Is the HP33S is the only game in town?



#30

So, I've been working on some amateur astronomy programs with my HP33S and while it gets the job done I'm getting a little tired of jumping through hoops due to (among other things) lack of numbered GOTOs.

But when I look around for alternatives, all I see is the HP35S (a step backward, by many accounts, though it would scratch my GOTO itch), and Casio's fx-5800P. The latter looks like a pretty cool machine, but it's costly to get in the USA. There don't seem to be *any* other programmable scientific calculators on the market. Given my intended use (at night, outside in the damp), a nice old vintage HP isn't my idea of a wise investment.

I really don't want a graphing calculator. I had a HP49G+, but learning RPL just wasn't on the agenda so I sold it to a fellow forum poster. A trip through the manuals for TI's and Casio's graphing calcs was interesting, but it's just so much simpler to XEQ A and get on with my life than to mess around with menus.

I can't be the only one who needs to crunch a few numbers and display a result or two when out in the field, can I? I'd kill for a HP35S that had firmware I could trust, a real time clock, and the ability to save and load programs--heck, I'd even deal with magnetic strips if I had to. A (dimmable!) red backlight would be a bit much to ask, right? :-)

I suppose I'm just bellyaching, but I hold some hope that I'm wrong about the alternatives.


#31

You said that you looked at TI's and Casio's graphics calculators, but I'd like to suggest that you re-examine Casio's fx-9860gii or the fx-9860g slim. Both have a fantastic back light which would be great outdoors at night, are pretty easy to program in their BASIC-like language and there are even a couple of (non-programmable) RPN calculators that people on this forum have programmed using Casio's SDK in C++:

from Nigel J Dowrick

from Hugh Steers

-Katie

Edited: 14 Nov 2009, 2:37 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


#32

Casio fx-9860 slim. One of the best (if not THE best) non-HP calculators out there. And you can download one of the several RPN implementations for it too. Don't argue; just get it. ;-)

thanks,
bruce


#33

Katie, Bruce--thanks for the suggestions.

Yes, I have looked hard at Casio's various fx-9860 models. I actually have the PDF manual up in another window as I write this, and I looked at a fx-9860GII (and its little brother fx-9750GII) in person at Best Buy yesterday. They are very appealing, and the price (c. $65.00 for the fx-9860GII at Fry's) is nice.

After mulling it over, however, I decided that my 33S probably serves my needs better. It's smaller, lighter, has greater battery life, is cheaper, and requires the bare minimum of fiddling in the dark.

My math requirements are fairly lightweight: for example, the main program I use computes the altitude and azimuth of a target given the target's right ascension and declination and the observer's latitude, longitude, date, local time, and time zone. The math is limited to HR<->HMS, trig functions and their inverses, IP/FP, and basic arithmetic. My first cut at it runs to c. 200 instructions and uses 6 labels; only two of the labels are executed directly by the user (setup and main program). In use, I just hit XEQ A, enter no more than three numbers, and get my alt/az coordinates in the display.

If I want something more powerful, I have a couple of excellent planetarium applications for my iPod Touch that do everything but look through the scope for me. But I'm getting tired of dropping my nice $300 iPod in the dirt, and if I forget to look away when turning it on I trash my carefully acquired night vision--there's no way to suppress the "Slide to Unlock" screen.

I've gone on at some length to describe my peculiar needs, but I think there are a lot of people with similar demands: a small, rugged, and not too expensive device that can automate numerical solutions in the field with a minimum of fuss.

I still might grab a fx-9860 just to play with it, though. :-)


#34

What is it exactly that turns you off about the HP-35s? I cannot see a single point where it lacks behind the 33s, but a great deal of improvements. And the pouch makes it a reliable travel companion. I used to travel with a 28S or 15C, but trusting vintage collectibles to airline companies is probably not a very good idea. So, what stinks about the 35s?


#35

Get ready for an onslaught!

Just for starters, it is MUCH SLOWER than the 33s at executing programs, and its handling of different bases is horrendous.

#36

I'm relying on what seems to be the consensus take here on MoHPC: slower than a 33S, some math bugs--the usual well-known list.

Is the consensus mistaken? I'd love to be wrong about this.

#37

Quote:
So, what stinks about the 35s?

I think "stinks" is probably too harsh (but maybe not).

Here is the un-official HP-35s bug list posted by Paul Dale
http://www.hpmuseum.org/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/hpmuseum/articles.cgi?read=735

#38

Add missing keystrokes (a hardware, not a software problem) to the list.


#39

Missing keystrokes are almost always a software problem that can be remedied. What's so peculiar about the 35s keys? Mine doesn't show that behaviour, but it's a late model.


#40

One broken key has been reported (up arrow if I'm not mistaken). The more commonly known missing keystroke problem is the lack of an input buffer (S/W). I have confirmed this by typing when the calculator is busy, e.g. 253!. Other HPs come up with the typed numbers in the display. The 35s doesn't.


#41

Quote:
One broken key has been reported (up arrow if I'm not mistaken).
Your memory serves you well, that was me.

Edited: 15 Nov 2009, 6:04 p.m.

#42

Marais,

one key of my 35s (CNA72102360) stopped beeing registered despite an audible click. This has nothing to do with software. It's a matter of how hard the key is pushed.

Thomas

#43

Nothing stinks about the 35s.

I find it is pleasant enough to use (except for base stuff which really is dismal). Speed is okay and much faster than the classic HPs, I don't own a 33s so I cannot compare with that.

Yes there are some bugs, but they are easy enough to avoid. I've never encountered the lock up the calculator ones.

- Pauli

#44

Quote:
[...] heck, I'd even deal with magnetic strips if I had to.
Recently I fed some of them to my TI-59. They have been written somewhere early 80th and could still be read. Not a bad choice, except for the need to maintain the card reader and the current it draws ;^).
#45

The calculator is the wrong piece of equipment.

Use a PC or a miniature computer, with software. You can get compilers and GUI interfaces for all sorts of programs, from Basic to C etc etc.

I like my calculators, but for doing anything other than trivial stuff or simple stuff for portable use, I go to the computer.

If portability is key, then a small machine is key. Maybe an Ipod or Iphone even.

I haven't had a need to do any non-trivial work on a compact device lately. Is the Iphone the only small device any more? What happened to Windows CE and Palm OS? Maybe they are already obsolete and you should use the Iphone platform.

Maybe the best thing s the tiny sub-laptops with ATOM processors. You have a real computer, only small. Put the BASIC< C++ or whatever on there and write your programs and never look back.

Just my silly ideas. I'd like to hear what you decide.


#46

Thanks for the comments, Bill. Not to pick a fight with you, but your comments are a good representation of the direction things seem to be going so I'll post a little counterpoint. :-)

Quote:
The calculator is the wrong piece of equipment.

Use a PC or a miniature computer, with software. You can get compilers and GUI interfaces for all sorts of programs, from Basic to C etc etc.


With respect, a calculator is the perfect piece of equipment since you don't have to pay the price in size, weight, cost, battery life, durability, or ergonomics to get a bunch of unnecessary power for the task at hand. My 33S spits out an answer in about two seconds, and the result is both accurate and easy to read. I can hold it in one hand, battery life is measured in months rather than hours, and I'm pretty sure it will survive field use. If I kill it, I'm only out $40 for a new one.

As for software, I don't have to muck around with compilers and a bunch of UI overhead if I want to add features to my keystroke programs. I do this sort of thing for a living, and I'm happy to avoid it when dealing with my hobbies.

Quote:
I like my calculators, but for doing anything other than trivial stuff or simple stuff for portable use, I go to the computer.

If portability is key, then a small machine is key. Maybe an Ipod or Iphone even.


I have an iPod Touch, and I referred to some shortcomings above. To add to those shortcomings, winter is fast approaching and I don't think the iPod's touchscreen will work very well at all with gloves.

Quote:
I haven't had a need to do any non-trivial work on a compact device lately. Is the Iphone the only small device any more? What happened to Windows CE and Palm OS? Maybe they are already obsolete and you should use the Iphone platform.

I was a longtime Palm/WinCE user and used them pretty heavily. Both were (and are) terrible platforms compared to Apple's Touch/iPhone. Apple got a lot of things right with their OS X port for small devices.

Quote:
Maybe the best thing s the tiny sub-laptops with ATOM processors. You have a real computer, only small. Put the BASIC< C++ or whatever on there and write your programs and never look back.

I'm actually typing this on a Atom-powered ASUS eeePC running Ubuntu's excellent Netbook Remix Edition 9.10 Linux distribution. It's a terrific subnotebook, and it's a wonderful platform for my favorite planetarium application (Stellarium). It's a lousy choice for a night under the stars, however: battery life is too short, it's too fragile, and unless I want to drag a table along with me I don't know where I'd put it. In a mud puddle, maybe? :-)

Quote:
Just my silly ideas. I'd like to hear what you decide.

Not silly at all! We all have different applications and expectations for our equipment. It appears that I'm in the minority, that's all.


#47

Quote:
We all have different applications and expectations for our equipment. It appears that I'm in the minority, that's all.

Are you kidding? this forum has plenty of users that, well, use their HP calculators on a daily basis for "non trivial" work.
Quote:
Given my intended use (at night, outside in the damp), a nice old vintage HP isn't my idea of a wise investment.

This sentiment is expressed often on here. I admit I do not quite understand it, since all my HP calculators are out of production (Pioneers 38g and 48sx), and all of them are for me to use, not collect. Perhaps I wouldn't subject a mint 29c or 15c to such use (if I had one), but my point is I would not rule out an older calc if it otherwise meets my requirements. That's just me.

#48

Quote:
Are you kidding? this forum has plenty of users that, well, use their HP calculators on a daily basis for "non trivial" work.

I don't doubt it. But the fact that, as far as I can determine, there are exactly three "real" programmable scientific calculators on the world market speaks for itself.

Of those three, Casio doesn't even bother to market their seemingly excellent fx-5800P in the USA. HP really has one and a half models, and we probably owe the existence of those to the various PE exams' requirements.


#49

You wrote:

"But the fact that, as far as I can determine, there are exactly three "real" programmable scientific calculators on the world market speaks for itself."

Have you considered the Corner Office ATC-139 which seems to be a repackaged version of the Durabrand 828 which was a repackaged version of the Casio fx-7000G which was the first graphing calculator?

It's not much of a graphing calculator since it only uses a small portion of the screen for graphing, but it can serve as a respectable scientific calculator with some interesting attributes:

16 digits- what other machine can do that?

26 memories

400 program steps

10 program areas

Hyperbolics and base changes

Shirt pocket size - about the same size as the Voyagers - slightly longer, slightly narrower and slightly thinner.

A sturdy slip on cover

Really low price


#50

Oh God, Palmer, I bought one of those about a year ago when Walgreens had them on sale for like $5 or something. It was horrible! I couldn't figure out how the programming language worked because the "manual" that described it was a fold-out sheet with a font so tiny I couldn't even begin to make it out. I even tried enlarging it on my copy machine and it was still too small.

I took it back. Even $5 was too much to pay for that nightmare.

The packaging said something like "just like a TI-83." Believe me, it was nothing like a TI-83.

Don


#51

Don:

You wrote:

Quote:
The packaging said something like "just like a TI-83." Believe me, it was nothing like a TI-83.
Don

Of course it isn't "just like a TI-83" because it is really a repackaged fx-7000G. Among other things that illustrates how great the fx-7000G was for its time.

The manual I received was NOT a fold-out sheet but the printing was certainly small. But so is the printing for the manuals for all the low cost machines, unless you happened to get one of the 33s machines when they were on fire sale a couple of years ago.

I admit that I had an advantage in using it since I quickly remembered how to program the old Casios and I still had my old fx-7000G manual.

But if one wants a low cost programmable scientific calculator which is truly shirt-pocket size then a Durabrand 828 (no longer available at Wal-mart) or a Corner Office ATC-139 (to my surprise not available at the Wallgreen's here in Brevard) may be the right machine. The only pockets that the 33s, the 35s or any of the TI graphics will fit into are those on the overcoats we saw on Russian infantrymen back in the big war.

Palmer


#52

Yeah, Palmer, after I wrote that I went rummaging through my closet and, lo and behold, I found that calc. Turns out I didn't return it after all, and it cost about $21, not $5, and you are right, the manual was a little booklet, not a fold out sheet, but the printing was tiny.

One of the problems I had with that calc, as I reminded myself as I was trying to figure out how to turn it on, was that the color of the shift keys did not correspond to the color of the keycap legends. That was maddening, trying to figure out which shift key went with which function in a different color. After about 3 minutes, I finally figured out how to turn it on. It had some mode settings at the top in which the font was the tiniest I have ever seen. The display was OK once I figured out how to turn it on, but between the unreadable mode text and the shift key color discrepancy and the manual with the font so tiny I couldn't read it, I lost interest in that calc very quickly. It made me appreciate my HP's and my TI's.

The most interesting calc I have come across in the past few months has been the Canon FN-600, which I think Joerg posted a picture of a few months ago. It is a clamshell and when folded is a tad bigger than a credit card, and is about .5 inch thick. The 2-line display is huge, with big lcd numbers and text. It is designed for the person who wants to figure out what his mortgage payment will be but doesn't want to have to remember all the funky sign rules associated with standard TVM. It is a neat shirt pocket size calc. If it were RPN and programmable I would be in hog heaven, but alas.

Don

#53

Quote:
...Casio's fx-5800P. The latter looks like a pretty cool machine, but it's costly to get in the USA.

I picked one up on eBay, from a seller in Korea, for about $62.50, shipping included. His current BIN price is $79.50 (shipping included) and he offers a Best Offer option as well. Another programmable is the Sharp EL-5250, also available out of Korea via eBay.

I have both and find the Casio easier to use and more powerful (it's also got much, much greater memory than the Sharp - 28.5KB vs 4KB). It also features Natural Text display whereas the Sharp does not.

Edited: 14 Nov 2009, 1:16 p.m.


#54

Quote:
I picked one up on eBay, from a seller in Korea, for about $62.50, shipping included. His current BIN price is $79.50 (shipping included) and he offers a Best Offer option as well. Another programmable is the Sharp EL-5250, also available out of Korea via eBay.

Thanks for the tip. I tracked down the seller and will keep him(?) in mind.

$70-80 would get me one of Casio's graphing models with change left over, and from my quick gloss of the fx-5800P's manual, it doesn't seem that much different in either programming or operation (aside from graphing). Actually, a fx-7400GII is only $35 or so from Office Depot and, again, it doesn't seem that much different from the fx-5800P in actual use (i.e. amount of menu hunting to get stuff done). The fx-7400GII is about the same size as a scientific but suffers by comparison in battery life, I think.

Feel free to set me straight if I'm drawing too many parallels between these models.

#55

Like many others here, I'm sure you'll enjoy the Casio 9860G Slim. The batteries in mine have lasted ages, even with lots of uploading of successive versions of my RPN program! It's also enormously fast compared to the HP-33S or HP-35S. However, don't dismiss out of hand the TI-8x series of machines (I'll get flamed for this!). A TI-83 came into my hands recently. It has a lovely clear display (not as good as the Casio) and a powerful programming language (better than the Casio) which is well integrated with the main calculator screen. The TI-8Xes are impressive. Their main disadvantage for you is probably their size and weight.

Nigel

#56

I'm now the proud owner of a shiny new HP35S. I had to see for myself why this calculator has been such a source of controversy around here, and I had a pretty bad GOTO itch that needed scratching.

Now that I've played with it for an afternoon while porting and entering my astrogeek program, I think I can live with it.

On the plus side, GOTO is even more helpful than I expected: I was able to build in some bounds checking tests with nice user friendly error messages without eating up any labels or doing a million flag checks. Nice! Program space is effectively doubled (or more) without undue programming contortions--I can now foresee running out of memory before I run out of labels. Otherwise, it's just like programming a 33S with legible keys. Both give identical answers when running my program.

The case is interesting. I don't know if I like it yet, but I appreciate the pocket for program cheat sheets, etc.

My wife thinks it's the best looking calculator she's ever seen. That's gotta count for something, even if it's coming from the owner of 3 graphing TIs (yes, I married a woman who owns a TI-92+). My uncle's HP97 is *my* standard for beauty, but I was young and impressionable when I first played Lunar Lander on it back in the late '70s.

On the minus side, the 35S runs my program a little more than half as fast as my 33S. Execution times are at the edge of "acceptable", while the 33S almost feels snappy. I'm not happy about the inoperative program checksums, of course.

In the "neutral" category are things like shifted STO (mildly annoying), and XEQ __ ENTER vs. XEQ __ (rather more irritating but I'm already getting used to it).

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I very nearly bought a fx-9860GII along with the 35S, but I really have too many electronic toys as it is. I know I'm unique in the MoHPC community in this respect, so have pity on me.

;-)


#57

Compromise, and buy an $18 Casio fx-115ES (a.k.a. fx-991ES) at the local Walmart, just for its "toy" value. It's not programmable, it's not RPN. Still it's an amazing scientific non-graphing calculator for its price. It's surprisingly well built, has an excellent two-line LCD, has outstanding numerical precision, has numerical integration and differentiation, elementary SOLVE, complex, and matrix functions, has 40 conversion factors and 40 physical constants, is solar/battery-powered, etc.

It's interesting to see what's going on outside the HP arena. I'd love to see an RPN equivalent at a comparable price.

Edited: 16 Nov 2009, 9:22 a.m.


#58

That looks like a cool little calc, but what's the "=" key for?

:-)

A cheaper/smaller RPN calc would be most welcome, but I simply won't buy a non-programmable calculator. I don't write programs very often on my daily driver (HP-12C), but a short little program can save a lot of labor.


Edited: 16 Nov 2009, 10:27 a.m.


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