HP manuals, the way they used to be



#2

I recently acquired an HP-19b, and as I was looking through the manual, dated 1988, I came across this:

Quote:
We know that somewhere out there we could find a few people who are delighted at the prospect of reading an instruction manual cover-to-cover--tables, footnotes, and all. If you are about to immerse yourself in this manual, we wish you happy reading. We've worked diligently to make it a quality work of non-fiction.

Much has been written in this forum about the quality of the old HP calculators and their manuals. Seeing this little excerpt from 24 years ago makes me yearn for the day when (a) you actually got a readable manual in the package, rather than some tiny "quick-start" guide, and (b) the manual was obviously written by someone who had a real personality and didn't need Facebook, and (c) marketing types had no influence on the contents or style of the user's manual.

I guess I'm just a Luddite, but perhaps some future generation will see the value in such things.


#3

Quote:
[...] Luddite [...]
This kind of mockery appears to be common in some countries, and it comes up always when you're not going mainstream. I really hate it.

BTW, I remember exactly this paragraph from the 18C manual :-).


#4

Quote:
This kind of mockery appears to be common in some countries, and it comes up always when you're not going mainstream. I really hate it.

Which countries and what exactly is a Luddite?


#5

Definition of "luddite":

"One who fears technology (or new technology, as they seem pleased with how things currently are...why can't everything just be the same?) "

In my (very brief) research I found nothing disparaging about the use of this word. The origin seems to be related to (from wikipedia):

"The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life. The movement was named after General Ned Ludd or King Ludd, a mythical figure who, like Robin Hood, was reputed to live in Sherwood Forest."

We often use such words to describe a certain type of person of way of thinking. What was offensive in this case?

Jeff Kearns


#6

Since I'm always interested in defintions, I looked for "China" in the dictionary. I found it between "cheap" and "crap", which may relate in some way to the quality issues of certain recently released calculators.


#7

Remember the - AFAIK - first meaning of "China" in the English language: maybe your grandma has got some china on her cupboard still, certainly not cheap ;-)

And remember as well: "cheap" and "crap" were tags to Japanese electronics a few decades ago. And some 150 years earlier, German machinery was tagged this way. Lessons learned?

#8

Ditto...

#9

Don,

The manuals for the vintage HP calculators were a class act. The multiple colors, fonts, and layout were top notch professional. I do miss them!!!

Namir

#10

Well Said Don! Can't Agree More! When employees take pride of their work and of the product they produce, they strive for excellence. Otherwise we live in mediocrity and the world of good enough.


#11

That's what happens when the only thing that matters is the stock price and some executive getting a bigger bonus. They always cut services and people.

#12

I would have to say that the PPC ROM Manual strived to equal or surpass the quality of the HP manuals, with as much useful material that could affordably be fit into the book. I think it also turned out pretty well.

Jake


#13

PPC ROM and its manuals were "Labor of Love"

#14

Jake,
I agree with you.. the expert contributions to the PPC manual ( incl. yours) are some of the best calculator and algorithm reading I've ever seen. I've nearly read the thing cover to cover- always speechless and reverent when sit down with the book.

I know the 80,000+ man-hours were indeed a labor of love of incalculable value. Thank you and the team.

#15

http://www.luddite.net/projects.html

Now we know where Gene got his benchmark. :-)

Edited: 29 Feb 2012, 5:41 p.m.


#16

interesting!

can anyone tell me how to program the HP 15C LE to do this counting program like that found in the Luddite projects?

See how high we can get this puppy to count, ie we have a basic program that does this:
10 x=1
20 print x
30 x=x+1
40 goto 20
Calculating infinity (see above)

hpnut in Malaysia

#17

Quote:
I guess I'm just a Luddite

No, your just retro. And that's OK.
#18

I believe part of the problem nowadays is that big companies have tech writing staff separate from the designers and developers of the product (who are even separate from each other). The "why it was designed that way" never makes it over to the tech writers (if it even made it into the product).

Instead, the folks preparing manuals do what they've been trained to do, which is follow ISO and IEC standards for documentation with respect to whitespace, layout, the ever-present warnings and standards compliance pages, and, per the lawyers, document the terms and conditions of sale and warranty. WAY more important to the producing company than the "how to use it" info, unfortunately. This is the case at lots of companies, not just H-P.

Tech writers get awards, raises and promotions based on evaluation against those measurable criteria, and not for any "subjective" criteria like "can the reader actually use the product"...

And, yes, there's no budget for quality paper, multicolor printing, and time to write detailed "how to use it for what YOU want to do" descriptions. PDF on a CD is all you get -- if that -- or a web link.

I will always treasure my HP-25 manual for its introduction to RPN, its CLEAR visualization of what's happening in the stack, and its tutorial flow in line with the user's gaining of knowledge and experience from practice. When I got the 25 for my 18th birthday, I went through the manual from cover to cover, working all the examples, in about two days*. Within a week, I was cranking stats and writing programs for my high school physics class labs.

I have a pin button that I wear sometimes that says:
IF I CAN'T USE IT, IT DOESN'T WORK.
Time to start wearing it every day.

Dale

*Yes, I had no social life. How observant of you to notice!!! ;-)

Edited: 29 Feb 2012, 7:29 p.m.


#19

Quote:
I believe part of the problem nowadays is that big companies have tech writing staff separate from the designers and developers of the product (who are even separate from each other). The "why it was designed that way" never makes it over to the tech writers (if it even made it into the product).

Instead, the folks preparing manuals do what they've been trained to do, which is follow ISO and IEC standards for documentation with respect to whitespace, layout, the ever-present warnings and standards compliance pages, and, per the lawyers, document the terms and conditions of sale and warranty. WAY more important to the producing company than the "how to use it" info, unfortunately. This is the case at lots of companies, not just H-P.

Tech writers get awards, raises and promotions based on evaluation against those measurable criteria, and not for any "subjective" criteria like "can the reader actually use the product"...


Dale


There is another problem, not much noted in this English-language forum, but serious for foreign sales - HP now have "official" translators into other languages. At one time the calculator manuals were translated into other languages by people who knew the calculators. Now they are translated by people who know how to get an all-purpose HP translating contract. The upshot is that, for example, some calculator manuals have the keycode SIN translated into the local words for "immoral action". But that's OK, the translator is officially HP approved.


#20

Quote:


There is another problem, not much noted in this English-language forum, but serious for foreign sales - HP now have "official" translators into other languages. At one time the calculator manuals were translated into other languages by people who knew the calculators. Now they are translated by people who know how to get an all-purpose HP translating contract.


So true! My first language is Italian, but I don't even try reading instructions/manuals in Italian anymore. Most are just totally incomprehensible. While - as a counter-example - the translations of the Ubuntu Linux operating systems are rather good.. because they're done by volunteers.

Quote:
some calculator manuals have the keycode SIN translated into the local words for "immoral action".

That's extreme! Must have been some free-online-translator... :)

Cristian

#21

What shocks the hell outta me is now they're bound books instead of the older HP-97, HP-34C-styled spiral-bound. What's evem more shocking is the contrast of what I got today--my newly acquired HP-33s came in a bound book format (aka paperback), whereas, my newly gotten 35s only came with a quick-start guide and a CD. Yup, the manual was a PDF on the disk.


#22

Ironic that the cheaper 33s offers more.

I find collecting the vintage manuals just as interesting as the calculators themselves.

#23

I prefer to read technical manuals, because I find novels boring. I'm kind of weird that way.


#24

I feel as you do, although I don't know if that's good, for either you or me.

I feel this way because it seems to me that technical manuals, scientific papers, nonfiction books, etc., are informative, and have an obviously discernible purpose. Fiction, entertaining as it may be, oftentimes I have no patience for, because it seems like my time could be better spent.

But in actuality, fiction can be quite informing, even transforming, but feelings are hard to go against.

#25

The Three Calculator Engineers;

A story that well summarizes the power of Vision, is the story of
three Calculator Engineers. The story goes, that three calculator
engineers working side by side.

When asked, "What are you doing?", the first engineer replied:
"I'm building a calculator."

The second engineer was asked. He answered,
"Feeding my family."

The third engineer when asked the question,
"What are you doing?", responded,
"Building The HP-31E (which) is another professional-quality
personal product from the Hewlett-Packard line of calculators-
calculators whose durability, size and ease of operation have made
them the choice for use by climbers on Mt. Everest and astronauts
in outer space. Doctors, engineers, scientists, and other people
who require instant answers to complex highly technical problems
use Hewlett-Packard calculators. You're in good company with HP!'(*)

(*) From the HP-31E Manual

The question is, are you trying to reach your goals in your
business with bricklayers or cathedral builders?

"Vision without action is merely a dream;
Action without vision just passes the time.
Vision with action can change the world."


Edited: 2 Mar 2012, 3:36 p.m.


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