Brand new 19BII; they don't make 'em like they used to!


I'm about to start Business school and I thought I would treat myself to a 19BII before they are discontinued (I am already the proud owner of a 17BII but I have always wanted a clamshell).

I'm not a collector, but I am a huge fan of HP calculators. One of the reasons I love my 17 is its comfortable keyboard. I don't have to look at the display to see if a keypress is registered; I can feel it.

The 19BII that I purchased is brand new, having been manufactured in Indonesia in early 2002. When I used the calculator for the first time, I was quite disappointed. There were no manufacturing flaws, however the keys felt extremely soft and mushy. In addition, the rubber feet on the bottom are so thin, the plastic case taps against the desk every time I press a key (which resulted in quite a few stares when I was studying in the library for the GMAT!)

Can these differences be explained away because the 17 and 19 are two different series (clamshell vs. pioneer) or is this "cheap" feel the result of years of cost-cutting in the manufacturing process? I wanted to find an older 19 so that I could compare the two, however I don't know anyone with one.

That's why I'm here. I am hoping that there is someone out there who can shed some light on this for me. Maybe someone has had the opportunity to use an older and a newer 19BII and they could comment on any differences. Or, maybe there are other 19BII or 28S users out there who are experiencing the same issues.

I also have another question that I would like to get answered: Do any differences exist between HP units manufactured in the US and units of the same model manufactured overseas (Singapore and Indonesia)?

Any responses are greatly appreciated. I would really like to take a 19BII with me to school, but I want one that I'm comfortable using. If the older models were manufactured to a higher standard, I'll return this one and find an older one on eBay.

Thanks for taking the time to read my diatribe!


Dear Sir/Madam,

Your impression is absolutely correct. As you are, I am disappointed about the "quality" of recently manufactured units. I asked a friend in Singaore to buy a 12C and expected a calculator as solid as my 15C, which was manufactured end of the eighties. After he bought it he called me and described the look and feel. What will I get? A cheap plastic calculator for a lot of money. I feel cheated, but will not sell this unit for the price I paid, because it is not worth it and I do not intend to cheat others. Probably I will give it away at a discount and explain its deficiency to the buyer.

I just compared my 19BII (SG 1994) to the 28S (USA 1990). Both are heavy duty quality, the 19BII is in even better shape, because it hasn't been used much by the man I got it from.

You assumed a reason for decreasing quality might be cost-cutting in manufacturing. At this point I disagree. The reason is quality-cutting only. Many companies changed their attitude towards customers, there is little pride left in the products sold. So did HP in many fields, e.g. entry level laser printers, calcs, ...

A manufacturer can only choose one of two possible ways to stay in a market. You either go for cost leadership or offer something special. If you sold something special before, selling scrap at high prices may work for a while, but inevitably customer loyalty will fade.

Cost cutting can mean to maintain of even improve quality and bring costs down at the same time. But you need to be creative and put your best engineers on the job. What I guess happend at HP is that the bean counters took over and made decisions short-sightedly. But so far I havent heard of any case, that money was earned by counting beans multiple times or counting them faaster.

I hope I didn't get too far off topic. To answer your question in a sentence: I have a 19BII made in Singapore in 1994 and I am fully satisfied.

Best regards,



I bought a new HP 17Bii recently (s/n: ID14601173, i.e., 46th week of 2001) and was actually surprised at first how firm the key presses are. (Broken in, they feel quite good.) This is compared to my HP 48GX (ID80407876) which is soft but not mushy, but with key-bounce. (I read somewhere that the HP 48GX actually has a time delay built into the keyboard so that it will not register the bounce; my HP 48SX never had this problem.) My 15 year old HP 27S (2749A01572) is quite soft, but feels good; the softness is probably due to its old ago. My 10 year old HP 32Sii (3218S17651) is somewhere between my 27S and 17Bii. Now that I think about it, my 17Bii’s keyboard feel may be close to what I remember my old HP 67 (1610A00979) keyboard feeling like, regarding the firmness of key presses.

The gist of all this is that I’m quite surprised that a new HP 19Bii’s keys would be “extremely soft and mushy.”


My 17Bii made in Indonesia is more recently produced (ID10902033, ie., 9th week of 2002) bought from Japanese dealer. The key touch is not soft and completely same feeling compare with my Indonesian 32Sii (ID14800488, ie. 48th week of 2000) bought a half year ago from US dealer (the price was still reasonable at that time).

Both units is likely to use the same parts for keys and difference between them is only the finish of the surfaces (17Bii is slighly more smooth and brighter).

I do not know what is the difference between 17Bii and 19Bii, though.....


I have a averagely used 1988 USA 28S and an unused 1998 Indonesian 19BII.

In my opinion, there's little if anything wrong with the newer machine. The keys have the same feel as the USA machine, albeit slightly firmer as you might expect with 10 years less use.

The USA m/c has a "creak" in the hinge which is absent in the Indonesian m/c.

The USA m/c has injection moulded keys whereas the Indonesian's are painted.

I'm quite happy with the quality of the newer machine, although I prefer the kudos of a calc made in the country of its birth.


Thanks to everyone who replied to my original posting!

Although I'm not completely convinced that my new 19BII is as well-made as older units, I have decided that I'll use this one at biz school. That way, I can use it without worrying about dropping it, etc. If, after two years of heavy use, it looks like it was run over by a truck, I won't get upset!

I will give credit where credit is due. My 2002 19BII has a re-designed battery cover; not only was the cover redesigned but it was relocated to the back of the unit (from the side). I think that this was a smart move and should alleviate the problem of the battery case popping off.

This whole experience has reminded me why I love HP calculators so much, so I've decided that it's time to start picking up a few other models; not to lock up and save, but to use and enjoy. My first target is a 12C (don't worry, we won't get into a discussion of the quality of the Chinese units!) then a 71B or 75 and a 41. Who knows where this will end!!!!

The long and the short of it haven't seen the last of me!
Thanks again!


"Who knows where this will end!!!"

I'm not positive... but I have an idea where it will end...

It won't! I'm afraid you may have been bitten by the HP collecting bug. I've been ill with it for over three years, now.

You DO have my sympathy. It seems that few people who aren't ill with this same condition have any understanding of the symptoms.

Some of the symptoms I've observed include:

Desire to handle and learn to use more and more of the models, both modern and "classic".

Sudden and progressive desire to have at least one, if not more, of the calculators you could only dream about having when you were younger (if you're of Mid-Life-Crisis age), or a progressive desire to collect the antiques of yesteryear (if you're still young).

Development of a "spiritual" admiration of the more amazing models, which for me, is each one in succession...but more so with very special models (HP-35, HP-67, HP-19C, HP-25, etc.)

Symptoms of addiction can develop, including intense highs upon experiencing a new calculator... and withdrawal if you haven't had a chance to partake recently.

Slow but insidious draining of your bank account as each machine is a "HAVE TO" have... especially at "that price"... After awhile, when you have the machines you desire the most, you find yourself saying, "I might as well fill in the holes with the other models to make my collection more complete..." (I've heard that some very afflicted individuals even start over once they've assembled a complete set!!)

And if you do your own repair and restoration, the disappearance of many hours on the clock without explanation. "Wow. How did it get to be 3 a.m.?!"

There are many other symptoms. Many of these symptoms have specific numbers attached to their descriptions, such as: "65" and "15C" and even "42S".

Though I haven't yet found a cure, I am working on a treatment. I'll let you know about it, but first I have to go clean up and learn to use the HP-21 I finally added to my collection today. (Can you believe I've never had one before!) It's going to be beautiful once the feet are cleaned, the contacts polished, and the batteries rebuilt.

Oh, what was I saying?

The good new is: you're not alone.



Thanks to Doctor Michael for his kind words and accurate diagnostic. I do have all the symptoms.

We all have been bit by the collecting bug. And despite the fact that you can do things a thousand times faster on a PC, there is always this fascination about crunching numbers with our beloved HPs. My hat goes off to those who designed such amazing machines.

Brendan: collecting is just great. Every addition has a unique beautifulness of its own, and the more you find about it, the more you like it. It goes on and on... And there is a wonderful community of users out there who will enjoy sharing details and information with you. Perhaps this is one of the few forums where you can speak your mind without being afraid of the comments you will receive. There are ugly exchanges sometimes, but it is the exception rather than the rule.

Doctor Michael: I have a couple questions about your diagnosis. Could you please drop me a note to my e-mail?


I really enjoyed to read your diagnosis, Michael, and I've to admit that I've been bitten by the bug too :-) But please, just to complete your "diagnosis", don't forget the accesories that are worth collectable to some of us (just think of the huge HP-41 accessory list). Last but not least, if you're still a user (to which extent ever), you may find it most interesting to read all the books written by dedicated, greatly gifted fellow enthusiasts like Dr. W. C. Wickes, Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz, James Donnelly, Joseph Horn ... my apologies to everyone whom I forgot in the short list in the hurry!


Thanks, Juergen!

I have had those symptoms also, but didn't realize what they were <grin>.

BTW: The HP-21 I got yesterday is pristine: the only corrosion was on the positive terminal. The rest of the circuit was perfect. There was a defect in the LED module, but I had a couple of extras with my less fortunate HP-25 parts. Even the red lens was without a scratch... lucky for a calc sold without a case!

Yes.... I've even been reading the manuals from the museum CD set one by one. I think I might have a fever, too.



Don't say that...I just ordered the CD set yesterday! I can't wait for it to arrive!


Although I'm in the early stages, I can tell that it's going to be a chronic illness.

I'm glad to know that there are support groups that can help me to deal with the situation.

Since I now own 3 HPs I guess I'm officially a collector; I have decided that I want to start by focusing on the financial calculators (since that's my profession) and the handheld BASIC computers (75/71).

I'm also looking forward to the banter on this forum. Everyone appears to be quite friendly, and although you may not always agree on a particular topic, you're bound by one common thread...a love of the classic (and not-yet-classic) HPs.

In closing, I have one final comment to make which should sum up my future of HP collecting. As Kramer (of Seinfeld fame) often said, "Giddy up!"




I'm so glad you're joining the ranks. The HP-71B was my most important computer for years before my first XT. After 10 years in a box, and after buying an extra on e-Bay (my first purchase) and visiting the Smithsonian, I retrieved it. My first thought was, "How did I ever know how to use this?" But after a couple of days, it "all came back to me." Let me know if you can't find any on e-Bay for a low price. I want to hold onto my cleanest ones for now, but I'm sure I can come up with a working but well-used one I could part with cheap, especially to a "worthy cause." I'd also recommend reading Joseph Horn's "HP-71 Basic Made Easy". I haven't been able to get ahold of him (the links to his 71B web page have been dead for a good year or more). I could send you a scan of his book just to read. Hopefully he wouldn't mind.... (it's been out of print for over 15 years....)



Michael, I've tried to get a copy of Joseph Horn's "HP-71 Basic Made Easy" but could not (yet) find one. So, I know it's an impertinent question, but I'd really like to ask if you would mind to send me a scan of this book too? Of course, I'd be happy to compensate you for your efforts in an appropriate way. Oh, if you like to answer, feel free to contact me via e-mail (I don't like to use the Forum for advertisement-like threads, you know).

Regards, Juergen


Does anyone know if Joe Horn is still around?



He certainly is. Try for now, but he expects to get back soon.




Thank You, James.

I have asked Joe's permission to share, and I am awaiting his response. Joe has always been very kind to me in the past.



Hi Michael!

I tried sending you an email at the address listed, but it was returned.

Is there an email address where I can reach you?



Brendan, really should work... try again. I can be found sometimes at, but I don't check that very often.... it's my home mail rather than work.


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