Is there any need for just another HP calculator (JAHPC)?


This contribution was inspired by the thread 'No new
scientific calculators from HP?' As I felt that my insights were
somewhat OT, I simply started a new thread - I am
sorry for this ;-)

Looking back to the history of handheld calcs, it was HP that made the big step
- to
scientific calculators (HP-35A).
- to programmable calculators (HP-65).
- to alphanumeric, expandable (aka
computer-like) calculators (HP-41).
Also some of the minor steps in the development of pocket calculators were
pivotal and should have the merit to be termed as
big steps too (e.g. solver and numeric integration first in the

The HP-35s is a decent scientific calculator. Well, I dislike those flabby arrow keys and the delicate
(don't press to hard while cleaning). Not to tell about all those bugs which provoke a mild horror in the
light of the
experience HP should be able to draw from. However, I like its ergonomic form factor, the well
engineered keys (with
exception of arrow keys / I never experienced the 'missing keystroke problem' in my sample),
the color design and its
overall delightful functionality. But to be honest, what surplus does the HP-35s add to
the overall performance of recent
scientific calcs? The HP-35s is just what it was advertised for: a reminiscence
of his ancestor, the great HP35A which
now has its firm place in the hall of fame of electrical engineering

What should be the scope of another device, maybe a successor of the HP-35s or even HP-50g? If we
observe the current
development, it would be nothing more than a recapitulation of an endless loop of quite
similar devices with minimal
changes from generation to generation. Sometimes with questionable advances which
barely compensate for their bugs.

What should a new calculator be like, at least with a breeze of revolution in
it? Nowadays we have superb mathematical
software, we have this neat 'whole-display' devices with virtual keys, and
we have a lot of connectivity or networking.
Let us simply merge this all! Of course, there are those *iDevices*
with those 'apps' that can emulate our beloved
gadgets. Why suggesting HP to build something like an *iCalc*? The
answer is: why not!

HP was not first in the production of graphing calculators, but they were not shy of to
adopt the concept, and they were
leading in the production of decent graphing calculators (HP-48 and successors).
So let them shamelessly copy the
concepts of other manufacturers and build two hardware devices, one in the form
factor of a handheld scientific, and the
other one with the form factor of a graphing calc. (Don't tell me it's the
iPod - iPad duality, it is!) Let the devices
have all the known features: GPS, multiple sensors (accelerator,
temperature etc.), cameras, sound, telephony etc. Let
the CPU and memory count in GHz and GB. Let the calculator
software be something scalable starting with fine scientific
or business options up to heavy duty functionality
(comparable to Mathematica or Maple). And finally, let it have all the
connectivity we would like to have to use
those devices for calculations as well as for interchange. Imagine the use of
the input of the sensors, GPS,
camera, microphone etc. for mathematical transformations, the use of publicly available or
community generated data
for similar purposes. Yes, imagine threads of this forum (e.g. 'Five-minute challenge') being
calculated, presented
and discussed on these devices!

HP shall sell these devices as basic equipment (scientific or graphing calc).
If you want more you would pay more
(app/cloud concept). The appearance may be changed to the user's delight:
redefinable keys would be the simplest you were
suposed to do! Bugs would be easily exterminable due to upgradable
versions. If such devices were available with the
upcoming of the HP-41 you would still be able to run it and all
its expansions, otherwise you would be able to load a
HP-32sii or HP-50g or the like. And finally, HP would
approach to that they already dreamed of in 1979.




Well, Frido, many will argue that the iWhatevers take the place of calculators because they can run calculator apps, and they begin to approach the dream of the HP-XX2050. (Incredibly prescient, BTW).

But I still want a new scientific calculator exhibiting the old HP excellence. Or not. I think I will just stick with my legacy HPs.


I wrote a parody of this late one night...

Beep Parody




Responding to thee original post, I am disturbed by the present trend away from the neat rectangular calculators of the past to the "stylish" calculators on Hp store site. It seems the direction of calculator futures is in the hands of salesmen who have their own vision of what is needed. I am appalled at the loss of integrity for want of a better word. Is HP to be in the business of making trinkets and curios? Yes I pity the poor corporate climber that has to lug a notebook computer, a cell phone, a watch, a calculator, camera around. Clearly what is needed is a calculator worn like a watch? I cherish my 32SII with its thin slip case when I look at the clunky case of the 33S "handheld", but I notice they put feet on it, a hybrid? HP calculators have forfeited their heritage to their detriment. Sam


I'm having a little trouble following the stream-of-consciousness with this one.

But with respect to scientific calculator watches, the Casio CFX-200 and -400 watches were available from about 1983 to 1988. I've still got mine. But they must not have sold well because that's the last time such devices were marketed. The small number made, with the small survival rate after 25 years, result in these watches in good condition commanding prices that rival or exceed any old esteemed rare HP machine.


Here's my take on the subject.

First, you have to think about the market for hand-held calculators. I believe there are three, in order of size:

  1. Education for 12-22 year-old students (middle school through college in the USA.
  2. Special-purpose applications like construction trades, oil/gas rigs, and a million other places where you already see hand-held computers. Note that I'd put the financial calculators in this class.
  3. The general purpose quick calculating device that is its historical use.

All three of these are susceptible to the more general purpose hand-held devices that we're seeing now (Droid/iPhone, iPad/Nook/Kindle, notebook/netbook). The advantage of a calculator is its instant-on ability, long battery life and reduced expense.

Market #1 is a tough nut to crack, at least in the US where TI has it sewn up, especially because the textbooks are geared towards their machines. A cost effective way to break into this market is to produce companion booklets for the popular textbooks that describe how to work the calculator problems with HP models. The user community could be tapped for this.

Market #2 is a little easier. Notice that a lot of effort went here recently with the 20b, 30b and 12C+. In particular, the 20b and 30b are running modern software on a modern CPU and the speed really shows it. There's an SDK for the these machines which I believe is an attempt to support 3rd party re-purposing projects. I don't think this has been very successful so far, mostly due to a lack of available resources on HP's side. Still, I give them credit for trying.

That leaves market #3. It's small and neglected unfortunately. I would love to see something like the 35s, with I/O and the speed of the 30b, but I'm not holding my breath.

On the other hand, I like to imagine that HP is being VERY smart about the path that their taking. Imagine that you're a tiny group within HP with a severely limited budget and big plans for the future. The only way to achieve your plans is to build a revenue stream. How do you do that?

I'd start with the low-hanging fruit. A hardware refresh of the best-selling product I have (and indeed the best selling one in the class) the 12C. Just emulate the old code on a new processor and poof, it runs 100x faster. I'd get this machine out and advertise it. This is exactly what HP did (minus the advertising, which is so conspicuously missing that I feel certain there's some good reason why they couldn't say they had a new product, even though it basically is new).

Once some money comes in from the 12C, I'd make a clear break with the past - dump the Saturn, dump RPL, build a modern machine, write the software in a modern language. Again, the financial calculators are a good candidate for this and poof! Now we have the 20b and 30b - blazing fast.

As the revenue stream grows, it funds longer-term projects. At this point, I'd go for a 50g replacement. Here the software base is so big that I don't think you could rewrite it from scratch. Instead, I'd do a 32-bit RPL engine on the ARM processor and go back to the 48 series code (because I believe it's mostly in RPL, not assembly). The goal would be to drop a calculator on the market that has the same functionality as the TI 89, but is so much faster that people can't ignore it.

The 39gs/40gs are, I suspect, basically the 50g with different user interface glued on. So once I had the RPL engine for the 50g replacement, I'd port the 39gs and 40gs.

Finally, I'd refresh the lower end models, maybe a 35s replacement as I mentioned earlier, probably with crippled versions that would be acceptable to in the standard tests. Call me a heartless capitalist, but my goal would be to make people buy two - the one that the test organizations will allow and the compatible one with the "must have" features like I/O that you can't live without.

Anyway, if I was King of HP, that's what I'd do. If anyone from HP is listening, I'm available for coronation next weekend.... :).



I do believe there is an untapped market for small customized calculators for field use by estimators and sales force. There was one machine shop owner that was collecting 41S so he could supply his staff with estimating software. RPL may be very powerful but the learning is too much for the small user. This leaves room for 3rd party programmers like the surveying solutions available. But not useful for the small shop owner with special needs. sam


(Theoretical HP tablet described)


If it has games it will increase its saleability!

Open Source

If the operating system was open source, many people would be willing to write new software for it.

But there is the rub. I believe HP, like $ony, wants total intellectual property control over their products and they can't stand the thought that someone else could make a buck or deprive them a buck using one of their products.


I believe HP, like $ony, wants total intellectual property control over their products and they can't stand the thought that someone else could make a buck or deprive them a buck using one of their products.

Then why release info on how to re-purpose the 30b, or how to access System RPL, for that matter. And what about all the third-party providers for the 48s?

Hello David,

instead of cultivating a plethora of different hardware devices which address different sectors of the market, the main message of my contribution was to offer only few hardware devices - may be an HP-12C, an HP-35s and an HP-50g form factor.

Let these devices run different types of calculator software and you can address every customer you want. HP is offering the HP-12C, HP-20b, HP-35s and HP-15C as software variants. Why not offer a hardware platform to run this software?

The hardware platform should offer something special that customers would expect from HP. As a minimum requirement, it should include those features we know from currently available smart phones and tablet PCs.


Hallo Frido,

HP is offering the HP-12C, HP-20b, HP-35s and HP-15C as software variants.

Am I missing something?


Hallo Frido,
Am I missing something?

Hi Walter,

well, look here.


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