A catty comment from a fan of HP calc's of the the '80s


Forum readers --

In the preceding discussion, we read of "ROM updates", "print-via-wire flags", and "screen refresh" as part of a discussion regarding a mysterious flickering-display bugaboo. I'm sure that other terms will be mentioned.

Isn't it remarkable how HP and its partner-in-outsourcing (as well as other calc manufacturers) have strayed from the traditional paradigm of a no-nonsense, thoroughly-engineered, easily-comprehensible tool that works for the user, makes his tasks easier, and saves him time -- instead of exactly the opposite?

It's as though the attitude is, "Let's put as many features as we can on the latest hardware and rush it to market; if we don't get it right, no big deal -- we'll just have the users download a software patch/upgrade from our website."

To illustrate my point, how many of you can document a meaningful "glitch" or error in the HP-15C or its thorough documentation?

-- Karl


It's as though the attitude is, "Let's put as many features as we can on the latest hardware and rush it to market; if we don't get it right, no big deal -- we'll just have the users download a software patch/upgrade from our website."

Why shouldn't HP have a right to do it too? Microsoft does it all the time, and so does Apple, and every software developer in existence. The downward trend you perceive is actually a pandemic. But you're right that in HP calculator products the malaise is most bothersome.



>Why shouldn't HP have a right to do it too? Microsoft does it all the time, and so does Apple, and every software developer in existence. The downward trend you perceive is actually a pandemic. But you're right that in HP calculator products the malaise is most bothersome.

I think you miss the point. HP has, likewise to Microsoft and Apple, every right to push junk into the market (banana hardware and software - to become ripe at the customer's house). But then they should not complain if the customer eventually becomes adult enough to refrain from buying junk.

HP delivered high quality to adequate prices some time ago - now they just produce the low level cheap consumer junk that all the competitors throw into the market.

If there is no longer a significant difference between HP printers and Lexmark ones, or between HP calcs and Kinpo
types (after all, lumped together in the same design centers and factories), then why as a customer should I buy the same trash as elsewhere, but with some nowadays meaningless
label 'HP' on it?

Some brands of consumer products, mainly clothing or cars,
carry some image, and are thus overpriced; it might make sense for people to upgrade their own image this way, or not, but this definitely does not hold for technical mass junk.

Wow, you have a HP printer? Never heard that.

"I have some whatever printer" ... "well just downloaded the 6th update of the Windows driver, and it still doesn't print
correctly, guess I'll buy some yet whatever another printer
real soon now."

What is HP anyways today? Nothing. Maybe next products from
Nihon ACME, Inc. Who cares?



While I certainly have to agree with parts of this post, and am also a big fan of 1980's HP calculators, having owned an 11C, 41CV and 71B, I would like to remind people of the following...

The HP-49G and hp 49g+ are extraordinarily complicated devices from a software perspective. The functionality and complexity of these "calculators" is truly spectacular and orders of magnitude above, as in your example, a 15C or even when compared to a 41 series machine.

I just finished printing out the 49G command reference, and as I'm flipping through the 426 pages (of only briefly described) functions and commands, I am somewhat in awe again of what a mere "calculator" is capable of. I have been using these new RPL calculators since the 48SX and am still amazed at the well thought out user interface and programing model that has been engineered into these devices.

Are there bugs? - yes. But look at the complexity of these machines! IMHO, I think that HP (and the ACO team) have generally done a marvelous job and have responded well to user's complaints of bugs and also feature requests. Hopefully the "new" HP (ACO minus) will try hard to follow in this tradition...

Is the design and durability of the hardware as good as HP's of old? - perhaps not in some ways. Is the keyboard as good? - most will agree, no. Are the new manuals comprehensive and error free? Well, you get the picture... HP certainly needs to work on these last several aspects IMHO to regain some lost respect...

However, imagine the difference in man-hours to thoroughly test and debug a 49G (or 49G manual!) in comparison to a 15C... if we had demanded a totally bug-free 49G, it might have taken many months or perhaps years longer to bring the product to market. Without all those many unpaid "beta testers"... err... (bleeding-edge) users, how could HP ever hope to find and squash all the subtle bugs in a reasonable time period. Okay, the flickering display on the 49g+ is a rather obvious "bug," I know... ;-)

I just get tired of reading all the griping sometimes - it seems as though some people seem to take for granted the amount of effort that goes into complex devices such as these and only focus on the few flaws to the point of ignoring the overall elegance and beauty of their software design.

And yes, I'm sure there are many out there who don't need/want the complexity of something like a 48/49 series HP and are more than happy using an 15C/41C/32SII etc. To each his own...

Anyway, my $0.02 (CDN) worth and of course other's opinions will, invariably, vary.

Mike Mander
(MoHPC Forum newbie, nervously wondering if his asbestos suit is close at hand...)


Just curiously,
Have you all used the modern competition lately, especially with the scientific calculators. It SUCKS, for lack of a better term.

For example, just yesterday I asked to borrow a calculator (mine was buried in my backpack), and someone handed me a TI-36. I thoguht, "Well I think I can still use one of these for some simple calculations." I tried, and it was not the Algebraic mode that got in my way (I can usually translate my RPN brain into Algebraic. It was the keyboard. I tried typing at my usually speed (quite fast), and I looked at the screen and it had registered 3 of the 15 key strokes! So I tried going a bit slower, this time looking at the screen while typing, and in about 10 times the amount of time I had almost finished the simple problem when one of the keypresses registered twice. I ended up taking out my 32sii (which does not even have the best keyboard, as it is one of the silver bezels and was made in indonesia), and I completed did my math with that. A few minutes later my CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing) teacher walked up and mentioned that he had never seen anyone type so quickly on a calculator.

I realize that this example is from the forgotten scientific market, and now all of the "real" companies are making only graphing calculators, but in my experience the same is true for the graphing calculators. Take a TI-89, which has a good keyboard for a TI, and compare it to the so called "terrible" keyboard of the 49g+. The 49g+ wins, hands down. And also, it is so much faster than the 89.

And so the question is (from a business standpoint) "Why should HP make an amazing calculator which costs $200 (or even 60 for a scientific calculators), when the majority of the population would prefer to go to Wal-Mart and buy a $10 calculator?"

(And yes, I do know the answer... to keep their name of quality, and for the professionals who actually use calculators to their extreme, but it was just some food for thought)

-Ben Salinas


I agree with much of your statement. In fact I carry a HP 20s as a quick number crucher (not RPN...too bad) when I don't feel like pulling out my TI-89.

I totally disagree with you in regards to your comparison of the HP-49G+ and TI-89 keyboards. I purchased a 49g+ and promptly returned it the same day. The power button stuck in the down position and was VERY loose. Several (6+) keys wouldn't respond unless a great deal of pressure was used. I couldn't use the keyboard of the 49G+ in any manner similar to my trusty HP-20s.

After sending back the 49G+ (no more beta testing for a company) I purchased the TI-89. It is an excellent machine and works well in an educational environment. The keyboard always registers, unlike the 49G+. Unfortunetly, the keyboard of the 89 isn't up to par with the 20s. :(

My only complaint with the 89 is that is doesn't have a RPN entry mode and the trig/sq. root/Pi functions require the use of the 2nd key.

I am still completely confused as to why HP cannot build a machine similar to the ones released less than a decade ago. I can understand the software issues, especially considering the new processor and emulation issues, BUT it is beyond my understanding as to how HP lost the ability to produce a mechanically reliable machine like my little HP 20s.

I have given up on HP for calcs. I admit that I am a math student as opposed to an engineer, but I still appreciate the HP calcs of yesteryear.


Well, perhaps why I do not mind the flaws of the 49g+ is because I do not use it very often. I use it for about 6 things.

1. To factor extremely complex expressions
2. To solve extremely complex equations
3. To graph somewhat complex functions
4. To double check my complex derivatives that I do by hand
5. To check the time (I don't wear a watch)
6. To waste time playing the HP Mad Tetris (the highest score I have seen is a 3, my personal high is a 2)

For everything else, I use my 32sii.

Consequently, I am amazed by the speed of the few functions I use. The one key that does not always work on mine is the y^x key, but as long as your press it all the way down it works.

The real thing I dislike about the TI-89 is the pop-down menus. I dislike scrolling through them, which you do not have to do on the softkeys



You need this by Lars Frederiksen:


and hardware patch by Kevin Kofler h220xTSR v.1.11


That's all


They don't hire (or subcontract to) really top-notch mechanical engineers any more. To see the output from a really good group of mechanical engineers, just follow the instructions here on this newsgroup and disassemble the HP-41CX's magnetic card reader. Watch especially how the little flat sliding gold contacts work. They are amazing!


I agree with all your comments. Considering the economic reality (i.e., the relatively low cost of full computers versus the expense of building a very high quality calculator), I think HP has done a pretty good job since they have to be able to sell these for relatively low prices.

Tom Scott


Yes the software has expanded manyfold between the 15C and the 49G+, but so has the set of tools and methods available to software engineers. Languages, debuggers, raw computing power make possible (manageable) incredingly more complex projects.

Another factor is the fact that the software base goes back to the days of the 28C, long gone by. Probably less than 10% has changed between the 49G and the 49G+, a much easier task than a total rewrite.

You've been accustomed to Microsoft-class software 'quality'. It is still inacceptable to me. Recall that a calculator is basically never "shut down", should never "reboot", so bad memory management for example is a definite no-no. Software on calculators MUST be perfect !!!


I don't know what HP uses to develop operating software for their calculators, but I doubt that it has changed all that much in the last 10-15 years - someone please correct me here if I'm wrong. When you imagine the functionality packed into what, 2Mb of ROM?, surely routines are mostly hand-coded, or at the very least hand optimized, in assembly language - not the easiest thing to verify and debug given the relative complexity of the software routines. As well, given what the code will finally be running on, namely a 4Mb Saturn CPU or slightly faster emulated system on ARM, I'm not sure how ultra-fast modern computers would benefit the developers of HP calculators? Are there sophisticated software tools that can torture test and validate the built-in CAS functions and simulate actual actual real-world use for example?

With regards to the long lineage of the software base back to the 28C, I would have to agree partially on that. I'm sure many of the underlying routines, unrelated to CAS functions, graphing, advanced symbolic manipulations etc., have remained essentially unchanged since the 28C. Those routines should be solidly debugged and essentially perfect by now. However, based on my experience, I would have to say that those parts of the 49G/49g+ *are* more or less bug free now...

Yes probably less than 10% has changed from the 49G to the 49g+, but are there that many new bugs in the 49g+ that did not exist on the 49G? Not talking about new hardware issues such as bad keys or CPU low-power mode switches causing display flicker of course...

BTW, I am a Macintosh user and try hard to avoid using any Microsoft software, so I am not actually "...accustomed to Microsoft-class software 'quality'." ;-) (Not saying that Apple software doesn't have some problems of its own as well...)

Seriously though, I agree that in many cases, software "quality" is poor these days and I wish all developers would agree to take a deep breath, sit back and actually thoroughly test and troubleshoot their routines, and run extensive offical beta programs, before unleashing their software on the general public. Instead, they are all in a mad rush to add more features and beat each other to market - often at the expense of the end users. Most commercial software isn't hand-coded in assembly these days, can run on GHz plus processors as has access to plenty of RAM, so the severe constraints of operating in something like a 49G wouldn't apply for programs from Microsoft, Apple, Adobe etc.

It would certainly be nice if calculators were perfect and never crashed or needed a reboot, but once again, given the enormous functionality and the constraints of the hardware, I think HP developers are doing pretty darn well already.

Just for interest's sake, note that I have also experienced software crashes requiring a "reboot" in VCRs, microwave ovens, printers, scanners, ethernet hubs, hand-held GPS units and cameras, to name a few, and many of these devices are likely much simpler than a 49g+ from a software perspective. (well, maybe not my Garmin eTrex Vista GPS)

Anyway, enough babbling from me now, I've said what I wanted to say... ;-)

Mike Mander


not really part of this thread - but i need to know, has anyone programed the quadratic formula into the hp 41cv, and if yes could you send me the data and instructions so that i can enter it into my machine.

thanks millions





Hi, Karl:

Karl posted:

"To illustrate my point, how many of you can document a meaningful "glitch" or error in the HP-15C or its thorough documentation? "

After many years of extensively using the HP-15C's all many advanced capabilities and hundreds of functions, I can confidently say that I've found *no* meaningful 'glitches' or errors whatsoever, at all. The same applies to the extensive documentation, both the 293-page "Owners' Handbook" as well as the extremely complex, thorough "Advanced Functions" manual.

In short: perfect and reliable. You can trust it 100%, confident that no bugs of any kind are lurking there to spoil your work. They weren't there when you bought it, they will never enter afterwards.

That's not the case with the 48/49 series. Not only there are a large number of bugs usually present right out of the factory when you buy the machine, so that you can't really trust it for anything complex or serious till others have played 'Guinea pig' on your behalf, and have been viciously bitten by them bugs (crashes, lost data, ...), and the Nth ROM revision has been downloaded an duly installed, but worse, you can *never* be confident that the latest ROM revision hasn't introduced *new* bugs (or resurrected ones already catered for) while correcting the last batch of them.

The best you can expect is that after a (large) number of iterations, the ratio of bugs corrected versus bugs still-at -large/created anew/resurrected has improved somehow, but you can *never*, ever be sure that a given ROM revision will not introduce a number of new bugs of its own, or worse, break some programs you have or features you relied upon that formerly worked Ok and now don't.

With the HP-15C and similar machines you've got peace of mind. No 'new ROM download' will change for the better or worse its functionality. Your programs will always run the same. The features will always work reliably. You can trust the results. No place for Murphy's Law to bite at you when most unexpected.

Can you say as much for your 48/49 ? Will you swear over a pile of Bibles that functionality such-and-such won't be broken after you install a new ROM version ? Or you just make do, cross your fingers, and take a leap-of-faith that *hopefully* it wont ?

Best regards from V.


I dont' know the answer to this question, but it seems interesting to me.

"Are there any bugs in the 49G+ relating to functions/capabilities of the 15c?"

That is, for any function the 15c can do, are there any bugs in the 49G+?

That excludes symbolics and any functions the 49G+ can do that the 15c cannot. It would have to be a function the 15c can do. For those, are there any problems in the 49G+?

My guess for the answer is "No", but I do not know for sure.



Except the common problem in all the Voyager series, the "standard deviation bug" which also includes the 42S. This bug has been discussed at length in this Forum. The HP-67 does not have this problem.



Goodness gracious, Trent -- are you still harping about this? ;-)

Technically, it's not a bug, per se -- the 15C performs its 1- and 2-variable statistical and regression functions as they are designed and documented. The real problem is automatic summation and calculation of y-variable stat data even when the user deliberately enters only x-variable data. Glitches caused by GIGO sometimes happen, if the user is not careful, or doesn't know how to fix the errors.

Unfortunately, this functionality on HP's RPN calc's leaves much to be desired, for a number of reasons.

More about this later. Happy Thanksgiving!



Thanks for the holiday best wishes.

Maybe it's not a "bug" but the "glitch" is very annoying. So when doing my monthly rainfall averages and deviations (for over 30 years), I use my 67.



Can you say as much for your 48/49 ? Will you swear over a pile of Bibles that functionality such-and-such won't be broken after you install a new ROM version ?

Could you be so kind to explain me how can the ROM on HP-48G/G+/GX/S/SX be updated?

And yes, I can swear on my HP-48GX as much as you can swear on your HP-15C.

Regards ...



>Can you say as much for your 48/49
I don't agree with your classification.

The real HP-48 (S,SX,G,G+,GX) and the 49 and it's relatives are two completely different pairs of shoes.

Please note: The following sentences don't include the successors of the real HP-48 .

From the software side, the HP-48 is at least at the same level of quality as the 15C, regarding it's complexity.

From the hardware side, the HP-48 is at the quality level of the pioneer series, which may be not as good as the voyager tanks, but the best at it's time.




Hi, Raymond & HrastProgrammer:

HrastProgrammer posted:

"Could you be so kind to explain me how can the ROM on HP-48G/G+/GX/S/SX be updated?"

and then Raymond posted:

"The real HP-48 (S,SX,G,G+,GX) and the 49 and it's relatives are two completely different pairs of shoes."

Yes, yes, of course you both are right. My comment only applied to the 49 series. I've got into such a (bad) habit of always pairing both families together (because of their similarities in operation and RPL) that I automatically write "48/49" when there are times where I must really discriminate between them, sorry.

Best regards from V.




I downloaded two "guitar chord finder" applications to my 49G+, tried 'em out, and am busy programming one of my own.

I can't do either of those things with a 15C, and any product with which I could will no doubt have attendant bugs, ROM versions, and discussions of quirky aspects of implementation.

You're correct, as far as you go, but you're comparing apples and apple pie. There's nothing wrong with celebrating the wonderful essence of a simple, honest, straighforward, perfectly-realized apple. But expecting the same level of craftsmanship in, and universal approval of, each recipe for / manifestation of apple pie that comes along seems like setting oneself up for endless disappointment.

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