The (sad) future of RPN?



#8

The (sad) future of RPN?

I don't like the conclusion I have come up with and would like to be proved wrong! What's your considered view? (Please, no abusive replies.)

This is eerily similar to what has happened to military specification semiconductors, if manufacturers can make their money in lower specification products they won't make the higher specification ones any more.

Facts: (see notes below)

1 The calculator market was very small and has grown to be very large.

2 Prices for calculators were extremely high and are now very cheap.

3 Manufacturing techniques now favor large production runs.

4 RPN will is unlikely to have mass market appeal.

5 Only a small and diminishing number of calculators are RPN (no totally new RPN only calculators have been released for nearly 10 years, the reasons for this are many)

6 Those lobbying for RPN (including myself) are a vocal minority.

7 Prices for old (and not so old) HP calculators are high due to users AND collectors seeing the writing on the wall.

Point 1, 2 and 3: This had the effect that early producers could pander to the users who were generally speaking well off and knowledgeable people interested in getting the most out of their expensive purchase (this does NOT mean that well off and knowledgeable people don't exist any more, it's just they don't form the majority of the calculator buyers.) Now the market is much more broad based and favors large production runs which have to cater for every user (lowest common denominator wins). Modern scientific calculators are now almost throw away items costing $10 or less.

Point 4: The vast majority of people sadly don't care what input system is used just as long as they don't have to learn a new system every time they pick up a new calculator. This will always favor the majority input system which is semi algebraic or more commonly full algebraic. In truth the RPN system always had a minority following, it was just that this minority was the majority of dedicated calculator operators prepared to pay high prices for good equipment.

Point 5: The last ones were HP42/48. The HP49G has both but the manual clearly favors algebraic, and these $100+ calculators will always be small sellers. Any manufacturer launching a new general purpose RPN calculator on the mass market will lose money because most buyers won't like the entry system.

Point 6: People are voting (albeit blindly) with their feet, the percentage share of the market for RPN is tiny (<1% world wide?). In my schooling and engineering career so far (15 years) the number of other people who had RPN calculators could be counted on one thumb (may be this is only true for the UK?). Those who do buy RPN can't hope to sway the opinion of manufacturers selling millions of algebraic calculators every year.

Point 7: Old things only become valuable when they can't be replaced at any (reasonable) cost. Why bother to pay good money for am old calculator if you new something better was just around the corner?

The conclusion is RPN for low to mid range calculators is dead, buy the HP32SII calculator while you can! RPN's only refuge is in high end calculators with low(ish) production runs and it looks only to be as an option.

The garish HP49 does not suit professionals who want something that looks less like a game boy and more like an HP42/48. Anyone have a nice HP42S for sale to a good home?

PS The only exception to this is if one or more of the calculator manufacturers stick their neck out, convince users that RPN is the next big thing and invest heavily in a $15 calculator that does nearly everything, and provide support to education establishments. This would be rather risky and I don't see it happening no matter how much I want it to. :-(


#9

I do believe HP will make and release in the next year or so (they dropped new development) a calc similar to & exceeding an HP-42S. It will be switchable RPN/algebraic (default algebraic of course :) ). The construction will be lower cost (49G / 6S) & priced reasonably for the power. They will include program transfer to PC (docking cradle or cable)

No, it will not be a $15 calculator but it could last for a long and glorious production run.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


#10

Dave: Is this reply to Sam's question about the fate of rpn wishful thinking, or is this based on some fact. I really hope you are right Dave, I've been using my hp25 and hp67 since 1975, 1977. I do not like graphing calculators but as far as programming goes, you cant beat rpn. Program lines can nearly be cut in half when translated from algebraic to rpn. I hope I do see a new calc from hp with rpn, I don't think my antiques are going to last forever. Sincerely, Bill Drylie.

#11

Don't you think the "RPN calculator" of the future will actually be a piece of software running on a Palm or similar PID? Sure, you lose the keyboard and tactile feedback -- it looks like that's a foregone conclusion anyway. But you gain tremendous flexibility, connectivity, speed, and memory. The days of specialty hardware are going. Learn to program Java and customize your own calculator as an application on a flexible, upgradeable palm-sized computer . . .


#12

Lets look at the hypothetical next set of HP offerings:

Low end cheap, disposable calcs (6S, etc) nice algebraic, small, cheap enough so if it gets spills etc you don't mind replacing.

More powerful key based system (42S type programming, power) but with interfacing to PC. Low enough manufacturing costs to keep profits up for a long production run with minimal supporting developments. Maybe with flash memory if economical for upgrades.

Custom programs for Win CE or Palm operating system. Could be hardware coupled (modules or PC Card with custom Saturn compatable processor)

High End replacement to 48/49G series with CAS systems, etc. Maybe coupled to a specific hardware platform on top of or along side Win CE (Jordana??)

#13

I was about to post Roger's (I think that's the name) very response when I came across it. I just purchased a Qualcomm pdQ (itegrated pager, 'cell'/cdma phone, palm VII, with email, web browser, other data capabilities... ). I've been waiting and waiting for HP to get on board but as fortune has it my HP620's going the way of the HP320 the year prior. How odd that I'll be searching the web for an HP41CV emulator that runs on my pdQ web phone / pager / pilot... Roger, let's build one if we can't find it.

I understand that HP management has recently been swept away. Perhaps the new folks on the block will see the respect many have for that earlier technology and find a place for it in the new world of integrated personal machines.

The point about specialized hardware on its way out is so right. After all what is each and every calculator you ever laid your hands on but a very highly organized box of sand? What really makes it tick is the human thought that the engineers and developers managed to squeeze into that tiny box in the form of soft/firmware. Hey, anybody play around with synthetic programming recently. Haven't had a chance to read thru all the posts but those were some fun times.

#14

I was about to post Paul's (I think that's the name) very response when I came across it. I just purchased a Qualcomm pdQ (itegrated pager, 'cell'/cdma phone, palm VII, with email, web browser, other data capabilities... ). I've been waiting and waiting for HP to get on board but as fortune has it my HP620's going the way of the HP320 the year prior. How odd that I'll be searching the web for an HP41CV emulator that runs on my pdQ web phone / pager / pilot... Roger, let's build one if we can't find it.

I understand that HP management has recently been swept away. Perhaps the new folks on the block will see the respect many have for that earlier technology and find a place for it in the new world of integrated personal machines.

The point about specialized hardware on its way out is so right. After all what is each and every calculator you ever laid your hands on but a very highly organized box of sand? What really makes it tick is the human thought that the engineers and developers managed to squeeze into that tiny box in the form of soft/firmware. Hey, anybody play around with synthetic programming recently. Haven't had a chance to read thru all the posts but those were some fun times.


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