The other PRIME


On October 2, after a LONG wait, Mathcad PRIME 3.0 (MP3) became available on PTC's website ( ).

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:

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.



Greetings. I also use MathCAD® & Excel® for documenting Engineering calculations / algorithims / formulas. I also started in DOS w/ ver-4 and intermittenly upgraded up til ver-14. I haven't progressed beyond XP® for my laptops,so I'm still a happy camper.

I have HP calculators from the 70's, 80's. 90's etc (around 42 now) in various conditions (some have incurable war wounds from OEF & OIF deployments) but most are functional & / or restorable w/ minor effort. Always interested in how fellow Engineers 'git ur dun'!



Edited: 8 Oct 2013, 7:37 p.m.


Now to begin the process of migrating my old Mathcad templates and other Mathcad calcs to PRIME as well as migrating some of my Excel templates and spreadsheets. I haven't counted them yet, but I suspect the total number of files I will be going through is between 200 and 300. All I have done so far is create a couple of master (i.e. mostly blank) templates in Mathcad PRIME. In some cases, I will make template files for standard calculations and in other cases I will create non-template calculation segments for dropping into larger calculations. This should keep me off the streets and out of trouble for a while.

As popular as I know Mathcad is, I have run across only three other civil engineers who use it and two of them didn't use it very well. In the mid-90s, I worked for a company with >1200 engineers scattered around the country and came across only one other Mathcad user. He and I exchanged info and documents for a while and I was impressed with his use of Mathcad. After that I worked for a company with >300 engineers in multiple offices and I may have been the only Mathcad user. We were later bought out by a mega-firm but even with the larger numbers in our region, I didn't find any other civil engineers using Mathcad, though I did find one mechanical engineer who used it regularly.

Several years ago, I reviewed some contractor submittals for precast concrete utility vaults for a prison project. The manufacuter's in-house structural engineer had performed her design calcs in Mathcad. The calcs were well organized and explained in detail, but she had the very bad habit of redefining variables that had been previously calculated, which led to several errors. She also didn't use units consistently, which led to other errors. I contacted her outside of normal project lines of communication to offer her more extensive suggestions than I could offer with my submittal review comments, which she found very helpful.

This summer I reviewed some Mathcad calculations from a vendor of chemical storage tanks for a design-build project that is now under construction. The calculations covered 20 pages and were quite detailed. Unfortunately, the calcs were poorly laid out and there was almost no text to explain what was going on. In addition, variable names didn't always make sense and in some cases were different from what is used in the code. He also use "lb" instead of "lbf" for forces and weights, which led to several errors.

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