HP's Low-End Competition


I picked up a "SPECTRA SSC-200" scientific/statistical calculator at Target down in San Diego last week -- It cost five (5) bucks in a blister pack, without a manual or instruction sheet.

Two-line screen, 27 memories, plenty of functionality, in a nice, tight little package (by today's standards). It seems to me to be at least as good as any equivalent currently put out by Casio, Sharp, or TI, and beats the HP-6S hands down (IMHO).

It's not RPN or programmable -- just another little rubber-button algebraic to pile on my display. But, at only five dollars, it does suggest that HP had better not bother with the low end of the market -- there can't be any money to be made there!


It even has the parentheses that the HP 12CP doesn`t have!


In a world of $5 LCD sci-trig calcs,
if I was boss and feared how to make money with competition like that, I'd be duplicating original HP-34C's and
HP-41C's and selling them for $350 apiece
factory new.

And I'd spread the wealth
with stock options to the employees. With a strategy like
that I'd be minting more millionaires than Microsoft.


Sorry, but you would have a VERY limited low volume market!


And you would need to raise the price by an order of magnitude in order to make the "curves" (unit cost, overhead, number of units per shift etc) work out. So then you are at $3,500 and the market is even more limited.

For comparison:

I like rowing--and so do many other people. But "sea kayaking" is much more popular. The popularity of kayaking fueled the development of very low cost rotomolded boats which cost less than $800 for a full-sized 18' (5.5 meter) boat.

By comparison, a hand=made mass produced kayak made of fiberglass, costs about $2,000.

There are probably 10,000 or even 100,000 kayaks sold for every proper rowing boat (I don't mean a small aluminum boat that is really a motor boat, but without the motor).

To build a nice high quality rowing boat that is equivalent in quality and size to the mass produced kayak, built one-off, costs between $5,000 and $7,000. A production rowing boat, built in a limited production environment, goes for about $2,000 to $3,000. So, only those persons who *really* want to row will buy one. And unless you are willing to pony up the $6,000, your selection is severly limited.

Seems like diminishing returns. I think the calculator market is similar in some respects. Look at RPN and high quality as the rowing. Compare that to two other classes--the dominant ones--scholastic calculating, and "handheld" devices (palm) and you see the comparison.

I think the best opportunity for quality RPN in the future will rest in *software* solutions for handheld devices. I have seen two such hardware devices, one a Palm OS, the other WinCE, with very good click buttons. By piggybacking on a mass-produced paltform, the quality will be better at the lower price.

Of course, emotionally, we would all rather have a nice brick with BRIGHT RED LED's....




Bill Platt wrote:

> And you would need to raise the price by an order of magnitude in order to make the "curves" (unit cost, overhead, number of units per shift etc) work out. So then you are at $3,500 and the market is even more

..................... Hey Bill, I like your pricing schedule, that has a little profit margin built into it. Your right, for $350, a corporation cannot be expected to ship anything more than a couple of software CD's in a cardboard box (hold the owner's manual, that would be extra).

I mean, U gotta charge a lot these days in order to make a few nickels profit. I was wondering, can I come over to your house and wash and wax your car, and vacuum the interior? I'll do it for just $3,500 .




Qestion: Who will use a scienific Calculator these days?
My Answer:
- Students: Low financial budget
- Engineers: Mostly works with complex PC-Programs like Catia etc. where calculations are one function out of hundreds
- Scienctists: In my opinion same as Engineers ...

Hey - Is there a market for High-Price calculators ?

Next qestion: Who will use vacuum tube amplifiers these days ?
My Answer: There are *many* people who spent a lot !!! of money for high-end amplifiers!

Why ???

Why are there many people who spent a lot of money for high-end motor-bikes, high-end computers, high-end what ever ?

I think its the fun - and only the fun !!!!!

If someone builds a calculator which creates fun (I mean really fun - not rubber-key in a hp49 :-( ) I think there will be a market for high-end products !!!!!!!!

We should not search for customer who need the calculators for their work we should search for customers who needs them because of their fun (do we have the right products ???? )



I liked that last post, a lot !!

Right on !! Dont know why, but the MBA/CEO/marketeers are incapable of comprehending the "fun factor" of an item. Perhaps because those people themselves are no fun. Serious now, I've met a few marketeers. They've got applesauce for brains.

Look at the jukebox industry.... marketeers ruined it by hiding the record mechanism around 1965 . It was decimated after that, and then they trashed what residual of their market was left, by switching to CD's and hiding that mechanism too. Was that fun, to hide the mechanism???? NOO!!

Recreating HP classic "RED LED BRICK CALCULATORS" would be damn fun and they would sell by the millions, and all these young publik skule zombies would re-discover what math is all about.

There was a Mr. Holden browsing this board who was on the team for the original HP-35 and he told me that the marketeers were off by a factor of 1000 in their marketing..... marketeers said the HP-35 would sell like, 100 a year, they immediately got orders for 1000 calculators a week.

Recreating the original HP stuff would be no different. Would sell like wildfire. Because it would be fun .


Andreas is right. Just like vacuum tube amplifier to succeed in high end calculator you have make them with extremely high quality (not only performance as tube amplifiers don't outperform solid state ones but were extremely well built), sell them at a very high price and not making many of them.


Norm, you are right about the "fun factor." A lot of consumer electronics items now come in clear or translucent cases, including many Sharp calculators. Even something as simple as a clear case adds excitement to an otherwise mediocre product.


In many ways, I'd have to agree. People tend to be drawn to what they like, and not what's best for them. Personal choice. Speaking of which, personally, I always thought something like a 48GX, or some other graphic calc) with a VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display, like they use on stereo equipment, for those unfamiliar with the term) would be a lot of "fun." Combined with glow paint on the keys, and it would be a hell of a lot easier to follow along when college profs turned out the lights to use an overhead display.

So it would use a bit more power. That's just incentive to show up early and pick a spot closest to the only outlet in the room! :)



So, the solution is: build vacuum tube calculators!


No, build a few high-end stereo amplifiers from vacuum tubes and sell them at high prices.

For the calculators use red led's and silicon chips and sell those at high prices. Sell them factory new.


Actually, why not?

And why not a wooden keyboard and chassis, with mother of pearl keys?

I was at a maritine music festival this weekend and my young son was so happy to see really good musicians playing his favorite instruments: the accordion and the concertina. We took a close look at some of them and they were really beautiful works of art--and of course the "feel" of the keys is really important, especially as the musician will play her instrument for many hours at a time.

A real calculator *afficiando* will also use his calculator incessantly--and so, the expense, beauty, and feel of a honduran mahogany calculator with ivory-inlaid ironwood keys and vacuum tube circuitry, RED LED's and genuine African Alligator skin case are well justified.


U forgot the solid gold feet,

each one shaped like a little pointy pyramid, to cut down on material resonances.


I have a friend who is a silversmith/goldsmith/jeweler/artisan par excellence. She has made several gold/silver/jeweled cases for various (very famous) hoity toity rich types palm pilots/cell phones/laptops/blackberrys. You too can have a $1500 Vaio in a $100,000 case. Last I heard, waiting list was 5+ years.


You are certaily not joking, as truth is stranger than fiction!


Nope, I'm quite serious. Once you come up on the waiting list you need to choose what current technology you want customized... by then your Vaio will be at the Goodwill for $20. You want diamonds, rubys, emeralds, pearls, etc on your platinum cased techno toy... no problemo... just send money... and LOTS of it.

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