Display tech


I was writing this into another thread I started, but then I sort of thought it deserved it's own.

After playing with this new TI-89 for a few more days, and gone through some tutorials I found for it, I've decided that the main thing that really sucks about it is the screen. To me anyway, it's only readable in bright light conditions, and only in the morning, since my eyes are too tired to read the amazingly small stuff on it in the evening. The screen on my 48s isn't the best either though, but there is nothing on it that is ever too small. Maybe just a better menu font.

In these days with all these amazing devices coming out, ePaper displays, oLED, "retinal" displays on phones, I really wish someone would put some thought into improving the screens on these calculators. While certainly limited in many ways, I loved my old LED HPs (think 34C) for being so readable indoors. Imagine a nice backlit screen even. Sure, battery life would suffer, but it did on older calculators as well. I think in this day, people are used to charging devices every so often. Imagine something like a HP-50 with an iPhone like screen for graphing and display. I'd be waiting in line to buy one.

Just wondering what your thoughts were. Yes, I know that the market for $300 calculators would be limited, but who among us never spent that on one. I've never compared the $300 I spent on my HP-41C when it first came out, but I can only imagine what that is equivalent to today.


the main thing that really sucks about it is the screen

I agree, the font is so tiny that you can barely read it sometimes. And the NSpire is no better. The NSpire's resolution is better but you still need a very strong light source to be able to read it; I keep a flashlight next to mine when I use it.

The best black and white display going these days is the Casio 9860g slim, with a marvelous backlight. Once you see that backlight you really realize how substandard the screens such as the TI-89 and NSpire are.

I would hope the manufacturer would improve these screens, but I'm not holding my breath.


If you ever get the chance to try the Casio 9850 G slim you will never be satisfied with any other calculator display. It also has backlighting. It is the only display my tired 63 year old eyes can handle anymore.


The only downside to the fx9860g slim is the software for transferring programs between the unit and your PC. It's awful. I've never been able to figure it out so I just write my programs on the calc.


You don't need to buy the "slim" the regular format "fx9860g ii" model has the same back light. It also offers a newer operating system/programing language with more features.

BTW, the "slim" is back on sale at J&R for $60 w/free shipping.


When I first got my TI-89 I thought the display was fine; certainly it was a significant improvement on the TI-92 which I'd had previously. I could even read it without glasses! No longer - it's far too small for that! I don't think that the contrast is all that bad, though.

Manufacturers don't seem to give the contrast of their LCD calculators the priority I would expect. The contrast of the original HP-48SX was abysmal (even to my early 1990s eyes!). The HP-42s and other machines using the same two-line display are better, but still not very clear to me. The TI Nspire display is a big step backwards, without even the excuse of a touch-sensitive layer to justify its poor contrast.

I don't really understand the issue. Back in 1990 or so I had a Psion 3a organizer with a high-resolution display and splendid contrast. Why can't all displays be at least this good? At least Casio have shown that the art of high-contrast monochrome displays is not entirely lost!



This discussion has come up many times. Many of us say the same thing as you, Jimi, but the naysayers always counter that "everyone expects calculators to turn on instantly, and the batteries to last a long time."

Personally, I think the calculator business needs a little thinking outside the marketing "box". I.e., spend that extra proverbial dollar on quality keyboards, backlit displays, easy I/O. Maybe the professional world, starved for so long for truly great calculators, will respond favorably.

Edited: 3 Sept 2010, 2:05 p.m.


The "maybe" in your statement is the issue there. Businesses tend not like maybe. . . :-(



And this is what is in the back of my mind as well. Maybe the market isn't there, since most people I know pull up the Windows calculator for example. I rarely see one on someone's desk anymore, and I was working in an engineering environment till last year.

In poking around though, I did find a cool thing though. Maybe it's been on here before, but this app for the iPhone, Windows Mobile, is pretty neat.


I downloaded it and played around. It'll do everything the TI was meant to do, and is easy to read. The lack of a keyboard is a real negative though.

Think about it though. Come up with a calculator looking case with a keyboard and a dock that you plug an iPod Touch into. Much like portable keyboards I've seen with docks, just have it translate the keys or something, and work with the company a little on the interface. That would be pretty slick.

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