In praise of hard-copy manuals



#42

When I bought my first HP calculator, an HP 32SII, it was the manual which impressed me more than the calculator.

The calculator was very nice, but I had had some other Casio and Sharp calculators that, while being in the algebraic style, were also well thought out and quite usable.

But the manual was on a planet of its own. It was written in an outstanding way. It was clear, from the manual, the enormous amount of thought and engineering that went into that calculator. Other calculators were composed of many functions, more or less put together on top of an algebraic setting. But it was clear from the 32SII manual that true engineers and mathematicians had worked at the calculator. It was not a toy, it was the outcome of very sophisticated thought. The impression of quality, attention to detail, was remarkable.

The 33s, which I just bought, had a similar manual.

The manual is part of the reason I never liked the 48, 49, 50g series. The manuals were hastily put together, poorly organized, too large -- a sloppy job. And worse, those calculators were never really useful to me if I did not have the manuals nearby; never being able to use the calculators alone, I never grew fond of them.

The 35s has also a decent manual, but not in hard copy. To me, that is just a statement of cheapness, and lack of attention to quality. I find it strange that the cheaper 33s has a printed manual, whereas the 35s does not. It is as if the 35s wants to be a status symbol, rather than an actually useful calculator.
This, to me, is also apparent in other choices of the 35s. The ALL-digits mode is broken, the comma does not appear while typing a large number... yes I heard explanations for the latter, but when I got my first HP calculator, that incredibly useful shifting comma was one little detail that showed the attention to design that had gone into that calculator. Losing that in the 35s is just sad.

I don't buy the argument of going green. If you do care about being green, stop (as I have done) reading newspapers on paper, and read them on the web. I must have saved over ten pounds of paper a week doing that. I think all my HP manuals weigh about 5-6 pounds; my purchase of manuals is a tiny percentage of the books I buy. But for me, the presence of a manual is a sign that the calculator is created to be really used, as a professional, well thought-out instrument.

We will see if there will be models following the 33s, which I now consider to be the last of the classical calculators (the 35s does not qualify due to lack of manual). On some level, calculators will cease to make sense. Everybody will soon have a smartphone (an Android, or Pre, or iPhone, or...), and that will work as a calculator too. I am not sure of what the market will support; it will be interesting to see.

Luca


#43

Quote:
The 35s has also a decent manual, but not in hard copy. To me, that is just a statement of cheapness,
You are right, because the first production 35s did come with a printed manual, then it was dropped.
Quote:
the comma does not appear while typing a large number... yes I heard explanations for the latter,

The explanations I read had to do with RPL calculators, which the 35s is not. It is in the lineage of the 32sii and 33s, which do have that feature. So to me that's no explanation at all.

#44

The thousands shifting is easy on a calculator where you only have one data type (real numbers). On the 35s which can have complex numbers, or vectors, it can't really know what you are typing in until the end. It could *possibly* have been kept that, but would have used up a lot of ROM in an already full ROM.

As for thick, hardbound manuals. . . I doubt you will ever seen them again in ANY consumer product because of cost, "green", and the fact that nobody reads them.

Calculators aren't made for a single group of professionals any more like HP calcs of old. A large included manual isn't enough of a selling point that it outweighs the cost of putting it in. . . :-(

If it was up to us, we'd do it. Very expensive people that study that type of thing in a methodi, scientific method though tend to shape corporate policy.

TW

Edited: 4 Sept 2009, 11:22 a.m.


#45

Quote:
As for thick, hardbound manuals. . . I doubt you will ever seen them again in ANY consumer product because of cost, "green", and the fact that nobody reads them.

Calculators aren't made for a single group of professionals any more like HP calcs of old. A large included manual isn't enough of a selling point that it outweighs the cost of putting it in. . . :-(

If it was up to us, we'd do it. Very expensive people that study that type of thing in a methodi, scientific method though tend to shape corporate policy.

TW


See above:
Quote:
the first production 35s did come with a printed manual, then it was dropped.
#46

Quote:
Calculators aren't made for a single group of professionals any more like HP calcs of old.

No doubt true. But who, regardless of what demographic they belong to, can use any features beyond the basics w/o a manual?
Quote:
A large included manual isn't enough of a selling point that it outweighs the cost of putting it in. . . :-(

But a printed manual was included with the first production. Which makes Luca's point:
Quote:
To me, that is just a statement of cheapness,

Quote:
Very expensive people that study that type of thing in a methodi, scientific method though tend to shape corporate policy.

But do they use their own products?

#47

A printed manual was included when the 35s was first introduced. True.

But, being in the consumer electronics business myself, things change. Demands come from special interest groups, investors, corporate boards, retailers, distributors and they are all looking for similar things.

Pack more stuff into the same size boxes or fit more product on the same peg in the store.

Manuals eat paper. Manuals are big. Manuals make packaging big. Few customers even OPEN the manual much less look at it.

Sadly (and it is sad to me), the printed large manual is going the way of the dodo.

Fitting 3 boxes on a peg in a store vs. 6 by having smaller packaging may mean the product is picked up by the store or not. Smaller packaging means more product can be fit into a container from China, reducing costs.

We have redesigned our own packaging several times to reduce materials and make things smaller.

I'm sure HP is no different.


#48

Quote:
Sadly (and it is sad to me), the printed large manual is going the way of the dodo

Indeed sad, but true.

Products come with a PDF manual on CD if you're lucky, otherwise a web address to go download one. I guess the assumption is everyone has a computer.

One of the advantages is portability. Need a 50G manual at work? just download it from the HP website - you don't even have to bother remebering the CD, let alone lug the manual along.

Many software packages install large help files in stead of books (I came across my WP5.1 manuals a few weeks ago), but even that's changing - recent MS Office releases go online whenever the help files are accessed.

Change happens. I recently invested in a laser printer - one of the motivaters being to print manuals. I still prefer a printed manual, it's just easier to page through & find stuff and after a while I know pretty much where to open it to find something. I find it more difficult to scroll through a couple of hundred page PDF. Perhaps because I grew up with printed matter and maybe the next generation will not know what to do with a printed book :-))).

#49

Quote:
I grew up with printed matter and maybe the next generation will not know what to do with a printed book :-))).

Ouch! This is true for me too. Does it mean we're getting old?

-- Antonio


#50

Is anyone using an eInk device (Kindle, Sony Reader, Cybook ...) to store and read the HP manuels?
I agree with what was said about paper manuals and I appreciate them for the tactile feedback, the portability (you can bring them where you want, on the desk close to the calculator, on the sofa, on the bench, in the bed ...) but I'm wondering if this kind of devices can offer in a close future the reading experience of a paper manual, while providing the e-book advantages: storage of a whole library in a small device, text search ...

#51

Quote:
As for thick, hardbound manuals. . . I doubt you will ever seen them again in ANY consumer product because of cost, "green", and the fact that nobody reads them.
Chicken-and-egg-- no one reads them anymore because no one expects the manual to be any good, because the art of good manual-writing was lost years ago.

But if I'm going to invest in a good tool and the manual only comes in a .pdf file, I'm going to Email it to Kinko's and have them print it for me. It's nice to have the searchable digital version, but I also want to be able to pencil-in my comments and other marks and use post-it notes along the edge. It's much faster to get around a paper manual than the online version if you're not searching.

Just the volume of junk mail I've gotten for Verizon FiOS exceeds the amount of paper it would take to print out an 800-page manual, not to mention all those cereal boxes over the years, the Pennysaver which always goes straight to the recycling, toilet paper, etc., so I don't think "being green" is a concern.

#52

Quote:
The thousands shifting is easy on a calculator where you only have one data type (real numbers). On the 35s which can have complex numbers, or vectors, it can't really know what you are typing in until the end.

You're on the right track, but I can't quite agree with your conclusions. As Martin Pinckney stated:

Quote:

The explanations I read had to do with RPL calculators, which the 35s is not. It is in the lineage of the 32sii and 33s, which do have that feature. So to me that's no explanation at all.

Recall that the HP-42S offered complex numbers, matrices, and alphanumeric strings in addition to floating-point numbers, and still provided the comma or point separators automatically.

I believe that the HP-35s might be borrowing some non-legacy ROM code from the HP-50g and other models, because a few instances of "RPL way" and "business-model way" replaced the traditional "RPN scientific way". In addition to the lack of automatic comma-separator placement (based on RPL's free-format input buffer that accepted input of uncertain data type), the following unwelcome methods were adopted on the HP-35s:

  • The awkward RPL-style HEX/OCT/BIN data entry that required the user to append a lower-case base identifier to the alternate-base integer, even with that base selected
  • The requirement to prepend a "1" prior to entering the base-10 exponent "E", as with the business models

-- KS

Edited: 5 Sept 2009, 1:49 a.m.

#53

Quote:
The thousands shifting is easy on a calculator where you only have one data type (real numbers). On the 35s which can have complex numbers, or vectors, it can't really know what you are typing in until the end.

42S does not have this problem. It support multiple types (IIRC) and is RPL-based (again IIRC).
Quote:
It could *possibly* have been kept that, but would have used up a lot of ROM in an already full ROM.

Get a larger ROM. :-)
#54

-I just weighed the printed manuals for the 50G including the starter book, in the aggregate 6.5 pounds. It isn't enough, and yet it's too much. The information is hiding in plain sight. There is simply too much NEW information to be digested unless you are strongly motivated. It is too complex to simplify. Paper may be great for simpler cases. You need an html document in your computer to access the information, then too there is a lot to carry in your head. If you have not grown up with the previous calculators that presaged the 50G it seems hopeless to learn all at once. Sam


#55

Quote:
-I just weighed the printed manuals for the 50G including the starter book[...]

Printed manuals for the 50g? Did you print them yourself or are they available from HP?

Personally, I think companies should make printed & bound manuals available for a price. That way the people who want them could get them and hopefully the companies could earn a little profit from it.

#56

True, it was very nice that the first run of 35s calculators came with printed manuals.

The spiral bind is also nice to have.


#57

Where the heck did you find one with a spiral bound manual? I bought one of the very first ones (CNA 72600865), and it came with a lousy paperback bound manual. Grrrrrrr!


#58

I think Dallas just took it to a print shop and had it spiral bound.


#59

Yup, Kinko's did it for $8. I really don't like hardback manuals; they don't lay proper-like.

I also promptly replaced the zipper case with a 33s case. Yes, the zipper case is neat and all, but, again, I just don't like working the dang zipper all the time. Call me lazy, eh?

The 33s case fits perfectly. The only other thing I still have yet to do is replace the soft plastic film over the LCD with a thicker matt-plastic. I have done this with a couple of the 15c jobs with badly scratched screens. I use a matt plastic that is somewhat like the 48 series screen material.


#60

Quote:
I also promptly replaced the zipper case with a 33s case.

Great idea! I never thought of that. My HP 33s has one of the older displays with the invisible decimal point, and I hardly ever use it since getting my HP 35s.

I think I'll head down to Kinko's to get the manual spiral bound, and maybe the HP 32SII manual as well.

#61

Quote:
The only other thing I still have yet to do is replace the soft plastic film over the LCD with a thicker matt-plastic.
It's crucial for a matt-plastic film to make perfect contact to the LCD, right? Did you find a self-adhesive film or is yours stiff enough to ensure it?

#62

I use 1mm thick foam double-sided tape as a stand-off similar to how the 35s screen is originally installed.

The matt plastic is rather thick - about 0.7mm; I raided it from the LCD covers of some old office phones.

For the 11c/15c screens, I just cut them the same size as the old glossy ones. I hit the front and the aluminum face plate with a heat gun until it is warm and press the old screen out of the bracket. The new ones takes a little flexing to get it started in the slot but will fit just like the old one. Then heat the front up again and press the ends against the glue.

Let me know if you would like photos; I just finished up an 11c and will do my 35s early this next week.


#63

Thanks for your answer! I'm very interested in your 35s display surgery, so please take some photos :-).


#64

I will put in a link (in a separate thread) to a photo page sometime mid to late next week.

#65

I think one of the last good HP calculator manuals was the spiral bound owner's manual for the HP42S. But it later was changed to a more awkward bound book.

I think the greatest HP calculator manual set EVER is the HP-15C Owner's Handbook with the HP-15C Advanced Functions Handbook. I'd love the equivalent for my cherished and more capable HP42S.

If the fantasy is true that HP may be considering a resurrection of the HP-15C, what are the chances that these two high quality manuals will also be re-issued? (None!)

In fairness to very complex machines like the HP49g+/HP50g, I find that the searchable pdf format manuals are far easier to use overall to sift through those 800 page monsters. I can carry manuals on an SD card or flash drive. Of course, I must have have a PC available.

I printed out the HP49g+ AUR on a high definition printer, four pages on each side of an 8.5x11 inch sheet, and got something light and compact that I can use without having a PC (if I have my best reading glasses).


#66

Quote:
I think the greatest HP calculator manual set EVER is the HP-15C Owner's Handbook with the HP-15C Advanced Functions Handbook. I'd love the equivalent for my cherished and more capable HP42S.

If the fantasy is true that HP may be considering a resurrection of the HP-15C, what are the chances that these two high quality manuals will also be re-issued? (None!)


Yes, wonderful and informative reading. I guess we are fortunate to already have these manuals, as well as the many others that HP published in the early years. I value these manuals almost as much as the calculators themselves. I also very much like the original manual for the HP 12C, as well as those for the HP 91 and HP 34C.


#67

Just to note - HP is still shipping bound copies of the manual on request. I just got off the phone with them and my manual is coming via UPS with a 10 to 15 day delivery window.

BTW I've been lurking here for awhile this is my first post!

#68

Quote:
But the manual was on a planet of its own. It was written in an outstanding way. It was clear, from the manual, the enormous amount of thought and engineering that went into that calculator. Other calculators were composed of many functions, more or less put together on top of an algebraic setting. But it was clear from the 32SII manual that true engineers and mathematicians had worked at the calculator. It was not a toy, it was the outcome of very sophisticated thought. The impression of quality, attention to detail, was remarkable.

Luca --

That was a nice short essay, and that particular paragraph hit the nail on the head.

H-P had an impressive "A-Team" of engineers (in the electronic, mechanical, and software disciplines), mathematicians, and technical writers producing the calculators of the 1970's and 1980's. A large professional market and relatively-high retail prices made it possible.

The HP-15C in particular was amazingly cohesive in its broad functionality, which was flawlessly implemented and documented in a pioneering product developed on a fairly-short timeline. Despite that the calculator's specification embodied "uncharted waters", and was implemented on hardware of modest capability, no bugs or avoidable shortcomings were introduced.

Every feature it truly needed to have for practicality was present. The matrix functions provided utilities for solving complex-valued systems, and the complex-number functionality -- although limited by hardware -- worked quite well with it. All the regular and advanced functionality was programmable and available concurrently, without resorting to operating 'modes' so common in other brands.

In addition to sound analytical thinking, certain systematic methods of engineering must have been used in order to achieve such results. I'd like to know specifically what they were.

-- KS

Edited: 6 Sept 2009, 1:43 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


#69

Thanks, Karl.
I fully agree with you; it is this impression of quality and cohesion that makes those calculators so nice to have and use.

My wife has the 15C; I missed out: I went through my engineering degree with a Casio fx-4000p. It was not till I moved to this country and started graduate school that I finally decided to buy a true HP, and I started with the 32SII (which is still my everyday calculator).

I bought an 11C, to also have a Voyager. I find the 42s also gives me a sense of incredible design quality, more so than the 32sII. However, the 42s never became my everyday calculator, due to the poor readability of the display (I write lots of code, and I often work in ambient -- not bright -- light), and due to the fact that too many of the functions I use are buried too deep in that general, huge, function menu. The 15c, with its power, readable display, and extensive functions on the key, is a very nice balance.

Oh, if they only made a 42sII with better display (like the 33s or 35s) and with more functions on the keyboard!

Cheers, Luca.


#70

Quote:
Oh, if they only made a 42sII with better display (like the 33s or 35s) and with more functions on the keyboard!

Hmmh, do you think of something like this here? Supporters of this dream are most welcome.

Ceterum censeo: HP, launch a 43S.

Walter

Edited: 8 Sept 2009, 2:35 a.m.


#71

Now that's just the right size calculator with the right size screen: a 4 level stack like the 28S.

Make it an RPL machine with 28S ROM (without the "graphics" - that i'll do on a PC) and it'd be the perfect handheld. Oh, just remember USB support for saving / re-loading progs :).

I know many prefer RPN programming, but just think: an (almost) limitless stack - no more keeping track of when you're about to drop something off the top of the stack!

Just my opnion/wish.


#72

Quote:
Make it an RPL machine with 28S ROM (without the "graphics" - that i'll do on a PC) and it'd be the perfect handheld.

Would one really choose to use RPL in a modern design? I've never done RPL myself so I can't asses it. But, it seems if you are going to go higher level then something like Hugh Steer's hplua would be a better fit. That's what I would choose :)

Quote:
I know many prefer RPN programming, but just think: an (almost) limitless stack - no more keeping track of when you're about to drop something off the top of the stack!

Why would RPN programming preclude a larger stack?


#73

Quote:
Would one really choose to use RPL in a modern design? I've never done RPL myself so I can't asses it. But, it seems if you are going to go higher level then something like Hugh Steer's hplua would be a better fit. That's what I would choose :)

  1. Lots of RPL programs.
  2. Stack oriented programing like RPN.
But, I do see your point. Given today's memory sizes I see no reason why I should have to choose. Just have both RPL and Lua.

#74

Quote:
Why would RPN programming preclude a larger stack?

Good question, why is it that RPN programming calcs have only a 4-level stack? (all the ones I know anyway - 35S included).




Quote:
Given today's memory sizes I see no reason why I should have to choose.

Also a good point. That would make it attractive to a bigger audience.



As for HPLua - I have never tried it, something to look into ...

#75

Quote:
Quote:
Why would RPN programming preclude a larger stack?

Good question, why is it that RPN programming calcs have only a 4-level stack? (all the ones I know anyway - 35S included).

AFAIK the reason was cost of memory in the ancient times. But nowadays this is no argument anymore. There are RPN calcs with larger finite stacks on the market, e.g. MathU with 16 levels. IMHO, a stack size of 6 or 8 would suffice for carefree calculations while still allowing for stack "gymnastics" like rolling etc.

A settable fixed stack size may include a "compatibility mode" -- i.e. size 4 -- for all the old programs. So sizes 4, 6, 8 would be perfect for my purposes.


#76

Quote:
AFAIK the reason was cost of memory in the ancient times.

In the HPs the barrier was broken with the 28C. It could probably have been done in the 41C series.

As far as compatibility with old programs goes, would it be that difficult adapting an old program to a dynamic length stack? There are some differences between models anyway that require small mods to programs (e.g 15C vs 42S vs 35S). If the designers allowed the first 4 levels to be addressed by either 1 to 4 or X Y Z T (allowing e.g. both the use of X<>Y or SWAP) the impact would be minimal, requiring small changes e.g. to ROLL & OVER.

My first HP was a 28C, so keeping track of the stack was never a worry, apart from running out of memory* - which wasn't a problem as I don't recall going beyond 10. I must say that RPN programming has me keeping careful track of the stack when designing programs.

[*The limited memory of the 28C did teach me the discipline of clearing the stack after each use.]
#77

Quote:
The manual is part of the reason I never liked the 48, 49, 50g series. The manuals were hastily put together, poorly organized, too large -- a sloppy job...
33s has a printed manual, whereas the 35s does not


It would be nice if you did your home work before making statements as the quoted ones above.
The HP48S had a perfect, thick manual; the 48G's not too bad either and the 35S had one.

#78

Quote:
... the 48G's not too bad either...

Except that for programmng you really needed the Advanced User's Reference Manual, which had to be purched seperately. Programming is one of the main features of the 48.

#79

This is true, and initially, I was put off because of the need for a separate AUR for the 48G series.

But then it seemed to me that if you included the material of the AUR into the included User's Guide, you'd have large brick that would have required traditional cloth binding to make it usable. Spiral and punched hole binding can accomodate only so many pages before the sheets become torn from the binding just by opening the book, and there are other physical issues.

Now, putting such material online or on a CD or DVD may make them affordably accessible (from both sides of the market), but personally, I find these media harder to use. I truly rather read a printed volume than something of equal size online or from a CDROM.

I learned to program my 48Gs from some awkward places and positions at odd times. Even a netbook or ipod touch would have made that harder, even if they existed at that time, even if I liked those kind of devices.

Edited: 5 Sept 2009, 12:22 p.m.

#80

That's why I said "not too bad" - the programing capabilities of the 48G overpassed the 48S' so the already thick manual should be at least doubled in size to cover it all. I have no problem buying extra manuals and they were available. Vast majority of users never need them anyway; they don't even read manuals coming with the calculator. Some participants in this forum included. Which doesn't stop them winging. I bet at least 80% of questions asked here and in the other forum come from people who never read the manual.


#81

-I think there is a limit to how much information one can use printed material to cover. Clearly the 50G reaches that limit. Printing the material means the information is hiding in plain sight. I think the answer is an HTML computer document that lets you jump among various subjects. I have the CD manuals for the 50g printed, in total 6.5 pounds and it is not enough, or it is too much. Won't work. It is unreal to hold up the 15C book as exemplary. It is simple and yet I read the book through and was still puzzled. Only on the second reading did it make sense. There is limit to the rate one acquires new information. Given the amount of new information it forces a long learning period. simple text won't work. You need an HTML document to access what you are puzzled about. Sam

#82

Quote:
I bet at least 80% of questions asked here and in the other forum come from people who never read the manual.



I noticed. I always found it superfluous for forums to state "read the manual/documentation first" - but I now see why.

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