While HP sleeps, TI works


Check out this:


Now TI has a whole world to sell calculators after the death of ACO


Marx Pio


Thanks Marx,

A tool which encourages investigations in mathematics, and is available, and can be discussed as a living product - brilliant! Stick RPN in as well - game over?

While acknowledging that this is a museum site, it's refreshing to see new tools from Ti which encourage and educate. Life goes on, albeit sadly without HP.










... and that's nothing new, it's been agonizing since
long. Some calc-related symptoms ? Let's see:

- spiral manuals, in several colours, replaced with
monocromatic or two-colour hardbounded ones

- big, informative manuals, filled with excellent,
good-humored examples replaced with thin, terse,
dry ones, filled up with big amounts of blank space
and little information

- solidly built, last-for-always calc bodies replaced
with feeble, readily worn out plastic ones

- easy to open calculators, which you could even alter
or expand yourself (i.e. add more memory or a switch)
replaced with unopenable ones, very difficult to
modify at all

- molded, permanent keys replaced with painted ones,
even several times painted over

- classic lines and colours, replaced with garish ones

- quality production in USA and Singapore replaced with
Indonesia, Malaysia, and worst of all, China

- full functionality for engineers (i.e: infrarred
communications) cut down to suit students and their
restrictive environments (i.e: copying in exams)

- excellent designs badly crippled, i.e: 42S's IR
input supressed, impossible to read in your 41C
programs though the machine was internallty designed
to accept them directly without translation.
Synthetics disabled, CPU speed reduced and software
remedies thwarted.

- useful publications, such as "HP Keynotes" or services,
such as "HP User's Library" deleted

and I could go on, and on, and on ... enough.


I wouldn't buy any calc from Ti, even if I'd have to calculate space flight trajectory with a slide rule;)


Course you could use an outdated pc, note p4's are at or less than HP's finest calculators of the 70's, not adjusted for inflation!


I thought that the 48G series were still made in Singapore. This is not the case? Chinese made one's are "the worst of all???"


I may be stating the obvious but there's a few points I think bear consideration in the current state of HP calculators apart from the real (or imagined) inadaquacy of HP management. Let me make clear that i'm not defending HP's policy or actions of the relatively recent past and present. In fact I think HP has demonstrated a genuine cowardice which in effect is inimical to true market leadership and the spirit of innovation. That said, i'd like to focus on the technology itself as a contributing factor to 'the decent of HP calculators'. In percieving this decent we are apt to look back to the earlier models as consistent examples of quality and innovation that also benefitted from an ascending arc of technological advancement that has seen application in myriad other fields as well. This arc has been so steep that any device drawn from a point early enough on the arc has now the appearance of an 'antique', and indeed some devices are now treated as such. It is important to recognize the relationship between the ascending arc of technology and the devices that are its constituent points. Since the arc advances with the sum total of human knowledge, though in a limited number of fields, and is not limited a priori to a specific application, it is unlikely that any one device, no matter how completely it reflects the movement of the arc in changing from one form to another over a short period of time, can long embody the whole movement of the arc. In other words, new devices will emerge that are better able to reflect the 'state of the arc' and the device that was previously its leading ambassador will settle into a more modest office. This is precisely what happened in the movement from calculators to personal computers. Many people can remember when four function calculators were revolutionary. This is because they emodied the state of the arc. Needless to say, anything that embodies the state of the arc gets considerable attention from industry and the marketplace. All this is not to say that HP calculators were never more than a dumb embodiment of a mass intellingence that was after all inevitable; that would be to say that there is a forest but there are no trees. HP calculators were the state of the art as well as the state of the arc. No one implemented the technology more intellingently.


...So while calculators embodied the state of the arc, HP implemented the technology more intelligently than anyone else; after all, the same technology was available to other companies at the same time. It should also be acknowledged that HP didn't have a monopoly on intelligent implementation or innovation. TI got it right with the 59, and later Casio got it right with the FX7000G, the first graphing calculator, and particularly the FX7500G which is still impressive after 15 years or so becuase of its size (a graphing calculator that is by memory 75% the size of a 15C when closed). It's when the arc moved beyond calculators that HP had trouble placing their calculators securely in the new niche markets that formed. Largely this was because they fit the first market, which was a market for state of the art handheld computing devices, so tightly that it was difficult to pry them loose to fill other, less technically savvy markets. Unfortunately, RPN was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. You can blame either the peg or the hole, it's up to you...I choose to blame the hole.


All of these businesses are in the business for one reason.

[bold]To make money[/b]

They are not in the business to educate our children, to give us nice toys that last forever, to do anything but make a profit.

HP has always been known for quality, in what they offer. Even their cheapest piece of plastic was always far better than TI or Casio.

I, for one, congratulate HP for giving up on calculators rather than sacrafice quality to give us cheap pieces of junk that last a year or so and are thrown out.

Remember, HP is in the business of making money, not to lose money giving us high quality products that do not make money for them.

Anyone that thinks that HP could continue making the calculators of yesterday, and still make a profit, simply does not understand business.

Lots of emotion at play here.

You and I and everyone that ever read a post on this board would by HPs but that is not enough to make it profitable, even if we agreed to buy one every year.


I believe Mike is on the right track regarding profit motive. However, it is worth analyzing the historical factors of the calculator business to understand why things are the way they are today. I tell people that students of business can learn a lot about the the rise and fall of an industry by studing the evolution of the pocket calculator from a business perspective. Here's my take on it.

In the 1970s, there were something like 200 manufacturers of calculators in the US, and the calculators were expensive. This was due mainly to the high cost of memory chips. As time went on, the cost of chips came down (and their capability increased), so the cost of calculators came down as well. Add in the large number of manufacturers, and the situation was ripe for some stiff competition. HP tried cutting costs by moving operations overseas (cheaper labor, etc ... note the newest HP calcs are made in China!) and using more efficient manufacturing techniques, but it wasn't enough. Today, of course, most of the manufacturers have gotten out of the business, and only HP, TI, Casio, and Sharp remain as the significant players.

The plethora of HP35 and other Classic units that were sold in the 1970s made HP a tidy profit . However, I wouldn't be surprised HP made ANY profit on the calculators they sell now. Simply put, the cost of making calculators today exceeds profitability. If they have not done so already, HP will ultimately make a business decision to get out of the calculator business altogether.

Today, HP has moved on to handheld PCs as the logical extension of the pocket calculator. Like the $395 HP35 in 1972, the $600 Jornada Pocket PC 2002 likely makes HP a good marginal profit. You can see HP pouring resources into this lucrative sector of the market right now. At least they have a good built-in RPN calculator!


todd - when that jordana comes with an emulator that gives me a 42 with i/o and a virtually unlimited memory; i'll buy it.



the Jornada 690 has an emulation of something like an 11C, switchable to a finanial mode.

And you can run Emu48 on the Jornada.



You should recall that TI is still making money on the calculator market (some say it's one of their only profitable divisions).
Also, I think their late models like the TI89 for instance are mechanically very well build.
So we're back to only bad management decisions and the overall lack of vision of these so-called "top" managers to explain the current state of affairs.

By the way, can't they lose money for a few years really ? Is it urgent to kill a departement with ideas which need some time to put products out the door ? Vision again...

My short-sighted analysis of the problem HP faces is that instead of sleeping on their laurels from 1995 to 2000 with the coming of the not-s-innovative 48GX, 5 years of wait for the nice but not revolutionary 49G, we should have seen something real and dramatic long ago. This was not the case.


Now your taking, I think you put your finger right on it Raymond. The perception that the business has changed hasn't stopped Texas Instruments from making a quid. Let's have a little optimism. Scotty


TI seemed to forsee at least the near term market tied to education, and that move along with support it provided in that sector allowed them to be the strongest? Note prices for ti-89 increased in some big box stores as HP's were pulled.


Todd G. wrote :

"However, I wouldn't be surprised HP made ANY profit on the calculators they sell now. Simply put, the cost of making calculators today exceeds profitability. If they have not done so already, HP will ultimately make a business decision to get out of the calculator business altogether."

Actually, I do not think this is correct. To quote Jean-Yves Avenard, one of the chief software developers of the 49 and former employee of the now defunct ACO : "ACO was profitable, and in fact, could finance itself just with the
calculators sale (and it's not a small profit, ACO by itself would be a multi-million dollars company)" .

Also, on the subject of HP shutting down their *entire* calculator business, I have this quote from Ian Morris, President of the HP Embedded and Personal Systems Group :
"HP will continue to deliver calculators and remains committed to the business. The business model, channel strategy and sales and marketing activities will remain the same. " . As to whether the above has any truth or is just corporate BS, well, that's another matter.



( Remove the random permutation of "NOSPAM" before e-mailing me. )


That could be a problem. HP is a tens of Billions with a B kind of company now. It's hard for a lot of big companies to pay attention to things that make around 0.1% of their revenues.

When I joined Intel in 1982 I worked in a division that made about $100 Million and was considered quite important to the company. By the mid-1990s that division had stabilized at about $50 Million and Intel was making tens of Billions. That division doesn't exist any more.

A lot of old employees like me wondered why they took so long to get rid of it. Apparently, they had a lot of long-term commitments that had to be met. (I left in 1988 thinking it would be dead within a year.) Many other employees had moved on and the ones who remained spent a lot of time complaining about management indifference. When you're 10% of the organization, the CEO talks about you all the time. At 0.2% he mostly ignores you.

Based on a quick look at a finance page, TI seems to get about 4% of its revenue from "graphing and educational calculators" (no other kind of calculator is mentioned.) TI's revenues last year were about one fifth of HPs though so even if HP's calculator sales were as great, it would still be in the dangerous sub 1 percent region on HP's financial statements.

Perhaps there's someone out there who'd like to buy a multi-million dollar business from HP?


Someone has to make calculators anyway, no?

I just hope it won't be TI...

Maybe Microsoft will;) Have you noticed RPN mode in WinXP's PowerToy Calculator?


Getting off-topic here... but I think Compaq iPaq are today, what HP calculators were yesterday.


Well, HP also seems to think that palmtops will be the future calcs. But right now they are wrong. At least with the current 3 knob/stylus/mini alphanumeric keyboard interfaces palmtops are pretty much useless as calculators. Second, they are much more expensive. Third, and most importantly, to this date no single PC math software has all the capabilities of the latest HP calcs.

If these flaws are fixed then, yes, the handheld PC might become the next scientific calculator, and I'll buy one immediately. But not before that.


This is just a thought.

Perhaps ACO was a victim of Carly trying (and succeeding) to make the numbers for Wall Street in preparation for the merger with Compaq.

BTW I am not going to take sides on this one (the merger, I mean).


Producing lousy manuals (both visually and technically) is not a new thing for HP. Have a look at say the manual for the 82183A Extended I/O Module. Its monochrome (written on
what looks like a typerwriter and is probably a Diablo daisywheel printer), totally uninformative, and with lots of errors (both language and factual).

It was written in 1982.

The reason for this is that they didn't expect to sell lots of XIO modules (which is the reason why they are so expensive nowadays) and so didn't feel it was worth to produce a quality manual.

That's life. If you can convince enough people to spend $300 for a calculator, you can be sure the manual will be excellent.


Or, these days the manuals will be on a $.05 (guessed volume price maybe less) CD tossed in with the product, allowing you to use your $70 worth of HP Inkjet Carts to print them! ;+}


> Or, these days the manuals will be on a $.05 (guessed volume price maybe less) CD [...]

You missed my point. The cost is not duplication, its production. You have to write the manual before you distribute it. The manuals produced in the 70s were done with superb attention to detail, with graphics, lots of examples, and clear explanations.

From the early 80s onwards (with one or two notable exceptions, like the manual for the 82182A Time module, or the 82210A HP41CV Emulator for the 48SX) quality steadily deteriorated.

Personally, I do not really care whether the manual is printed or not. When I read it the first time, I prefer a printed version, but when I need to refer to it later, I find an on-line version more convenient (and portable). If, however, the contents are trash, I'll just throw it away, regardless of its format.



The manufacturers see major hard copy manuals as cost that can be reduced in products, which implies consumers (and major retailers) are seen in general as not valuing the manuals as an add on to the price of the product. I'm sure the actual results would vary by product type/user group. The actual development cost is rather inconsequental compared with the need to recover production cost with margin for the manuals.

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