Classic (and other) Keyboard Layout Musings



#20

As I admire my HP Classic and LED collection I'm a little surprised at the apparent lack of consistency and standardization in the keyboard layouts and standardization?

There seems to have been little effort made to keep layouts similar from model to model (e.g. grouping the stack manip keys in the same way?), colors vary widely and in some cases it's really hard to see the logic in the colors, the HP-67 has the shifted functions BELOW the keys vs. above for all others (yes, I realize the top row of soft keys mandated this, but it is really confusing as you switch between models!).

Anyone know how this might have come about? Just not an attempt to standardize? Different teams developing different products? Not that it really matters, perhaps except to those of us who switch models daily!


#21

Quote:
As I admire my HP Classic and LED collection I'm a little surprised at the apparent lack of consistency and standardization in the keyboard layouts and standardization?

There seems to have been little effort made to keep layouts similar from model to model


It seems to me that HP did, in fact, try to standardize at least the most heavily used part of the keyboard. The Classics and Woodstocks all have the exact same layout for the number, period, arithmetic, and ENTER keys. The CHS key is just to the right of ENTER on all of those models except the HP-80, and the EEX and R/S keys, on those models that have them, are always in the same positions, as is the CLX key on all except the HP-70.

Regarding the position of the shifted functions on the HP-67, I think you answered your own question. :-)

As far as the color scheme is concerned -- I'd love to hear someone from HP who was actually part of the design process weigh in on this, but having no such insights myself, I'll just state for the record that I think they all look great, and even (especially!) the oddball HP-70 looks like it is perfectly at home in the early '70s when it was created. :-D

Quote:
but it is really confusing as you switch between models!

Ah, but see, back then, nobody ever did that. Even the HP-25, which had one of the best price/performance ratios of the HP LED calculators, cost today's equivalent of about $800 back then. People didn't buy several calculators; they bought the one that hit the sweet spot between what they wanted and what they could afford, and that was it -- then they'd stick with that one calculator for years and years.


#22

1982 to 1995: one calculator.
2003 to 2010: innumerable calculators.
Something happened in 2003 or so.


#23

Started earlier: 1977 - 2002 one calculator at a time, just purchased new ones for replacement. 2003 - today: as Bill so I can confirm the observation 2003 must have been special.

#24

I bought my first calculator in 1972. Not an HP-35 (which had a 2010 equivalent price of $2100), but a four-function Bomar 901B for $130 (2010 equivalent of $680). It supported my real "calculator", a Dietzgen N1725L slide rule ($35 in 1969, 2010 equivalent of $210, still the finest slide rule ever made).

By 1978, I owned a SR-50, SR-51A, SR-56, TI-58, TI-59, HP-67, and HP-21, and had traded the TI-58 for a used HP-35 Red Dot (that DOT had no special significance to me at the time...I just wanted the early machine that I had so admired a few years earlier).

So, I had a better than average collection of calculators more than a third of a century ago, even when compared to my fellow electrical engineers.

But Thomas is correct...even among engineers there were very few who had more than two calculators back then, and generally only one of the two would have been a high-dollar HP machine or a more modestly-priced TI. (All HPs were really high-dollar then.)

#25

Quote:
There seems to have been little effort made to keep layouts similar from model to model (...), colors vary widely and in some cases it's really hard to see the logic in the colors, the HP-67 has the shifted functions BELOW the keys vs. above for all others

I disagree:
  1. Layouts were pretty standardized in each product line up to and including the Pioneers. Thereafter there were no real product lines anymore.
  2. The logic in the colours was pretty obvious up to and including the HP-48SX. This topic was discussed here some years ago and also covered in a talk on one HHC, IIRC, but I didn't bookmark that. The colours chosen for the HP-48G etc. had no technical reason but were only fashionable at that time. Recently, HP returned to better contrast again.
  3. On keyboards before the HP-80, labels of shifted functions were generally located above the primary functions. See also typewriter keyboards where the shift key is actually an arrow up. So by mere tradition shifting meant "shifting up" and that was copied. OTOH you stated one reason for all shifted labels below the keys of the HP-67 already. The HP-21 and - recently - the 17bii+, 20b, and 30b show another: it allows the cleanest keyboards. This requires, however, slanted keys which were not featured anymore after the Voyagers until the 35s. I see no reason why you shouldn't have the labels of all the shifted functions below the keys - it would even make keyboards a bit tidier.
  4. As Thomas explained above, swapping calculators was no custom when calculators were tools.
HTH,

Walter


#26

"Layouts were pretty standardized in each product line up to and including the Pioneers. Thereafter there were no real product lines anymore. "


That would be the 2003 thing.


#27

Ok, Bill, so I misunderstood your statement above ...


#28

I think 2003 is when HP canceled the whole calculator enterprise. Or was it 2002? Somewhere around then. That's when I suddenly found myself looking for backup machines and that led to becoming a collector...


#29

My collecting:

1. First thing I looked up on eBay. Not sure why.

2. Soon after, went to the Smithsonian for my 40th birthday, 10 years ago. Saw their calculator collection. I wanted it. And got it...and more.


#30

OOoooooh, I'll have to look for that!

#31

What did/does the Smithsonian have in its calculator collection??

#32

Well, perhaps I'm more of a nit-picker, but a few examples of what I see is:

Layout inconsistencies (mainly thinking about stack manip keys that are common and hence likely to be standardized?):

HP-45 and HP-55 - above the ENTER line, very little consistency!?
(All models) - LASTx wanders around all over the place!

Colors:

HP-55 - very few consistencies or real obvious patterns compared to others?

Maybe it's the odd-ball HP-55 that's throwing me??!

#33

Quote:
As I admire my HP Classic and LED collection I'm a little surprised at the apparent lack of consistency and standardization in the keyboard layouts and standardization?

I am sure the same can be said about any emerging technology. E.g. automobiles. I would suspect as features increase and feedback is received coupled with economic restrictions and other give and take that what you are seeing is evolution.
#34

Mark --

(Honest, I drafted this and posted it later, not having seen Egan's post.)

Others have already elaborated, but I believe that it was mainly a matter of evolutionary improvement of the products.

The original production HP-35 -- particularly the earliest models -- still looks to me like a prototype, with buttons too small and poor color contrast. Feedback from users and critical analysis from the engineers surely led to the quick improvements in design.

-- Karl


Edited: 21 Dec 2010, 7:29 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


#35

Yeah, I guess evolution does explain it. Hard for me to swallow since the HP-35 was perfect :-) Well, of course it wasn't, but it is a true icon. Lately the one I've been really enjoying is my 19C, very nice machine. But could I choose just one? I doubt it (that's why I need to collect them ALL!!).

#36

Quote:
The original production HP-35 -- particularly the earliest models -- still looks to me like a prototype, with buttons too small and poor color contrast.

The original HP-35 was a shot in the dark - nobody knew whether it would succeed or not. To me, it looks exactly like this: taking the established colors and key sizes of other HP products of that time, double shot moulding for the most basic keys only, blank keys for all other, cheap printing on the keyplate. HP-35V4 did show how it could have looked from the very beginning ... but of course the engineers tried to keep risk low at launch.

Just my 20 m€, of course

Edited: 22 Dec 2010, 4:50 a.m.

#37

I am quite sure that what follows was discussed in an earlier thread in this forum but I haven't been able to find it,

Starting with with the HP-35 and continuiing through the Classic series, the Woodstock series, the Spice series and ending with the HP-41 the arithmetic keys were at the left side of the calculator and arranged in the order - + x / reading from the top. Starting with the the Voyagers and for nearly all subsequent models the arithmetic keys were moved to the right side of the calculator and arranged in the order / x - + reading from the top. The curious aspect of all of this is that the move resulted in an arrangement which mimicked that which had been used by TI and Sharp for many years.

The exceptions that I know of are the HP-6S, HP-8s, and HP-10s where the arithmetic keys are at the lower right and placed in a 2x2 array where x / are above + -. This arrangement is similar to that used in many but not all Casio machines.


#38

Quote:
The exceptions that I know of are the HP-6S, HP-8s, and HP-10s where the arithmetic keys are at the lower right and placed in a 2x2 array where x / are above + -. This arrangement is similar to that used in many but not all Casio machines.

These were not HP machines. They merely have HP badges.

When HP did the voyagers, I do wonder if someone at HP thought that it would help to get Ti converts, if they re-arranged the keys to match.


Edited: 27 Dec 2010, 9:48 p.m.


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