Bad rap for 49G?


After much investigation, I recently upgraded to a HP49G calc. Prior to the 49G, I had used a Casio, so I wasn't used to the world of HP (RPN and all that stuff). Thus far I have been very impressed. It is a major step up from the Casio graphing calculator that I had before. I am ,therefore, suprised to see all of the negative comments regarding this calc. I had a few observations and wondered what the rest of the world thought. First, I have had a chance to compare the 49G to the 48SX. Although I see definite improvements, the changes are not all that significant. I wonder if people expected a quantum leap in performance with the 49G, and when they didn't get it, they were disappointed (even though it may be a better calculator). Second, I have encountered many negative comments about the color. They say that professionals don't like it. Well, I am a professional, and I do like it. To me, it doesn't have anything to do with being a professional, it's just a color preference. Well, let me know what you think.


You are right, the complainers on this forum have their points, but they often can't seem to be constructive.

There are reasons (right & wrong) that the 49G is not a major leap over the 48 series, but that can be a benefit also... Compared to TI, Casio, Sharp it is still the best computational device.


I'd guess, the problem is more the manuals and the keyboard. HP always gave the impression of having a high-standard industrial product and the manuals were at the leading edge. Though it might be complicated writing a manual for such a device (a lot of possibilities produces large manuals), I noted, that the manuals got weaker and weaker towards the newest calculator.

This seems a little like Microsoft, who are selling the software without manuals and selling the manuals extra via Microsoft press. Unfortunately for the 49 there's no such possibility. As a consequence, most people simply won't use the full power of their calculator.

I'd prefer a product with the high quality keys (and serious look) accompanied with a good manual for the doubled price. My HP-71 I bought in ~1984, had 700 pages User and Reference manuals for much less functions. The quality already began to degrade with selling the Advances Reference Manual for the 48 series. That was the first step in a wrong direction.

You might like the color scheme or not, my main problem is the keys and the missing pocket (the plastic cover can't be a real replacement). Seems like they need a machine to strive for (price range abt $600-700), even if the least people would buy it. That's just the same as car companies do. Some of them (Mercedes, BMW, ...) have rather cheap models, but have car series, which are way out of the range of a normal user. This is a major image factor for them. Some years ealier, HP was just like Porsche (who have no low end models at all). I can understand, that it's hard to compete in this market, but there will always be some people, who buy a device in the highest range (I'm one of them).

If there's no change in their policy, I will have to build my own calculator. Seems like an interesting project, somehow, though it will be a little costly ...

BTW: I'm an electronics engineer and I know what I'm talking of.


My comments are meant to spark a different view on this issue rather than constantly harp on the negative side. HP needs to build a broad and stable business around their calculator offerings. No sense offering a Cadillac which ultimately is only the last offering from a failed business division.


You're right, but the Cadillac is an important thing for such a company. How can you claim leadership (and this IS an important sales argument), when all your devices start looking like the competitors devices. Sure, that you have to earn money, but that's what Cadillac has to do (and it works for them).

I don't argue against a calculator like the HP-49G, I just stated, what I wanted to see in A HP-49GX (let's add module ports).

Nobody want's HP calculator division to fail on the market. I just had an Impression of a typical HP device, which was:

-) it's ever-lasting

-) it has a serious look (Some TI devices DO have a serious look, see the TI-92)

-) it has the best keys in the market (yes, I even like the fact, that the key letterings cannot rub off, due to their complicated manufacturing)

-) it's some sort of a status symbol

-) it has the highest quality possible in an industrial market

-) The product has a very long lifetime. This goal was met with the 41 in all its variations and HP has met it again with the 48 Series. Thanks, HP.

Yes, I saw the HP-48s prices fall (I remember what I paid for my SX, when I bought it. I got it brand new and super-costly). Prices dropped to abt half the price.

I just wanted to make clear, that I would pay the double price for a calculator, like that I described in my older post. (Guess I'd go up to $500 for a calc, that fits my needs).

That's what was the special in the name HP. In my youth (in the technical college I visited), HP and TEK were the leading companies for test and measurement equipment, together with others. The quality (for a certain price) was excellent and service was exemplarily. It seems, like the focus for HP has changed a little towards fast earnings against a long-term strategy.

I just want to make clear, that there were industrial customers too for HPs professional equipment and there were some of them, who didn't really care about the price. (Yes, such companies DO exist nowadays, but you have to search).

For some measurement tasks (environment monitoring, standalone devices, ...) I'd prefer a small device, where there's a large number of developers (you can easily find good developers at technical schools and universities, that are using HP calculators) and which has a rugged design.

Tataaa, a HP-48GX (but not a 49G).

Besides that, a good manual is not a luxury, but a must for any advanced product as is a stable ROM version (seems, that updateable FLASH ROMs are a pain for the user, look at the BIOS versions for some PCs).

Years ago there was a fixed ROM and no possibility to update later without taking the whole device back. That led to stable, more or less error-free machines (It might be easier to test the older devices with less code.)


I must agreed with the point made about the manuals. I just acquired an HP49g after owning a 41c and then a 48SX. Even downloading the Adv. Users Guide for the 49g there does not seem to be enough information for a new user to begin to appreciate the power available.

In comparison the older machines had far more material available.


Thanks for the comments. Yes, I do agree that the HP49G manuals are very lacking. I plan to do most of my work in RPN mode, even though it is new to me. The manual shipped with the calc. neglects RPN mode all together, and the Advanced User's Guide isn't a whole lot better. Fortunaletly, I have a co-workder familiar with RPN entry. Hopefully, HP will take note and make corrections. I wonder if they are in the process of upgrading their manuals? I hope so!


I'm interested...

Why do you prefer RPN?

Is this the first time you've been exposed to it?

Isn't algebraic more natural?


No, RPN is *much* more natural. When you're doing arithmetic with pencil and paper, you don't start adding until you've got the second number. Similarly, when evaluating a complex expression, you start at the innermost parentheses and work your way out - which is the way RPN is used to solve a problem. It's elegant.

I had a meeting with my accountant yesterday. In case I needed to do any calculations, I brought a 16C I'd grabbed off my desk. She noticed it and that led to a short conversation about how it compared to her 12C, and she allowed as how she *loved* the 12C; this was her second, the first having worn out, and she loved the way RPN worked and laughed when people said "Can I borrow your calculator?" and then couldn't work it. Now, she's not a computer science type, and not deeply into this kind of stuff, but you could see how, once she'd grokked it, RPN just made more sense and worked better for her, even though she couldn't explain why.

To borrow a phrase from the current vernacular, "RPN rocks".


--- Les []


Hey, I'm a Loooooong time RPN user.

I'm just asking an (apparant) newcommer. Dont assume my beliefs just because of the nature of my question :-)


Steve wrote:

> Dont assume my beliefs just because of the nature of my question :-)

Ahhh - "Isn't algebraic more natural?" struck me as a slightly loaded question. . .


--- Les []


> Ahhh - "Isn't algebraic more natural?" struck me as a

> slightly loaded question. . .

Isn't that what the advertising tells us?


Well, that's a good question. I worked my way thru college and my first ten years as a aerospace engineer, not using RPN. I was surrounded by people who did, but I never wanted to take the time to learn myself (which turned out to be very easy to learn). I am now in graduate school, and finally decided to make the plunge. I found myself stuggling thru complex calculations using standard algebraic notation. What I have found out is this: for simple calculations, there doesn't appear to be much difference, but for complex calculations (things with lots of brackets, etc), RPN is far superior. I only wish I had invested in a good HP calculatior when I first started college. Oh well, that's what learning is all about, i.e., learning from your mistakes. Hope this helps. What do you think?


It's good to hear.

The first calculator I used was AOS, the first I owned was AOS, and I initially thought RPN was _really_ odd, and something I'd never really like.

However, after about the first day or so, I realised the huge advantages. :-)

In those days, people had one of three calculators: a) the TI-25 they had from high school b) some fancy TI they had bought c) an HP calculator

The more you moved into the maths and computing areas, the more that (c) dominated over (a). There never were too many in the TI camp.

Yes, they allowed calculators in my final year of school, but the questions were still in the form that most of the time mental arithmetic was faster, or they were non-numerical and calculators didn't help.

By the time I was in Uni, you could take ANY calculator into exams, as long as it was "cleared". This was done by taking the batteries out, replacing them, turning on the calculator and ensuring it said 0.0000 :-) Funny, most of us with the HP-41's would turn them on, hit CLX, then turn them off before going in :-)

Back to RPN, and it's future....

I think the problem with it, if it has one, is that it looks different, and requires the user to have two brain cells to rub together. And unfortunatly there's a component of out school children who don't have the prerequisites (or are unwilling to try). This would lead to a situation where you would have some proportion of children who "couldn't even use their calculator" to solve problems. AOS has the advantage that you can just enter things parrot fashion. Even if it doesn't come up with the right answer, it comes up with AN answer when you press the magic = button.

Sadly, it's because RPN is suited to those who have a clue, that it will never be the operation of choice when it comes to those on the left hand tail of the normal curve. And unfortunatly our schools generally seek to cater for the average, and try to hide the below average.


Even though it took me so long to realize the benifits of RPN, I now have concerns for its future. I know when I purchased my 49G, I could only find it in one store (Office Depot). And I live in Huntsville, AL which is considered a high tech town. The 49G has been out long enough now, that it should be showing up in stores. On the other hand, I found TI89's all over the place. This is the calc that many high school teachers are pushing for their trig, and calc. classes. I really hate to think that a better system (RPN) will ultimately loose out. But unless a new geneation of users adopts it, I am afraid it will. You would think that high school teachers would push it more, especially those teachers teaching the high end math classes. Oh-well, I know mine didn't.

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