the future of programmable calculators?


Lets have a look into the crystal ball and speculate a bit.
What will be the future of programmable handheld calculators?

From discussions in this forum it seems that many are quite happy with offerings from times gone by.
The recent trend to use emulators or simulators on pda's and smartphones will probably increase but they are not(yet) a substitute for dedicated calculators(reliability,cost,longetivety, power consumption..).

So will we see 600Mhz processors(current iphone standard) in high end HP calculators and how about oled displays or electronic paper type ones? Maybe also embedded virtual machines or micropower multicore cpus in graphing calculators.

your thoughts please!




Hello Herbert,

We had this particular topic quite often already. Frankly, I don't really expect new arguments. If you don't mind, I'd recommend you check the archives first. Then feel free to return with the questions you think are not covered there sufficiently.

Ceterum censeo: HP, launch a 43S.



Hopefully this forum is dynamic with new users and new thoughtful comments, ideas and discussions. Referring to archived comments and threads is inhumane and does not promote intellectual discourse.

"Everything that has ever been thought, written, and said has been recorded. Look it up." Earth 2103


Hi Chuck,

Hopefully this forum is dynamic with new users and new thoughtful comments, ideas and discussions. Referring to archived comments and threads is inhumane and does not promote intellectual discourse.

You got me wrong. Nothing against *new* ideas at all. Ruminating old stuff, however, isn't real fun to watch. Thus, my modest recommendation to look into the archives.

"Advantage to those who are able to read." German saying.


I looked through the archives going back to 2002 and didn't see much when searching for "future." I apologize if this has been covered earlier than that or under different topics.

I think there are (at least) two type of programmers that HP needs to think about: end users who are writing quick programs of a few lines, and more experienced programmers who are writing applications and such. End users need the development environment on the calculator, but for more serious code, I think you can offload all the development onto a PC.

In other words, I wouldn't put the development library in flash memory on the calculator. Let all complex development occur on PCs. Most of it probably occurs there now anyway.

Regarding speed, if I was HP, I'd be working hard to convert the 48/49/50 Saturn assembly code to native ARM and port the RPL to a 32 bit address, byte addressable environment (vs the 20 bit address, nibble addressable environment of the Saturn). This would give a huge speed boost over the TI's. As an aside, does anyone know how much of the ROMs are Saturn assembly code and how much is RPL?

Finally, I wish someone would create an RPL optimizer. I believe that most user RPL code could be greatly sped up by static analysis of the stack. For example, if you know that levels 1 and 2 of the stack contain real numbers and the next instruction is "+", then you can replace it with %+, thus avoiding lots of error checking. Really, I wish I had the time to do this myself.

Although not specifically related to programmable calculators, I think HP should offer some of the calculators in a different form factor. Nearly all of their calculators today are about 7"x3"x0.5". The 12C's form factor is quite popular and it fits your pocket. I personally liked by 29C because you could hold it in one hand and easily reach all the keys with your thumb, making for very handy one-handed operation.



Personally, I've moved beyond calculators for programming; even though I have somewhere close to 30 HP's, 40 non-HP's, a multitude of other calculating paraphernalia, mechanical, "electronical", and programmable, I'm smitten with Mathematica. There is absolutely no comparison to the computing ability, graphical output, and programmability of Mathematica. I firmly believe I will never write another program for a calculator. Not that I can't appreciate the extensive calculator programs I've written in the past, and won't appreciate programs written by others to come. It's just seems trivial program a calculator nowadays. HP may make a Turbo X 43g++ XJR HD calculator, and I'd be the first to buy one, but I can't say I'd spend more than an hour programming it. Ditto with the iPhone apps. Cute, (and I have 6 calculator apps) but.....

This could be why calculator manufacturers aren't overly hip on producing high-end expensive programmable machines. It's time to leave the past in the past, along with the manual typewriters without a "1" key (although I have 6 of those, as well.) Doesn't mean they need to make them again.


Chuck, it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round. Just because you see no point in programmable calculators, there are people who enjoy writing programs on them. Personally, I like the challenge of developing algorithms for machines with limited resources, like the HP-65 and HP-12c. As I've said before, it's just fun. Of course these machines do not have anywhere near the capabilities that Mathematica has; that's the point.

I expect HP (and TI, Casio, Sharp, etc.) to continue to make programmable models for years to come. Time will tell.


I still have my beloved 15C at home, a 41C, a 48G and a new 35S. I use them from time to time at home, but what I use the most at work is Free42 on the iPhone.

- An iPhone still has a smaller form factor than any of these calcs, and I always have it in my pocket.

- the portrait display is easier to use with one hand than, say SCI-15C's landscape mode

- I care more for an simple efficient RPN than the feel of the buttons

- When I need something involving programming, I use Python + numpy + matplotlib

For me, devices like iPhone are the future of handheld calcs, except maybe for exams where they will want non-programmable machines and no WiFi/3G :-)


See "It's come to this..." parallel thread...


For a couple of years I have been working in a biolab. My 32SII did more or less trivial calculations for which I wrote programs or used the equation solver. It wouldn't have been practical to use a computer. That's just a matter of space and speed. At that time there were no smartphones, but I think I wouldn't have brought an iPhone into that lab.

There is a target audience for small programmables. Unfortunately, this group is quite small and most members of it refuse to use any of them. I've seen colleagues typing their formulas into 4-bangers, over and over.

However, I'm happy to own a couple of programmables, sufficient to serve me for the rest of my life.

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