No wonder HP can't "Dominate" the market


Why did HP stop designing new calculators? I have a theory,

I have heard that the main reason HP stoped creating new calculators is because they can't dominate the market. Interesting enough, It is very difficult to walk-in to a store and buy a HP 48 or HP 49 as well as many other models. In my quest to find a HP 49, I went to Office max, Staples, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City and some other smaller electronic chains and could not find the HP 49. None of these stores could even "special order" it either. I think one reason why HP didn't dominate the market is because their calculators are to hard to find!

I am an engineering student at Northeastern University a fairly large school and NO ONE I know uses or owns a HP calculator! I have never seen a HP 48 or 49 in person. Most people don't even know HP makes Graphing calculators. The few (1-2) that do know this say "I don't want to learn RPN" (They don't know the HP 49's and others default mode is algebraic)

The only reason I want a HP calculator is because I have used the emulator/simulator on the PC. I think that TI calculators and (even worse) Casio calculators are more wide-spread because they are so easily available and people can try them out at stores like staples and actually purchase them at a store.

People won't buy what they can't find.


I doubt this. We all know that HP handhelds are the
Mercedes Benz' of calculators (at least were for long time);
and they are rather expensive compared to the mass-market
crap from Casio or Sharp. Most people, particularly those
who buy at discounters (you mentioned Walmart or Staples)
simply don't need such Swiss knives like a HP48GX - a
HP32S-II is probably even too complicated for them (and the reason is not just primitively that it uses RPN). Typically,
you don't need much more functionality than the one a
TI30 (and all the other machines at a price below 10$) offers.

When I studied EE in the 80's HPs were rather popular at
the university, but yet not easily available at Walmart
(or rather, at their German equivalents). The difference
to today was that there were almost no feasible
alternatives to scientific, handheld computing (the TIs
at that time, the SR52, TI57/58/59 were less comfortable
by an order of magnitude). Nowadays, you have those BASIC
"slide rules" (remember that HP was also involved in this
segment), or you take a Palm, or a WinCE machine at a comparable price. HP has the Jornadas in this segment now.



I think that nobody wants to think.

HP49 is fair the most powerful calculator ever made, it has even an algebraic mode. It takes just few minutes to understand the concept behind RPN, but most people prefer CASIOs and TIs for the simply reason that you can make some calculations at store and be satisfied with the result of 1 plus 1. ;)

If you want to use your brain go through HP
If you want to use your finger use the others.


Marx Pio


From my experience with the HP49G I can only say that the calculator is (was?) let down by the amount of support offered from HP.

Many people have complained about the keys / display cover / lack of IR etc. but all these would have been sort of acceptable IF the support from HP was there. You can only use the features if you know how to drive the thing. Many people went into the '49 after the '48 but there is a limited number of those - certainly not enough to justify the '49.

After buying mine, I struggled with the HP49G (my first with RPL). The user guide, quick guide and 'advanced' user guide were useless (yes USELESS as they contained many errors and spent most of the pages describing very simple operations). I wrote an email to HP complaining that the HP49G documentation was so poor and incomplete and that the '49 user guide promised that programming was covered in the up-coming 'advanced' user guide but was never in that document. The '49 promotional documentation also said that the '49 was programmable in RPL/Assembler but RPL is not covered in anything from HP for the '49. I also pointed out that I HAD (i.e. no option) to go out and buy the HP48G (to get the standard '48 manual) and HP48 advanced user guide to even begin to use 10% of the power of the '49. HP did reply (I'll try to dig it out if anyone is interested) but from memory they were not interested in supporting the '49 but did point me to the local distributor for the latest s/w.

I registered my HP49 with HP (by giving my serial number and email) but did I received information like when the operating system was updated?, documentation issued?, special offers? NO, nothing, ever.

In summary I wished I'd never bought the '49 and had bought the '48 in the first place (which is cheaper, better built and has far far better documentation). I can only assume someone at HP thought that once the '49 was sold they could forget about support. I think this is the reason people have not been buying HP's of late.

Many sales are made to the educational market, and kids tend to buy either what friends have or what the teacher is using. HP have never been in the educational market (I think they did have a half hearted try with the HP38 but TI blew them out of the water).

PS I have a brain and use it - thats why I went bought the older design HP48.


Hmm..where did you expect that support to come from?!?!? There's almost no "calc-aware" staff at HP left..and since the developing team was dismissed, whom did you expect to write those manuals???

As for 38G: I've had an accident once with it, when it fell from a height of about 4 meters directly onto a concrete floor.....the only thing that got damaged was it's cracked slide-cover (the calc was open and working at that time, of course, and btw stayed in the same state after falling) show me a TI which will work after falling from an "ultimate height" of a work-desk........

P.S. I have a brain and also sometimes use it - that's why I calculate on my good old 48GX....but when I need to do it in an simpler/easier/faster way, I use any HP calc that first comes into my hands...


Hmmm... ACO employed a number of HP calculator aware people (probably some of the most aware in the world) for about 2 years but it would apear that they were directed more to rewriting the software after the HP49G was launched. The 'team' has only recently been dismissed and could have spent some time (in association with a technical writer) to support the product with documentation. In terms of sending out emails to registered users this would have taken almost no effort at all - I can only assume HP were using customer registration to evaluate distributor and marketing effectiveness.

The HP38G calculator is far better made than anything TI have ever produced (after-all it is based on the HP48 hardware). The reason TI blew HP out of the water was in the long term and constant support they offer - did ACO have a customer support team?

I used to think HP was the only sensible choice, but can anyone realy say that HP's recent calculator offerings (including documentation and product support for the HP6/10bII/30) are clearly the best on the market?

While other calculator makers are trying to climb up the quality ladder HP seem to be jumping off the top - I see this as a quick profit but long term disaster policy. I'm sure the Compaq deal has something to do with what HP appear to have been doing over the last year or so.


Well, though HP-Compaq merger isn't a direct reason for calc rather shows that HP is too big for such a small business:(

I still think that it's better to have a good built calc and a huge community of users rather than having a filmsy piece of plastic, shiny manuals telling me how to add 2 and 2, and some service staff of doubtful value;

The future of cals lays in palmtops without doubt....but only when such devices will be able to recognize handwritten formulas...until then I'll stick with my HPs...


The 48 & 49 was just discontinued in a number of the store you mentioned, and were marked down at HP's expense as a result. They used to be in many more than now, that was about the time of HP's action to stop development. I got a couple of marked down ones before gone.

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