Operator keys position: why vertical?



#25

Today I was keen on doing a poll of my own. So here it goes:

Why is it that the positioning of the operator keys seems to be carved in stone, why does it always have to be vertical? Is there any good reason why they couldn't be positioned above or beneath the numerical keys, no matter in what order? And why is it that the number keys always go in a 3x3 square? Five keys in a row could well support something like this:


+ - * / CHS

6 7 8 9 0

1 2 3 4 5

XEQ R/S . EEX ENTER

While I'm at it: the double wide ENTER seems to me solely an esthetic concession that has no ergonomic reason behind it, like special importance of the ENTER key: in any calculation every key is of the same importance to its correctness, the ENTER is not more important than the operator key or the numbers in it.

(I'd like to have voters keep in mind that this is all about a caculator design started from scratch, as far as I can tell, so there is no need to meet pre-existing hardware restrictions.)

Edited: 10 Dec 2012, 5:05 a.m.


#26

Quote:
And why is it that the number keys always go in a 3x3 square? Five keys in a row could well support something like this ...

Just guessing - but nearly everybody can 'count visually' up to three (i.e. (s)he can tell you at once whether there are one, two, or three items at a location), but many people can't do it up to five. There's also a traditional saying that somebody "can't count up to three" expressing that person is really dumb. Never heard that with five instead ;-)
Quote:
While I'm at it: the double wide ENTER seems to me solely an esthetic concession that has no ergonomic reason behind it, like special importance of the ENTER key: in any calculation every key is of the same importance to its correctness, the ENTER is not more important than the operator key or the numbers in it.

Almost - I'd see this double wide ENTER as a brand sign meanwhile. And it's kind of a landmark in a matrix of 37 or more keys.

d:-)


#27

Thanks, Walter, for taking the time to respond.

The fact that immediately seeing an amount of three is possible to human brains is no argument for the 3x3 arrangement of keys. You don't have to count the keys, you only look at them as distinct symbols.

I can see the trademark thing, too. And I have to say that I rather like the esthetics of the double wide ENTER. But that is me who is interested in calculators almost only for their nostalgic looks. But when designing a modern tool for everyday work I would only take ergonomics into account, not nostalgia, not even for pleasant looks, if nostalgia is the only (!) reason for a feature (double wide key).

And what about horizontally positioned operator keys? Any thoughts?


Edited: 10 Dec 2012, 9:23 a.m.


#28

I didn't mean users shall count keys but apparently the human brain deals with a 3x3 matrix better than with a 5x2 matrix. Don't ask me why, however.

And horizontally positioned operator keys? Why not?

d:-)


#29

Quote:
And horizontally positioned operator keys? Why not?

Or randomly positioned operator keys... Right next to me sits an HP 10 that I fished out of the bay a short while ago and it really has a strange arrangement of keys (for HP at least). But what I really like is the double-sized _vertical_ += key in the lower right corner. Additions and chain additions must be the operations that most users do most of the time and that key in that position is really ideal to do that (as this website rightly says, the HP-10 is an adding machine). And it also has a double sized _horizontal_ zero key.


Edited: 10 Dec 2012, 10:41 a.m.


#30

Was that HP10 the one that came with a lot of other calculators? I remember seeing that, but decided not to bid.


#31

Good morning!

Quote:
Was that HP10 the one that came with a lot of other calculators? I remember seeing that, but decided not to bid.

No, it was all on it's own, german eBay, less than 50 Euros. That was an offer I couldn't refuse! But now I have a decision to make:
I already have a very nice HP-10. Also I have a very nice HP-19, but with a non-functional printer. This "new" HP-10 is cosmetically very nice and woks well, but the battery contacts are corroded, so some soldering needs to be done (I have a pre-confectioned 4-cell NiMh block that I intend to connect permanently. Should I swap the printer with the HP-19 in the process (which would leave me with a fully working set of 10 and 19, but somewhat tinkered ones) or do I leave everything as it is and wait for an affordable 19 with working printer? I'm still undecided, that's why this HP-10 has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks...

Regars
Max


#32

Affordable 19C's with working printer are very rare (you may emphasise each and every word). I've got a 19C waiting for my care for some years - it was the only one I could afford ;-) So my decision would be easy.

d:-)


#33

Quote:
Affordable 19C's with working printer are very rare (you may emphasise each and every word). I've got a 19C waiting for my care for some years - it was the only one I could afford ;-) So my decision would be easy.

According to the "prices&rarity" section, the HP-10 is "very difficult" to find, whereas the HP-19C only "difficult". I think we really need an update to this section because I am not sure if this represents the current situation. Hasen't someone on this forum been collecting eBay results since some time to get new data?
I am still undecided... (the same with my HP-01s: I have an excellent stainless steel one, a non-working golden one and another one of stainless steel, worn/ugly but functional. It would be easy to swap it's innards with the golden one, but somehow, it dosen't feel right to do that.)


Edited: 11 Dec 2012, 6:22 a.m.


#34

Quote:
According to the "prices&rarity" section, the HP-10 is "very difficult" to find, whereas the HP-19C only "difficult". I think we really need an update to this section because I am not sure if this represents the current situation. Hasen't someone on this forum been collecting eBay results since some time to get new data?

It also depends on your personal preferences to some extent - I don't think an HP-10 can compete with an HP-19C in any league.

And yes, I share your view some rooms of the museum we all love need the windows widely opened and some fresh air let in after years. Maybe as a first measure, each room shall get a date tag put on it indicating the date of its most recent update? This won't solve the root cause, of course, but may serve as a first hint for visitors expecting up-to-date information in some sections.

d:-)

Edited: 11 Dec 2012, 7:04 a.m.


#35

Quote:
It also depends on your personal preferences to some extent - I don't think an HP-10 can compete with an HP-19C in any league.

I'm not so sure... I have two equally strong preferences: "luminous display programmable scientific" and "luminous display rare and unusual". Each of those two calculators is close to the top of it's respective list!


#36

Quote:
I'm not so sure... I have two equally strong preferences: "luminous display programmable scientific" and "luminous display rare and unusual". Each of those two calculators is close to the top of it's respective list!

Agreed... What about a TI-SR22, then? ;-)

Massimo


#37

Quote:
What about a TI-SR22, then? ;-)

A great machine! The only thing that beats red LEDs are Panaplex displays... hexadecimal panaplex displays are better still.

But I really can't start collecting desktop calculators as I have hardly enough space for my pocket calculators. And regarding Ti: I owe a lot to them, because they made excellent and afforadble calculators when I really needed them (school&univesity).

#38

Quote:
But when designing a modern tool for everyday work I would only take ergonomics into account, not nostalgia, not even for pleasant looks, if nostalgia is the only (!) reason for a feature (double wide key).

If you only took a utilitarian point of view in your design, then you'd fail to capture a broader market. There is a reason why designers are used for everything from product aesthetics, to packaging, to store layout. It's to generate an emotional response. Even something as utilitarian as a hammer gets designed in an attempt to standout among the others.

Consumers are swayed by attractive design. It is possible to align form and function to create a product that looks as good as it functions. And you can charge a lot more for it.

The double-wide ENTER is iconic and should be celebrated as the center piece of any *good* RPN calculator. Any *older* engineer or scientist will recognize that as a badge of quality and accuracy. And hopefully the younger crowd will view it as distinctive and interesting.


#39

IF one wanted to gain new customers, that would certainly be true. But I very much doubt that any RPN project will ever bring in a new, young crowd. A possible 43s is only interesting to old enthusiasts who will get it anyway. Which could be an argument for a double wide ENTER ("I want it because it was always double wide") or against it: "I want a calc and I'll get it anyway, so function over form! Hail to one more key!!!" ;-)


#40

Quote:
But I very much doubt that any RPN project will ever bring in a new, young crowd. A possible 43s is only interesting to old enthusiasts who will get it anyway.

That is most likely the case, but it doesn't hurt to try.
#41

I really think all pretense of appealing to a younger crowd needs to be dropped. They operate in a virtual environment and expect to carry less devices. A calculator clone that resembles a 30 year old design is not on their radar. Let's face it the efforts here to create "new" calculators are impressive and commendable. They also should be seen as an effort by an older generation to create a device for their own enjoyment and to leave a legacy of a bygone era.


#42

Quote:
I really think all pretense of appealing to a younger crowd needs to be dropped. ... A calculator clone that resembles a 30 year old design is not on their radar.

Retro is in. At least for now. And granted it's a limited market. IMHO, it's possible to get sites like thinkgeek.com to pick up a new RPN.

If we adopt the attitude that RPN is for the older, wiser crowd, well then, RPN will die with that crowd.

Believe me, I have no illusions, but it doesn't hurt to try.


#43

So, do some advertising, get some young people to vote :-) It's all about education, isn't it?

d:-)

#44

RPN for all practical purposes will die with your generation.

#45

I don't think the size and position of the ENTER key is purely aesthetic in nature. While it may not be more "important" in the sense that you describe, it is probably used more frequently than any other key, with the possible exception of Sigma+ under some circumstances. By having ENTER somewhat centrally located (on one axis), it reduces necessary finger movement as compared to having ENTER in one of the corners (typical on non-RPN calculators).

Having the size of ENTER significantly different than other keys (double wide), it makes it a good tactile reference for finger position, facilitating operation of the calculator without requiring as much direct visual confirmation of finger position.

I'm right-handed, and I routinely use the HP-41 one-handed, in my left hand, doing many entries and operations without looking at it, while using my right hand and eyes to deal with other stuff (the problem at hand that I'm using the 41 to solve). The position and size of the ENTER key may this work quite well.

When the HP-35 was designed, I don't think they determined the size and position of the keys for purely aesthetic reasons, though that was probably a consideration. I think they put a lot of thought, and probably a lot of experimentation, into coming up with a highly functional design. Having not been involved, I'm obviously only speculating.


#46

ENTER vs. Sigma+? I don't think so. I for one and many others I know can live without Sigma+ being on the keyboard at all.


The big ENTER key is IMO the trade mark of the great RPN idea.


#47

Just because you don't commonly use the statistical functions doesn't mean that they aren't commonly used by a lot of people. For some people, they are the most important functions in the calculator.

#48

Quote:
And why is it that the number keys always go in a 3x3 square?

I would say that it is purely for ergonomic reasons. On most laptops you get a 1x10 numeric key layout and that is very slow for entering numbers. The 3x3 on the keypad of an extended keyboard is far quicker. Your 2x5 would be somewhere in the middle.

Secondly, if you do go 2x5 I would swap the rows so that the 0 key is near the decimal point as the two often come together.


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