On October 2, after a LONG wait, Mathcad PRIME 3.0 (MP3) became available on PTC's website ( http://www.ptc.com/product/mathcad/ ).

Some of y'all may have seen this announcement already, so this message is to bring everyone else up to speed. If you aren't familiar with Mathcad, here is a good explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathcad.

I have used Mathcad since the DOS days, mostly to document civil engineering calculations. Excel is better at some things, but it is terrible by comparison for documentation purposes because it doesn't show the math. I also use my HP-42S, HP-41CX, and HP-48G+ for engineering, but I don't have an HP printer so I can't document these calculations except by hand. I also have specialty engineering programs for such things as modeling water distribution systems, designing retaining walls, estimating storm runoff, etc.

Since I was still running Mathcad 8 (vintage 1994) and it wasn't completely happy on my Windows 7 computers, I decided to bite the $1550 (GULP!) bullet and upgrade. Windows Vista was the last time M8 was completely well behaved, except for the occasional printing glitch; under Windows 7, M8 crashed from time to time, which was really frustrating earlier this summer when I spent about one man-month using it to perform various calculations for a project I am working on.

MP1 (especially) and MP2 were not ready for prime time (pun intended), which is why I hadn't upgraded yet, but MP3 has more than sufficient functionality for what I do.

In addition to MP3, you get a copy of M15 for translating M7 through M15 files into the Mathcad PRIME format. M15 is a separate download, but it works under the same license. You also get a copy of MP2, but I haven't figured out the "why" for that. Unfortunately for those who who build very sophisticated documents, MP3 still does not have all of M15's functionality (and vice versa), which is another reason for having M15 available.

You can download Mathcad PRIME 3.0 for free and use it for a month. If you choose not to buy it, it reverts to a stripped down version called Mathcad PRIME 3.0 EXPRESS. I have MP2 EXPRESS on one of my home computers from an earlier trial and it is sufficient for doing basic algebraic calculations and simple plotting.

So, what does all this have to do with HP calculators, you may ask? Well, over the years I have taken programs I have written for my HP calculators and used them as the basis for creating Mathcad documents and I have used Mathcad to help me create HP programs. In addition, since different problems may require different tools, the combination of my HP calculators, Excel, Mathcad, and some specialty engineering programs can handle all of my calculating needs.