The "blue book" and what the figures tell


Hi all,

According to the figures reported from CreateSpace, there seem to be less than 50 active users of our WP 34S on this planet. Well, less than 50 who can read ;-) After all, that's a bit less than I expected taking into account the vivid discussion on this very forum here. And it's significantly less than what can be derived from the sourceforge download statistics. Seems the "next to nothing" cost of the WP 34S (compare it to a filling of your car, for example) exceeds already a critical limit which lets me wonder whether a more advanced scientific system will find a market at all. Just food for thought.



It seems low to me. I am an "active" user of the WP-34S.


My daily use calculators are a 15C LE at work and a 41CX at home. I don't use a 34S for a number of reasons, real or perceived. I'd have to stick labels onto the keys, which may wear down quickly or come loose and start to slide off. I'd have to get a cable to program it. I'd have to put together a PC with the right versions of software in order to get the programming to work. If I wanted some advanced features I'd have to disassemble it and do some soldering on it.

Or I could buy one already put together. But then I'd have an old version of software, and I might not be able to reprogram it without going through some of the steps above. And if I did reprogram it to the latest version, then they keyboard is prone to changes and I would have to remove the old labels and get new ones and put them on.

And if anything goes wrong with it, it goes into the trash and I start again.

For all that, it's just not worth the hassle.

But if there was a more advanced system without all of those issues, I'd be in line for it.


Wow, some misconceptions here.

Yes, stickers need to be applied. They do wear out but it is slow. My day to day use calculator is still on its first set of stickers. My test unit likewise although it does show more wear. Both are still perfectly readable and both are used almost every day. I've seen zero issues with them moving or falling off. It is possible to remove them and to clean the glue up but it isn't a daily, monthly or even annual chore. The minimum order number from HP for a custom printed keyboard and front face was well beyond our wildest dreams of the sales numbers, however if someone volunteers to fund this we'd jump at the chance.

The keyboard layout has changed exactly once since we went public with a release. That was the version 2 to version 3 change. There will be no version 4 -- the current layout is final and set in stone. I don't see how this could reasonably be considered prone to change.

Likewise, the firmware is very stable. We'll be fixing bugs and that's it. There will be no new features in the core firmware. The last couple of bugs have been quite esoteric and unlikely to impact anything day to day. All the base functionality seems rock solid. The libraries are still mutable but they don't require a reflash to edit. They can be modified, removed or added to a device via its keyboard if required.

The hardware modifications for the advanced features aren't actually that difficult but I can understand some reluctance in doing them. They, however, only provide an accurate clock and printing. No more no less. These features are easy to live without and the entire rest of the device's functionality remains unchanged. It is still a full featured calculator without the hardware changes.

As for trashing the device if things go wrong, isn't that true of every modern consumer electronic device? My children's iPod's are virtually impossible to repair, yet they are quite prone to damage. That said, I've never managed to destroy a device reflashing it. I did manage to break the screen on a 20b after opening it.

_ Pauli


I was a bit slow ordering the manuals. Maybe others are even slower and there will still be orders.
Sales of the USB board have slowed down significantly after the first 50 units, too. So far I have sold the same amount again.

How does CreateSpace work? Do they print on demand, or do you have to give them an estimate of how many you expect to sell? If so, does that mean you have to invest money up front and get the return as the books sell?

That is the dilemma I had with the USB boards. Do you buy the parts in relatively low quantities at a high price, or do you buy them in "large" quantities at lower prices, thus running the risk of not selling enough to return the investment.


Walter, I really admire and appreciate your having made a printed manual available to all - many thanks! That said, my own bound copy has served me well, along with the .pdf file in my tablet (a BlackBerry PlayBook) and laptop when needed. I don't think any of the other three or more engineers in my lab who use their WP 34S on a daily basis have ordered a printed copy either.

In other words, the number of manual purchasers is likely a small portion of the number of active users who all appreciate what you have done.


It is a shame, because I'd bet that many more would order a copy if they could see a physical copy, thumb through the pages and realize how impressive it is.



Thanks for all the hard work 34S team.

Email me anyone still looking for a cable.


I don't think it's easy for people to find out that the printed manual exists, or where to get it. I certainly haven't been able to find it with a Google search, and I don't see a link on the WP 34S web page, nor from Eric Rechlin's WP 34S sales page.


Thanks for the advice - the link on the WP 34S project web page is there now.



Hi Walter,

I understand your point.

However, I'd advise to avoid linking the level of interest in the Wp 34s to the manual purchases and/or the sourceforge downloads.

Owning 7 Wp 34s (2 V2 in my daughters' hands and 5 V3), only 3 of them are USB fitted and I purchased only one manual.

The primary reason for which I bought the manual is for education purposes. I love digging in the chapters for a pleasant learning experience.

May I suggest to you and Eric selling the manual packaged with the ready made Wp-34s and on Eric site ?

The opportunity to get a full package might be an efficient trigger for purchase.

To me, sticking an overlay, soldering components, flashing a firmware is an entertainment. I understand it could be a chore to someone else.

Thank you for this excellent work, far beyond what is commercially available today.



I understand that you are underwhelmed by this number, but personally, I would have been surprised to see more than 50 takers of your print version. The blue book is indeed a beauty to behold, actually even nicer than a 30S with stickers on its keys ;-), but I think we need to recognize that the 43S project and its projected cost will indeed attract only a few hundred buyers at the very best, perhaps even less than 100.

That being said, it makes the effort of those who are working on the 43S project only more admirable. Not doing it because it will attract x customers, but because it can be done.


I freakin love mine! I applaud everyone who has had a hand in the creation and execution of the project. Who do I send a donation to?


Link to 34s Sourceforge page - click on "Donate".


[...] I think we need to recognize that the 43S project and its projected cost will indeed attract only a few hundred buyers at the very best, perhaps even less than 100.
This should become a kickstarter project to let the users decide how much they want.


I think that is very difficult. No one will commit to buying one, not knowing what the finished product will look like. And even more importantly, not knowing what the price will be. On the other hand, how can you determine the price, without knowing how big the market is.

Anyway, I am very keen on getting one, but compared to the 34S it will be a lot more expensive I guess. So if it is several hundreds of dollars, I am not sure I would buy one. If it is below $200 I would probably buy a couple.


You're right. What I really meant was that you can plan for a *reasonable* number of calculators. If not enough users can be found, not much money is lost.

And yes, you need a prototype, but you need one in any case ;-).


If I had realized there was a printed manual before Christmas I would have ordered one to give to my brother along with a WP-34s.

However for me, I don't really need one. Even though the wp-34s is my daily calculator, after using it since V2.2 days I don't really need the manual very often. When I do I just look at the PDF on my computer. I also have a fairly recent hardcopy I printed out on a colour printer back in November.


After Christmas is before Christmas, isn't it?



I just ordered a copy.

Thank you Walter for your work on the book. It is concise, accurate, and understandable. I must say that you are a better writer than most native English speakers that I know :(.


I suppose that is because there is much more to writing than just knowing the language :)


I use my wp-34s daily. I used to keep it updated with the latest release, but I would download the source code, tweak a couple things to my liking and build the emulator and the real rom to flash into my calc. Over the last few moths this has increasingly difficult. First SourceForge would not give me a reliable download of the tar file which included everything. I could get the same thing using SVN command line for a while, now that gives me an empty or srtipped down directory structure. Even browsing to the directories, I no longer find the current source code, only calc.bin files, emulators and docs, which are up to date but I can't modify their behavior or functions to my liking. As a result I quit updating my calc and emulator, therefore I didn't buy the printed manual because it reflected a more current version of firmware. I would love to have the source code fore the current version, tweak it, build the emulator and flash my calc with the latest version and order a printed manual.


The source is in subversion on source forge. We've no real control over the lack of access -- this was an enforced upgrade which we didn't really want.

If your changes could be worthwhile to a wider audience, we'd certainly consider including them in the firmware -- we've done this before. The changes should be conditionally included based on a setting in features.h and disabled by default.

- Pauli


We've no real control over the lack of access -- this was an enforced upgrade which we didn't really want.

I second that. I'd have voted for keeping the previous system at sourceforge - it was running :-) - but, alas ...



For example, I set the mode to "USA", but I prefer not to see the m.dy indicator, so I change the default so it is off if set to USA, on if set to something else. Mostly insignificant tweaks like that to suit my liking.


I have 6 WP-34s, I broke 2.5 so far; beyond possible repair, this might offset your statistics.


How did you kill 2.5 WP 34S ?



How did you kill 2.5 WP 34S ?




Hint taken, book ordered ;-)

Got >1kg of print-out docs in a binder with my 49g+ (which are unwieldy but to expensive to just throw away) and planned to read the WP-34S docs on a tablet but the book will be so much nicer.

(Would it make the print a lot more expensive and/or unwieldy if you'd include the beginner's guide as an appendix? Assuming the author would allow this, of course.)


Would it make the print a lot more expensive and/or unwieldy if you'd include the beginner's guide as an appendix?

The beginner's guide refers to a build some 9 months earlier IIRC. So the proper measure would be that author updating his guide. Perhaps he's listening (reading).

OTOH, that guide and the manual take different approaches to the WP 34S, so an appendix won't be the right thing to do. And the beginner's guide would add another approx. two hundred pages.

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