HP Solve article on thousands separators


Reading the "Commas in the HP Calculator Display" article by Richard Nelson, I was surprised to learn that "The HP48/49/50
series of machines will ... display the thousands separators in the FIX mode."

Surprised, because this has been a topic of discussion here, and I came away from said discussions with the belief that RPL machines could not display the thousands separators at all, because said RPL machines have to be able to process multiple kinds of objects, not just numerical ones. Now, I suppose that only applies to the command line.

Anyway, I have been a fan of the delimited display, but previously had resigned myself to not having it on my 48sx. My curiosity was piqued, however, because I almost always use FIX mode, but could not remember seeing the separators! So I turned on my main 48sx, and, I was right, no separators. I also have a beat-up 48gx that I never use, so I tried that, and saw the separators. Was this feature absent from the SX? No, I have Java installed on my main SX, so I tried a plain vanilla SX, and viola! Separators! So either this feature is not implemented in Java, or there is a setting to turn it on that I don't know about.

To further extend this rambling, while playing with the GX, I noticed that the display for mode setting looks just like the 38g not at all like the 48sx. Again curious, I dug out a 38g and tried it in FIX mode, and NO separators. Interesting.


Thanks for pointing to this article, though commas in the display are very common here (shall I claim that's the reason why commas are called commas? No, I won't, though it would have been fun to watch the resulting discussion ;). What caused me laughing out loud, however, was Table 1. The case must be pretty desperate if it's necessary to list Interlingua and Esperanto to make that row looking bigger than the following one. Very ... ummh ... interesting selection of countries, too. Reminds me of the famous poster published by The New Yorker decades ago, but still available AFAIK.

Nice article nevertheless, Richard. Keep going!


One thing was curious to me about the way the article was presented. That is, the row of tiny Voyager photos near the bottom of the 1st page. We are encouraged to "look closely." One wonders how.


We are encouraged to "look closely." One wonders how.

In Acrobat Reader, when I magnify the images on that page up to 300%, the LCDs become somewhat readable and the separators are visible, albeit a bit pixellated.



...a bit pixellated.

No kidding.

Very ... ummh ... interesting selection of countries, too.

Never fear, Walter, Germany has to be included in "(most of mainland
Europe)." [:-)


Martin, FYI I'd have made the same remark if Richard had written "Denmark, Germany, (most of mainland Europe), ..." instead - you didn't get the point. A similar case were e.g. "Peru, Ecuador, (most of South America), ...".


There are also times when the presence of the digit separator every three digits actually hinders entering/reading numbers. Some languages and cultures split in groups of four digits, not three. There have been times when I've wished my HP had an option to put the separator every four digits.

Of course, I can just imagine the tech support nightmare that would ensue. On one tech support forum I frequent (tech support for everything, not just calculators), THE most common question I see about HP calculators is some variant of "My HP-12C is showing a comma instead of a period. How do I fix it?"


THE most common question I see about HP calculators is some variant of "My HP-12C is showing a comma instead of a period. How do I fix it?"

If it couldn't be misunderstood, I'd ask why the reverse is asked far less. But since it can, I won't ... ([;-)


Can you not change the radix on the 12c? (Unless I'm not getting the point). The online manual states:

Digit Separators

As a number is keyed in, each group of three digits to the left of the decimal point is automatically separated in the display. When the calculator is first turned on after coming from the factory — or after Continuous Memory is reset — the decimal point in displayed numbers is a dot, and the separator between each
group of three digits is a comma. If you wish, you can set the calculator to display a comma for the decimal point and a dot for the three-digit separator. To do so, turn the calculator off, then press and hold down the . key while you press ;. Doing so again sets the calculator to use the original digit separators in the display.


([ ... :-D Honestly, I did expect a lot, but not that response!


Yes, it's in the manual. And, as anyone who's ever manned a tech support desk can tell you, users don't RTFM. They find it easier to just ask the question.

Perhaps I should have said something like "The most-answered question about HP calculators is some variant of..."

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