High-end calculators in the WSJ



#17

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, although mainly related to TI calculators:

Numbers Don't Add Up for a TI Calculator

J-F


#18

The way to the future is Mathematica on Touch/iPhone devices with a simplified "basic user" overlay.

I think there's a way for dedicated graphing calculators though. Here's my take:

*landscape form-factor: business

*portrait form-factor: scientific

All calculators should have a back-lighted color display that doesn't have to be as big as the iPhone screen. Something nice to look at at any rate.

Whatever Steve Jobs says, there's nothing like tactile feedback for the keys.

To me, the biggest mistake HP ever made starting with the HP-28C is to get rid of stepped programming and treating programs like data. From a theoretical point-of-view and as a LISP fan, I applaud. From a practical point-of-view, it becomes a big obstacle to access the computational power of the calculator. Let's be honest here, no one is ever going to do artificial intelligence research on a pocket calculator. The calculator's main reason to exist is the "immediate result". If I can't get that, it's dead in the water.

I never got around to program my HP-48 but I could program the HP-41 within the first five minutes when I got it.

One last thing: bring back the trapezoidal stylings of yore for the machine itself.

Edited: 9 Sept 2009, 4:10 p.m.


#19

That is true today, but wasn't back in 87 when the 28c came out. I bought one rightaway, and its loyal services got me through my EE studies. At the time, no PC application whatsoever provided the computing power the 28C had.
I agree, though, that I have a hard time to program it today, and an even harder time to find worthwhile applications to program. I don't have these issues with my more basic calculators. And mind you, I'm still a professional C++ developer.

A.


#20

Quote:

That is true today, but wasn't back in 87 when the 28c came out. I bought one rightaway, and its loyal services got me through my EE studies. At the time, no PC application whatsoever provided the computing power the 28C had.


In 1984, I was doing symbolic math, numerical integration, and linear algebra on my Apple II home computer using muMATH. The only thing I can think of that an HP 28C could do but not muMATH is graphing, but scientific graphing programs were available too.

That said, I did buy an HP 28S in 1988 and used it almost every day for the next five years.

#21

Quote:
The way to the future is Mathematica on Touch/iPhone devices with a simplified "basic user" overlay.

No debate here..

Quote:
All calculators should have a back-lighted color display that doesn't have to be as big as the iPhone screen. Something nice to look at at any rate.

Respectfully, I disagree. Backlights are fun for gameboy's but almost useless for a calculator. While I agree it would be nice to have, the cost in $$ and battery life will not nearly make up for the 2x per year I would use the function- and I use my calculators alot. With a gameboy there is no inputs and outputs to the system. you respond to things on the screen by pressing buttons, which changes the display, which causes you to respond... etc...

With a calculator, you almost always have numbers or other data to put in, and something to write down when you're done, and both those things require light or at lest a pen with radioactive ink. Did they ever make a glow-in-the-dark slide rule? <idea>

I also respectfully disagree on the Color LCD. not worth the suck on battery power, and the added color will probably not add any information to the screen whatsoever. I reference Tufte and his many books about Data Ink. If it is not required to display data, get rid of it and Use the ROM/display space/battery life/development costs etc.... for something that does.

Quote:
Whatever Steve Jobs says, there's nothing like tactile feedback for the keys.

Could not agree more. :)

Quote:
To me, the biggest mistake HP ever made starting with the HP-28C is to get rid of stepped programming and treating programs like data. From a practical point-of-view, it becomes a big obstacle to access the computational power of the calculator.

There are strengths and weaknesses to both. The power of the 3rd generation calculators 28,48,50g is that you can do more complex functions- for example parallel list processing, multiple data types, longer strings, etc.. Some things are easier on the RPL, some on RPN. I would not trust a 'one is better than the other' statement from someone who has not mastered BOTH- and even then I would suggest there is a large middle ground where either are good. There is also the 71b BASIC/FORTH language which also has strengths and weaknesses.

Quote:
Let's be honest here, no one is ever going to do artificial intelligence research on a pocket calculator.

Never say never... that really depends on the heuristics of the program. I've found the decision algorithms in HPChess to be quite advanced for a hand-held calculator. It's not "Deep Blue", but that's beside the point. FYI, in some ways the HP 50G is well beyond the early 1976 Cray-1 Supercomputer. The beauty of it is that a 15 year-old student can do on a 50g what took scores of PHD's to do on a computer in the 1960s- if it was possible. Feynman helped design nuclear weapons and quantum electrodynamics with far less sophisticated machines.

Quote:
The calculator's main reason to exist is the "immediate result". If I can't get that, it's dead in the water.

May I disagree again? There are many uses for calculators.. Fast and accurate results are one (although computers are better at both). Calculators "boot" in a fraction of a second- even today it takes my computer several minutes to turn on. So I think convenience takes front seat over the 'immediate result'. The other issue is portability. Until recently, you could not really cram a supercomputer into your pocket. Today with a smartphone connected to the internet, you don't need to....you can call up wolfram|Aplha or other site.

Quote:
I never got around to program my HP-48 but I could program the HP-41 within the first five minutes when I got it.

I have 6 of each.. try the 48, you might like it.

Quote:
"trapezoidal"

Please click here :)

edit: removed link to Feynman interview


Edited: 9 Sept 2009, 9:26 p.m.


#22

About "trapezoidal". Let me respectfully point you in the right direction:

I presently have a HP-67 in my hand. I count 8 trapezoidal surfaces on the machine, not even counting the keys themselves.

#23

Trapezoidal like the 20b? ;-)

TW


#24

I like it!

It looks like Darth Vader's HP.


Edited: 9 Sept 2009, 11:09 p.m.


#25

Did anyone notice the 5% graphic calc market share for HP in that story? Man, we're lucky HP is still making calculators at all, much less ones that meet any of our retro requirements.

#26

Hi,

As you see, there are many different opinions. A lot is open to personal preference. I loved the 28C. I still have a 28S and enjoy working on it, although by todays standards it is slow.

I thought that the advent of the 28C and RPL would have put stepped RPN programming behind us. To me it was like going from Basic to C.
It was not until coming to this forum that I realised how many still preferred the stepped RPN programming. So perhaps as discussed in the "43S ponderings" thread, both should be incorporated to allow users their preferred method.

Quote:
I never got around to program my HP-48 but I could program the HP-41 within the first five minutes when I got it.

I could program my 28C within the first 5 mins. Was it not just a case of going back to what's familiar rather than learning RPL? I have that problem with Pascal. When I did my first programming course it was in Pascal. The world uses C/C++. I have tried to switch, but keep jumping back to Pascal because I know it and can do something quickly rather than bother to learn something else.

#27

For those who like to program programmable calculators, of course some will prefer RPL, some RPN, and some BASIC; we like what we like.

What is truly amazing, IMHO, is this (and I'm going to exaggerate a bit, to make a point): there are roughly 6,783,244,335 people in the world today. Of these, 2,119 write programs on calculators. The amazing thing is that HP continues to make them at all.


#28

Quote:
The amazing thing is that HP continues to make them at all.

Calculators are a typical cash cow. "Profit of $208 million on revenue of $526 million in 2007", that is a profit margin of 40%!*. Since there is no real R&D or marketing going on, production is outsourced and component prices are constantly sinking, calculator manufacturers got low costs too. As long as you are making money (little as it may be) why should you stop?

*[From the WSJ article for TI and probably before taxes]

#29

Quote:
... there are roughly 6,783,244,335 people in the world today. Of these, 2,119 write programs on calculators.

I love it. If you believe the correspondents in this site most of the 2,119 write their programs using their HP-67's. And, the old TI guys think that they write the rest on their doughty old TI-59's.


#30

Quote:
I love it. If you believe the correspondents in this site most of the 2,119 write their programs using their HP-67's. And, the old TI guys think that they write the rest on their doughty old TI-59's.

To paraphrase Doc Brown, does this mean that there is some special significance to the mid-1970's in the space-time continuum? (Or is it just an incredible coincidence?)

#31

It can not be a coincidence:

Led Zeppelin
HP-67
Concorde plane


#32

And don't forget - the people will want it to circumnavigate the world in no time at all without sonic boom :)))


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