Qama calculator, quick review



#18

A few months ago Pauli posted about a new calculator that makes you provide a reasonable estimate of the answer to a problem before it actually gives you the answer. I thought that was an interesting concept too, so I wrote the guy who invented it and he sent me one (for $25).

This is what it looks like, front side and rear side.

Interestingly, the space required for the two AAA batteries provides a little stand for viewing the calculator an an angle.

The good: it does what it says. If your estimate is too far away from the actual answer, you'll have to try another estimate. I tried a few simple examples and it seemed to work OK. You can also set it so that an estimate is not required, but then it flashes little LED lights in the keyboard area (maybe to alert teachers that the student is cheating).

The bad: Two things. The LCD display is not easy to see unless you have a very strong light source. But the biggest problem is that if you press the keys too quickly, they won't register. I know, we've heard that before, right? But it's a killer here. In a couple hours of testing it missed keystrokes on almost every problem I entered. If you press the keys slowly it will work, but this is a huge problem I'd say.

It's an interesting concept but I don't know that I would use it in my middle school math classroom.


#19

That's too bad about the missed keystrokes and the poor LCD. Potentially a good teaching concept ruined by a bad execution. The FEEDBACK link on their web page is broken. I guess that goes hand-in-hand with the calculator quality.

#20

Don, thank you for sharing your review, I agree that looks like an interesting concept!!

#21

I emailed the developer of this calculator with a couple of suggestions. In response to that, he called me on the phone today and we talked for almost 2 hours! He is aware of the unsatisfactory keyboard and he is sending me an improved unit when he receives it from the manufacturer. He said that the calculator is assembled in China (due to costs), but working with the Chinese reps is very difficult.

Bruce, he did mention that you contacted him.

He said that he has an original HP-35 but the battery pack has died. I told him I think the battery packs are available on Ebay. Yes, I did write Ebay here and I didn't die.


#22

Quote:
Yes, I did write [ TAS ] here and I didn't die.

The day's not over yet.

#23

Quote:

Bruce, he did mention that you contacted him.


Yeah, I wrote to him on that first day we heard about it, since he's a local to me. Very cool idea for a calculator. I had hoped to hear more details from him, and a couple of days he wrote back. He used to be an HP calculator enthusiast in the past.

I had asked him if he'd be interested in presenting something about the QAMA at an upcoming HHC and he said he was very interested. Unfortunately, I got busy with work right about then and haven't had time to get back to him. I'm glad you did!

If anyone wants to follow up with him about presenting at HHC, go for it. I won't be making it this year (the two locations being debated are both too far away), but I do think it would be a very interesting and engaging topic for the conference.

Quote:

He said that he has an original HP-35 but the battery pack has died. I told him I think the battery packs are available on Ebay.


Yup, he said that too. I'm sure that we could earn some major good will with him if we pointed him at a refurbished HP-35 battery pack. It's not too hard to find those, and he would love it, I'm sure. ;-)

thanks,

bruce


#24

Quote:
we could earn some major good will with him if we pointed him at a refurbished HP-35 battery pack

Thanks for the idea, Bruce, I sent him a link to one on Ebay.

#25

Quote:
The bad: Two things. The LCD display is not easy to see unless you have a very strong light source.

Could be due to a number of causes (transreflective vs.
reflective design, low quality polarizers, low bias voltage,
high multiplex rate). In any event it appears to be a
character vs. graphic matrix which is unfortunate.

Quote:
But the biggest problem is that if you press the keys too quickly, they won't register.

Are the keys a carbon pill polymer dome or metal domes?
I'm just wondering if some of that insensitivity can be
an electrical/mechanical issue cropping up afterwards in
manufacture.

Alternatively it could be entering a low power state between
key strokes (eg: slow/stopped clock) and not have the scan
timing quite right. But even that seems hard to get wrong
in the first place and one would think less likely to go
unnoticed in pre-production product test.

Did you get any sense of in what volume this may have been
shipped?

Unsure if you need to be logged into the site to retrieve,
but here's the
Patent Link.

Edited: 7 May 2012, 6:11 p.m.


#26

The patent link worked, I didn't have to login.

Quote:
Are the keys a carbon pill polymer dome or metal domes?

I don't know. The inventor is aware of the severe shortcomings of the keyboard; I think it broke his heart. He thinks that the new version may work better, we'll see. I hope so. I took it to school today and my students thought it was rather "cool" to have to enter an estimate first, but they keyboard was just so bad that it was a pain to use.

Quote:
Did you get any sense of in what volume this may have been shipped?

I don't think he has shipped many out yet, he is currently building his website and is trying to get ready for mass sales but he's not there yet.

If he fixes the keyboard this could be an interesting concept.


#27

He should do a kickstarter project. Seriously. I bet he could easily raise $10,000 or more on a kickstarter project for this. Even just in the academic circles...

Thanks,

Bruce

#28

The funny thing is, there are two jokes that have been circulating around in the HP calculator department for a LOOOOONG time before I came into the picture.

The first is a voice controlled calculator for classroom use. The second is one that only gives you an answer if you guess close enough. I know for sure that the same "ideas" are also held up in the TI group every now and again as well.


While I don't doubt the value such a calculator as this might have under certain circumstances, I do question the "uniqueness" of the idea.

I really would like to see a voice controlled calculator though. That would be a lot of fun in exams. :-)

TW


#29

Quote:
I do question the "uniqueness" of the idea.

Well, this fellow has the patent, and he told me he's been working on the algorithm for 14 years. I don't know if he was the first person to think of the idea. I do know I've never seen a calculator like this before.

I assume if HP's been talking about it for awhile, but not actually producing it, they don't think there is a market for it. And that may be true, I guess time will tell. But after playing with it for a couple of days, I've found it does sharpen your mind. And that's a good thing.


#30

It wouldn't be hard to add the approximate before you get the answer mode for the 34S.

Quick, what is your guess for zeta(1.1) ???
What about W(132) ???

:-)


- Pauli


#31

Quote:
It wouldn't be hard to add the approximate before you get the answer mode for the 34S.

Please don't ;-) OTOH, it's not much more off than Gudermann ...

#32

A foundation real function linking trigonometric and hyperbolic functions together ... You are being difficult :-)


- Pauli


#33

Oh, I live with this quality for quite a while already ;-)

#34

Quote:
Quote:
I do question the "uniqueness" of the idea.

Well, this fellow has the patent, and he told me he's been working on the algorithm for 14 years. I don't know if he was the first person to think of the idea. I do know I've never seen a calculator like this before.

I assume if HP's been talking about it for awhile, but not actually producing it, they don't think there is a market for it. And that may be true, I guess time will tell. But after playing with it for a couple of days, I've found it does sharpen your mind. And that's a good thing.


It is an educational tool. Probably not the first concept where
a user is queried for an estimate of the result in
order to develop an intuitive feel for the calculation.
Prior art most certainly exists for the concept, however narrowing
the patent scope to a handheld calc, along with the device
specific user interface, claims of warning bells and RF
notification of progress, etc.. was likely needed to
differentiate from prior art.

Anyway the educational market is where meaningful volume for
calculators lies at the present. Having a potentially disruptive
patent in a field populated by established competition
certainly seems attractive to me.


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