HP-41: **BANNED** by NCEES


The HP-41 series has joined the distinguished list of calculators that have been *banned* by the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Land Surveyors (NCEES) for use on professional licensing exams. Other honorees include the HP-48 and HP-49 series, the TI-83 through TI-92, and the Casio CFX9850+. Details at


The HP-41 is by far the oldest of the bunch, as it was first introduced in 1979. It's hard to believe that 25 years later, its technical sophistication *still* makes the exam bureaucrats nervous. Needless to say, that's quite a tribute to the foresight and ability of the HP-41 design team.

Or it could say something about NCEES.


Makes you wonder if NCEES will end up banning the HP-35, no?


Actually, it is quite likely that the HP-35, and most other old HP calculators, will be banned by NCEES by the end of 2004.

NCEES has found that their calculator policy is difficult to enforce. They deal with tens of thousands of examinees every year, and a lot of different calculator models show up. The exam proctors (who are typically retired grandmothers) are not equipped to evaluate every calculator model on the spot for compliance with the NCEES criteria.

NCEES has tried to help by compiling lists of "acceptable" and "banned" models. But the harder NCEES looks, the more "unacceptable" models they find (which is why the HP-41 was recently added to the list). Yet many older models have still not been evaluated, and are not on either list. And brand new models are appearing all the time.

To simplify enforcement, some of the State Engineering Boards have asked NCEES to ban *all* calculators except for those on a relatively short "approved" list. NCEES is expected to act on this proposal later this year.

Currently, NCEES lists several HP models as "approved": the 9G, 9S, 30S, 32S (presumably this includes the 32SII) and the 33S. The options aren't great for RPN users, since the 32SII is no longer in production and the 33S is not yet available. But it would not be surprising if NCEES eventually bans *all* HPs, with the exception of these "approved" models.


add the 42s to that. the 35 probably will be next.

here is the real crusher. i own three hp's: a 41, 42s, and a 48. the only thing allowed on the test that has a solver is a 32sII. my stupid luck.

guess i'll have to dig up the old crc. critical depth for a trapezoidal section is no fun on paper. (it's not fun on a solver--just faster)

are you qualified to be an engineer (and thus work for ncees) if you can't/wont read a calculator manual? the 42s and 41 DO NOT meet their criteria. and i think its a little #@&%ing late to add these two to the list for a test in 3 months......


John Triplett posted,


here is the real crusher. i own three hp's: a 41, 42s, and a 48. the only thing allowed on the test that has a solver is a 32sII. my stupid luck.

The "approved" list specifically includes the 32S (made from 1988-1991), but not the 32Sii (1991-2002). Since the 33S is vaporware at present, there is no presently- or recently-manufactured RPN HP scientific calc that is specifically allowed by the NCEES policy. Read the policy carefully before you spend a large sum on eBay for a "compliant" model.

(E-mail me if you have questions, by posting your e-mail address.)


(1) are you qualified to be an engineer (and thus work for ncees) if you can't/wont read a calculator manual?

(2) the 42s and 41 DO NOT meet their criteria.

(3) and i think its a little #@&%ing late to add these two to the list for a test in 3 months......

(1) NCEES proctors can't be expected to obtain an example and manual of every calc ever made for establishing an "approved" list, or to make a judgement on every unlisted unit at exam time.

(2) I'm afraid the 41 series and 42S DO meet the criteria for disallowance. Both can send data to an HP 82240 IR printer (41's with and IR module). Both allow the user to edit and store considerable numbers of text strings, with 6kB or more of RAM (41's with Extended Memory). Granted, the procedures are cumbersome and the capabilities are limited, but it's possible to perform forbidden tasks with the 41 and 42.

(3) 6 months would have been better, but the "approved models" sold new today are inexpensive, simple, and and easy to learn. 3 months is more than enough time to switch to a model that meets the requirements. However, they're not RPN or particularly sophisticated, and that's the problem.


It is widely assumed that the NCEES "seal of approval" on the 32S also covers the 32SII. Many people (myself included) do plan to use the 32SII on the PE exam.

The 32SII is very similar to the 32S and to the forthcoming 33S, both of which are explicitly approved by NCEES. For purposes of engineering or surveying exams, the 32SII offers no significant advantages over the 32S or 33S.

So there is no reason why NCEES would approve the 32S and 33S, but deny the 32SII. It seems more likely that NCEES is simply not paying close attention to model numbers (this has been an issue in the past), and their approval of the "32S" includes the 32SII. I admit that it would be nice to get explicit confirmation of this point.

It is clear that the 32SII is *not* on the NCEES "banned" list. Nor is there any reason why it should be -- it has no significant text-editing capabilities, and it cannot communicate with other calculators or computers.

So you can use a 32SII in good conscience -- if you can find one. It's dismaying that there are no NCEES-compliant RPN scientific calculators on the market today. This is the fault of HP, as well as NCEES. HP currently markets lots of inexpensive NCEES-approved models (9G, 9S, 30S), but none of them have RPN. If HP had kept the 32SII in production until the 33S was ready, there would have been much less complaining about NCEES calculator policies.


This Message was deleted. This empty message preserves the threading when a post with followup(s) is deleted.


<< While the easy availability of an inexpensive RPN-capable calculator might have eased the pain of the NCEES policy, I don’t think it would have reduced the grumbling and complaining much. >>

Obviously we'll never know. But note that the NCEES ban also applies to TI and Casio graphing calculators. Yet there has been far less complaining from TI and Casio users than from HP users. Surely this has something to do with the ready availability of inexpensive NCEES-compliant algebraic models (including HP algebraic models, ironically enough), and the inavailablity of comparable RPN models.

<< HP is under no obligation to produce any particular product. We can be mad at them for not doing so, but it’s not like we have an inalienable right to a 33S or any other product. >>

True enough. But by the same logic, NCEES is under no obligation to allow any particular product. We can be mad at them for not doing so, but it's not like we have an inalienable right to use a 48GX or any other product on their exams.

<< The real issue is the mis-guided (in my opinion, hopefully the NCEES will not read this, track me down somehow, and revoke my PE) NCEES policy. >>

It's a lousy policy, but we're stuck with it. Interestingly, NCEES has failed to convince all state engineering boards that it is necessary. So you can still use your 48GX on some state-specific, non-NCEES PE exams.

The California board, for example, requires Civil PE candidates to complete two 2.5-hour supplemental exams (on surveying and seismic issues). The 48GX will still be allowed for these exams, despite the fact that it has been banned on the 8-hour NCEES Civil PE exam.


The HP41 still kicks buttox. The banning is indeed a tribute to the last handheld personal computer .. before PCs invaded the scene


Luddites are like religious fanatics - there's no limits to what they'll do to stamp out evil technology like calculators. It won't be long before all calculators are banned. I'm glad I've got Dad's old Aristo slide rule!

J.C. Randerson


Well, given that:

1) The HP41C is (even today) an absolutely wonderful platform,

2) It is expandable,

3) There are extremely dedicated and able people designing 21-century HP41 accessories (like Clonix, MLDL, and others)...

Then, it "makes sense" (from THAT point of view, I mean) to ban it, because it can be even more powerful than many newer devices!

(I'm a 41 & 42 fan, and no supporter of the bans at all)

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