...). What has ultimately changed my mind about the 35s is the 'missed keystroke' problem that others have experienced and from which I thought my unit was spared, being somehow of bettter quality!?! It misses the odd keystroke consistently for me when I enter multiple x,y data points for curve-fitting - and believe me I am not pressing buttons too quickly. It usually misses the first digit of one or more of the new data points when it exhibits this behaviour. That is unfortunate (especially when you get the wrong answer...). I now find myself not trusting the tactile feedback of the legendary oil-can HP buttons on this unit and have to look at the display after every number entered - just to be sure. My 30 year old HP 32E has a more reliable keyboard, as does each of my other older HP calcs (pre 1995).

Jeff Kearns


#4

Welcome to the club!

There must be a design problem with those key issues. I still believe that the problem is firmware/software based. The problem only appears during certain operations.

A shame for HP. Still remember the 35 when they noticed a bug in the firmware ... . That's company evolution ... .

Edited: 11 Mar 2009, 11:27 a.m.


#5

The HP of today is totally different from the HP of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. The old HP was founded on the concept of honor and integrity, which is totally lacking in the current company. This is reflected both in the quality and design of their current products as well as the poor service and documentation. It is a true shame, and I think it is reflective of the current state of the world in which greed and avarice are pervasive in all industries. Were it not for forums like this one, I think the situation would be totally hopeless.


#6

Don't worry. Everything is changing.


#7

I certainly hope so. The 35s, for all its strangenesses and shortcomings, is exhibit A for me. The mere fact that HP tried to recreate the calculators of yore I find encouraging. Say what you will about it, it has a solid (dare I say well-built?) feel to it and is quite useful for me at work and at home. At the risk of sounding like an apologist for HP, I think their calculator division is conscious of the fact that they've "lost their way" over the past few years and are interested in reclaiming the HP signature of quality calculators for professionals. Now if only they will be kind enough to prove me right and bring back the 15C!


#8

Well, the HP-15C (I still have mine) and other Voyagers were particularly important to HP in that they reversed a bad trend in declining quality of their small calculators. When HP first introduced the Classics (HP-35 et al), they represented the pinacle of quality, durability and good design. Although TI and others brought out less expensive competitors, HP maintained a loyal following due to the superiority of their products. Then, they started to lower their standards in a vain attempt to compete on price in order to increase their sales. Finally, they hit bottom with the Spices, which almost destroyed their calculator market. I became fed up with HP when both my HP-32E and HP-34C fell apart after only a year's worth of use, and might not have ever purchased another HP calculator had they not introduced the Voyagers. The Voyagers restored HP's reputation as the world's premium manufacturer of calculators, and they need to return to that mindset if they are to get on track again.


#9

And not to stir things up, but they've got to put some product in stores! Months and months have gone by, and you barely see a 12c, 50g, or 10bii and that's it. None in computer stores, office supply stores, or department stores. Have never seen a 35s hangin on a hook. How is the general public ever going to know something besides TI, Sharp, and Casio exist?

Sorry, but I've been wanting to say that for a while. It amazes me that there's nothing on the shelves! Maybe in college book stores, but I haven't been in one of those for ages. You don't even see the low end stuff in the stores. I just wonder about that.


#10

I was just in Fry's in north phoenix and they had 38g, 50g 12c, 12cp, 33s, 35s and maybe another. also several ti's and a few casio's.

Charlie


#11

Fry's is a clear anomaly in the retail market. It's owned and operated by geeks.

thanks,
bruce

#12

Yes, I for one wish today's HP calculator was the same quality as those of 35 years ago. I'd love to be able to, say, buy a Woodstock with its wonderful AC charging system which was guaranteed to fry the expensive calculator if one did something as innocent as connect it with a missing or degraded battery pack. That was a hallmark of *real* quality.

I'd certainly be willing to pay today's inflation-adjusted equivalent of the cost of HP calculator of 35 years ago for this quality. The simplest HP calculator of 1975, the humble HP-21, was a mere $500, inflation adjusted to 2009. Yes, things were so much better 35 years ago.

But then, maybe yesterday wasn't all that great, and maybe a calculator with the characteristics of the HP-21 wouldn't sell well at $500 today. Maybe even an HP50g built with all the quality of the original HP-35 Classic series wouldn't sell well at $500 today.

Be careful what you wish for. I've been a follower and frequent purchaser of calculators since the HP-35 came out in 1972 (except I couldn't afford an HP calc until 1976). The capabilities and negligible cost of today's HP50g are extraordinary and were unimaginable 35 years ago.

I know yesterday...I'll take today and be very thankful for it.


Edited: 11 Mar 2009, 6:46 p.m.


#13

I think your implication that the cost today of good quality would be the same as it was 35 years ago is faulty, because improvements in manufacturing methods have drastically reduced costs for all electronic devices. My first TV had expensive vacuum tubes and a lot of circuit board components that required manual assembly. Modern TV's cost much less, however, there is still significant variations in quality between premium brands and no-name discount brands. It would not cost HP that much to upgrade the quality of its current calculators to the same level as, say, the Voyagers. And, even if they had to increase pricing, we're talking maybe increasing the price of an HP-35S from $60 to $80, which would not be a deal-breaker. But making a "premium" calculator with a faulty keyboard is simply not an option if HP wants to distinguish itself from the el-cheapo competition. Also, I was not just talking about physical quality, but also quality of design, documentation and service.


#14

I detect:

Quote:
Don't worry. Everything is changing.

Tongue in cheek...
Quote:
Yes, I for one wish today's HP calculator was the same quality as those of 35 years ago.

Sarcasm...
Quote:
But making a "premium" calculator with a faulty keyboard is simply not an option if HP wants to distinguish itself from the el-cheapo competition. Also, ... quality of design, documentation and service.

Dead-on truth.

#15

Aw, I've been found out! ;-0

#16

It's clear that HP can make a quality calculator today - the HP-50g. People might complain that it's too big, or that the ENTER key is too small, or that they don't like RPL, but the build quality in my opinion is superb. I've used mine for a long time now: the keys continue to work perfectly and everything still feels really solid. I think it deserves a place amongst the classics - I can't understand people who go weak at the knees when talking about the HP-48SX but dismiss the HP-50g out of hand!


#17

I agree with you that the build quality of the HP-50g seems to be very good, so we'll just see how well it holds up after 30 years of heavy and hard use. My HP-48SX is nearly 30 years old, and still works perfectly. I find the keys on the HP-50g to be heavy and clunky in comparison with the HP-48SX, although the display is much clearer. My main complaint with the HP-50g is not with the hardware, but instead with the incompleteness of the documentation that was provided with it. Were it not for the help I've received from the good folks on this forum, I would probably still be floundering around trying to figure out how to use the I/O capabilities.

My comments above are in reply to the initial string dealing with the HP-35S, and its quality problems. I also own an HP-35S, and it does not appear to be as sturdy as the HP-50g, although I have not to date had any problems with it. Of course, the HP-50g costs three times as much as the HP-35S and is the HP calculator flagship, so perhaps these differences are deliberate.

FWIW - I have never gotten weak-kneed over a calculator; only once when I proposed to my wife.

Greetings from across the pond,
Michael


#18

Your HP48SX is a maximum of 19 years old.


#19

Yes. I bought it in 1990, not 1980. Thanks for the correction.

Edited: 12 Mar 2009, 10:38 a.m.

#20

I agree with what you say. I certainly didn't want to criticize the HP-48SX; I bought one in about 1992 and used it heavily for a long time. (The keyboard is still fine, but one line of pixels has gone.) The lack of documentation is definitely a real weakness with the HP-50g: why do HP produce such a calculator and provide no option for obtaining the documentation in printed form? It's not even as though this would involve them in much work; they could simply use one of the many print-on-demand services if they didn't want to print it themselves. The people who make such decisions probably do not really understand the true capabilities of the HP-50g; maybe that's why no fully adequate documentation has been prepared for it.

Of course, this trend away from printed manuals isn't confined either to HP or to calculators! Here in Europe consumer goods often come with inadequate printed instructions in a dozen languages. At least for calculators we can get support from groups like this!


#21

The documentation issue with the HP-50g is worse than simply not having printed manuals. Even the electronic documentation is incomplete or missing. The manual for the HP-48SX had a complete and very thorough section (Part 5) that dealt with the topics of printing, data transfer, and plug-ins. It even covered the use of the optional RS232 serial interface kit. In stark contrast, neither the HP-50g printed User's Manual or "more complete" electronic (CD) User's Guide cover these topics. One has to go to the HP site and look at the HP-49g+ Advanced User's Reference to find any detailed information, and it is not organized in a very friendly manner for novices. There is no one section that discusses the organization of all the menus on the HP-50g, which is more important than on the HP-48SX, because many items such as printing have been moved from dedicated keyboard entries to submenus. I needed assistance from a member on this forum to find printing under APPS > I/O Functions > Print. Also, the HP-48SX came with a Quick Reference Guide, which fit inside a front pocket in the soft case, so you didn't have to lug around the two volumes of the Owner's Manual.

Perhaps the eventual solution is to add a "help" capability to the next generation of this calculator, which is becoming more computer than simple programmable calculator. Such an advanced feature should be possible due to the increased processor power and larger ROM/RAM memory size that is now available. Oh, and while I'm asking for pie-in-the-sky, how about a color display to boot.

- Michael

#22

Quote:
Yes, I for one wish today's HP calculator was the same quality as those of 35 years ago. I'd love to be able to, say, buy a Woodstock with its wonderful AC charging system which was guaranteed to fry the expensive calculator if one did something as innocent as connect it with a missing or degraded battery pack. That was a hallmark of *real* quality.

Amen! I suppose that I could also wish for some of the "quality" from those days which required that the user twist the case to get the device to turn on or operate properly.

Palmer


#23

Please elaborate. Which model had this problem?


#24

Um, 48 series for instance! Some of them get strange.

Nothing is perfect.


#25

So I guess I'm just lucky. I've had my HP-48SX since 1990 with no problems yet.

#26

Quote:
Please elaborate. Which model had this problem?

My HP-27 has the twist problem. I can't really say how prevalent the problem was. I only have two other Woodstocks in my collection, an HP-22 and an HP-25, but both are inoperative due to the charger problem.

I think that there were also some curious problems with the early Spice units. Viktor Toth's site says "...Initially, the calculator's components were held together by pressure; electronic components were not soldered onto the machines flexible circuit boards. This led to numerous reliability complaints so eventually H-P returned to a more traditional design. ..." I have five Spice units in my collection. One has been damaged by the charger problem. Two have had the battery contacts destroyed by battery leakage. Two turn on but don't operate properly.

Even so, these kind of problems pale to insignificance when compared to the charger problem. It isn't as if HP didn't know how to do it properly. Page 31 of Wlodek's book notes "... Only the early models with a 3-pin charger and without a built-in card reader can be used from an AC adapter without a battery pack. ..."`


#27

Well, certainly the Spice models were a low water mark for HP in design quality. I had 2 of them, an HP-32E and HP-34C, and they both fell apart within a year. It was a time when HP made the near fatal attempt of trying to compete with TI and others on price, and drastically reduced the durability of their calculators. It almost cost them their market, which is why when they brought out the Voyagers, they increased their quality and allowed the prices to increase accordingly. I think most will agree that the Spices were the worst pieces of crappy junk than HP ever made, while the Voyagers are among the best. That's why today you see Voyagers in perfect working condition commanding regal prices at auction, while most of the Spices are being sold non-functional for parts or nostalgia. I bought my HP-15C in 1982, and used it heavily at work for 25 years without incident and only once replacing the batteries. So HP is capable of producing very high quality and durable products when they want to.

As to the Woodstock issue, I still have my HP-21, which still works fine today on a rebuilt battery pack with alkaline AA cells. Since I never removed the battery pack when using the charger as instructed on page 54 of the owner's handbook, I never damaged it. I'm sure that the reason HP went to the different charger design in the Woodstocks from the Classics was to reduce costs, since it was much simpler to have a single ac/ac transformer circuit, than the dual circuit rectifying ac/dc design. I currently also own an HP-25C, which works perfectly except for one hard key. Of course, none of this is pertinent today, since the days of NiCad batteries and chargers are long gone with the universal use of LCDs.

Edited: 13 Mar 2009, 11:52 p.m.


#28

Hi, Michael --

Quote:
Well, certainly the Spice models were a low water mark for HP in design quality. I had 2 of them, an HP-32E and HP-34C, and they both fell apart within a year.

The HP-34C was partially redesigned in early 1982 to remedy the unsuccessful solderless construction and the stiff keyboard. (However, the flimsy battery contacts remained.) I have examples of each version.

Unique to the HP-34C at the time was built-in microcoded SOLVE and INTEG, so it still had a functional niche -- despite its LED display and limited-capacity rechargable batteries. It was commendable of HP to develop and release a reliable version of the HP-34C, because the HP-15C was to be released later that year. That model provided the same SOLVE and INTEG, plus much more, eclipsing both the HP-34C and HP-11C.

Quote:
It was a time when HP made the near fatal attempt of trying to compete with TI and others on price, and drastically reduced the durability of their calculators. It almost cost them their market, which is why when they brought out the Voyagers, they increased their quality and allowed the prices to increase accordingly.

I suspect that the high inflation of the late 1970's might also have been a factor. "Cutting costs by cutting corners" was prevalent in many areas of manufacturing and service.

Also, the initial US$150 list price of the HP-34C was higher than the initial US$135 of the HP-11C and HP-15C -- an even greater difference when that dreaded inflation is taken into account.

-- KS


Edited: 14 Mar 2009, 11:35 p.m.

#29

Eh, I'll have to disagree on one point, though I might just have been simply fortunate.

I bought the original solderless 34C as a college kid, used it through until way after graduate school, and the poor thing was dropped, opened (the case, that is; I'm not so brave now, though), and banged around...
... and it still worked for many, many years until it just wore out from use. I thought it was one of the hardiest (and fully featured) calculators ever. My TI (SR-40) from those days didn't last even a fraction of that time.

(Fortunately, the replacement for this beloved unit is a 32SII, which is still going well... maybe needs new batteries, but if that's all, I have no complaints!)


#30

I think you were very lucky and the exception to the rule. I did not abuse mine, yet within a year several of the keys began repeating badly, the ON/OFF slider switch got funky, the LED assembly connections got loose (nothing is soldered inside the thing, just press fit) and I had to bitch slap it periodically to get all the LED segments to light up, and one of the battery contact rivets got loose so it was constantly flickering and showing the low battery charge dot. On my HP-32E, the circuit board traces for the charger connector corroded and separated, so I could no longer charge the battery inside it. In short, a very bad and cheap design that could not be repaired.

Anyway, I bought the HP-15C, which had all the capabilities of the HP-32E and HP-34C without all the crappy reliability and durability issues. I also have an HP-32SII, and agree that its a great little calculator. I particularly like its fractional arithmetic mode.


#31

Michael --

Quote:
...and I had to bitch slap it periodically to get all the LED segments to light up,

In the auction description, the seller of the first (old design) HP-34C I bought on eBay used the phrase "smack the sice out of it" to get the display to work properly. That might have been a bit better...

That calc didn't work very well, then I ruined the faceplate trying to restore its sheen and vibrancy of color. I suppose that it could be a parts donor. However, I got an excellent manual and working charger (which I wouldn't recommend using).

I bought my first old-design HP-34C from a local electronics reseller.

Later, from another eBay auction, I got a redesigned HP-34C with case and manual. It works great, but has broken battery contacts. The seller thought it was missing the battery cover, but it was present and intact in the case. On that one, I asked questions to ascertain whether it was a redesigned unit. The seller answered, then trumpeted the verdict in the auction. A knowledgeable bidder tried to snipe me with a series of incrementally-escalating last-second bids, but I foiled him with a last-minute rather high bid that wasn't even reached. (Heh, heh...) It goes to show that, if you really want something, the best strategy is simply to decide what you're willing to pay, bid that amount in the last partial minute of the auction, and hope for the best.

Quote:
...the ON/OFF slider switch got funky...

It just needed some lubrication. Unfortunately, this entails removal of the back cover, which can cause breakage if that is done wrongly. Other models prior to the Spices had mechanical slide switches for ON/OFF and PRGM/RUN. H-P was wise to replace them with keystroke electronic switches.

Quote:
Anyway, I bought the HP-15C, which had all the capabilities of the HP-32E and HP-34C without all the crappy reliability and durability issues.

Back in November 1983, I bought an HP-15C. I had intended to buy an HP-34C that I'd wanted for several years, but the knowledgeable sales clerk steered me to the new and improved offering. I still prefer the looks of the HP-34C, and I would have gotten a redesigned unit. However, the HP-15C was a far better product (despite its "dressy" appearance), as I grudgingly had to admit.

-- KS


Edited: 16 Mar 2009, 2:26 a.m.

#32

You know, it *could* be that I got a soldered unit in return for the one I sent in for service... for one or two bad keys (I forget which, it's been a loooong time).

I noticed that the S/N and the faceplate were different on the one I received back after sending it in to HP (in Corvallis). Anyhow, if the one in my possession is actually a soldered unit, that would explain things.

But as to the ON/OFF switch, one temporary fix (oh, about several months to almost a year) was to open the cover (tough job which I no longer have the stomach for) and take a CLEAN pencil eraser and rub the contact strip of the switch. I found that it was either or both of oxidation or dirt buildup that kept the switch from working well.

But you know, considering it was designed in the '70s, released in the late '70s or early '80s, I think it was a fairly nice piece of functional technology for its size. I mean, you could have more reliable switches and keys or more memory, but I wonder how big it would have been, not even thinking about cost!


#33

The keyboard problem was only one of the issues with the Spices. HP fixed that late in the production run, but there was still the issue with the other loose parts like the LED connection or even the IC's were press-fit against the PCB traces, and could cause malfunctions (and yes, I know this because I have completely dis-assembled several Spices). The battery/AC adapter contact design was terrible and guaranteed early failure of the unit. The battery contacts would break due to stress fatigue and the AC adapter traces would corrode (much the way edge connectors go bad on the old PC bus cards) and separate from the board, so you could no longer recharge the battery. The Spices were HP's version of the infamous Chevy Vega, which had about a 30K mile engine life. By the time GM fixed the problem, the damage to their image was done, and even renaming the car to the Monza could not restore its sales. Fortunately, unlike GM that is now on the brink of bankruptcy, HP came out with the Voyagers, which have proven to be among the highest quality and most durable calculators they have ever made.

#34

IMHO it is a matter of leadership. The genius of the 35 was the vision that a desktop machine could actually fit in a shirt pocket. The willingness to take a significant gamble by going against the recommendations of the marketing folks and commitment of company resources by leadership made the project possible.

I dare say the last such example of innovation through leadership was Steve Jobs at Apple and the Ipod. In essence, it’s just an MP3 player. But Mr. Jobs pushed his engineers to new limits on the interface. I cannot find the article now, but I hear he repeatedly kicked the product back with a note saying, “Too many buttons.”

I think the ingredients for a revolutionary new calculator include a leader with a vision and high standards who’s willing to take a risk. With the advances in processing power, batteries and displays, the sky is literally the limit. When/if the ingredients line up, there will be a new and amazing thing to play with,

Very respectfully,
David


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