Why a 33s instead of a 43s?


I am sorry if this has been discussed at length, but I would like to hear everyone's opinions regarding this issue.
HP brought back the HP32 models in the guise of the HP 33s. That is fine. Heck, I ordered one (should arrive tomorrow) to replace my lost HP 32s. :(
What I don't understand is why they didn't just make a 43s version based off of the HP 42s model. Does anyone have any insight or even actual knowledge as to HP's reasoning? Did they feel it would have cut into the sales of the 48/49 models?



Joe --

There are probably many reasons why the 32SII was the basis for a new non-graphing scientific model.

1. Continuity

The 32SII was made until 2002; the 42S was discontinued in 1995, quite probably due in part to some cannibalization of 48G/GX sales at the time. I'd bet that all the microprocessor code was available to KinHPo for the development of the 33S; the 33S functionality deviates very little from that of the 32SII. (BTW: The 32S was discontinued in 1991.)

2. Market niche

The 33S "bisects" the gap between the 30S and the 48GII more evenly than a 43S would.

3. Product development costs

The 32SII micro-code would be much simpler to work with for adding AOS mode than the 42S code would have been.


I bought a 33S a week ago at Portland State University bookstore for $49.95. My impressions are similar to those of others:

  • Certainly not a bad calc.
  • It's good that the RAM limitation was removed.
  • Shadowy LCD readout with tiny decimal/comma is inexcusable.

In the not-too-distant future, I'll elaborate on those thoughts, and also post a new user-library program for the 33S/32SII/32S.

-- Karl S.


Perhaps it was simply cheaper to produce a 33s rather than a 43s. Maybe (we can hope) they were making the 33s to test the market (Judging how it was the top selling portable electronic item on amazon for a long while, I think the market likes it), and now they will make a 43s (hint hint HP).

I don't know if there is any truth behind that, just my thoughts



Others here can correct me if I am wrong. As I see it the 42S was discontinued in the mid 1990's. That left the 32SII as the only RPN scientific calculator on the market until it was discontinued about 2002. All others HP calculators were RPL or AOS. Sense most people wanted an RPN calculator that would fit into their pocket and not off their belt like the RPL's, the 32SII was all there was to have. The 32SII sold really well, being the only thing available in what people needed, not wanted. So what HP did was look at what the last RPN scientific calculator that sold really well was and reproduced it with modifications and ignored everyones pleas on what they really wanted and needed, the 42S.


There are two markets for high-end calculators in the US today: education and professional. A revived "43S" simply wouldn't have the features to succeed in either one.

The education market is by far the most important today. High school students and undergraduates will readily spend $100+ for a calculator -- but they expect it to be a "graphing" calculator. A "43S" would have no significant graphing capabilities, and would therefore be obsolete as far as the education market is concerned.

The professional market has withered away since PCs became inexpensive and ubiquitous. For most young engineers, the only reason to buy a high-end calculator is for use on professional licensing exams, where PCs are banned. There has been strong demand among professionals for the 33S for exactly this reason: it is the most powerful model that can legally be used on these exams. In contrast, the 42S was banned in 2003, and a "43S" would presumably be banned as well. This would cripple its sales in the professional market.

The 42S was discontinued in 1995. A "43S" would face market conditions that have deteriorated, not improved, since that time. That's the unfortunate reality.


I guess you're right.


what HP is missing is a more simpler, cheap graphing calclulator.

You may have EQW and Matrix Writer and ROOT plus Integrate,

but no symbolics at all!

That is: no symbolic integrate, no derive, no symb. diffy, no symbolic SOLVE.

What you should have is Graphing and more Graphing!!!

Applets are fine. Programming them in both user & sys level directly on the calc would be a bless!



One other important feature which is essential in any "modern" calculator is an update capability. To meet "test" requirements, this update capability would have to be by a physical wire as opposed to IR, wireless, etc.

I believe that one of the biggest flaws with the HP-33S is this lack of some form of flash memory.

I would also like to see reassignable keys and user customization of menus in any model.


You are quite right!

The HP-37G should have USB and a Flashable ROM (1MB)
256KB RAM is enough...

Maybe they could include the Equation library

once they remove all the symbolics like SOLVE, Integrate and Diff-Solver

(numerical methods should stay)



The problem being that this would bar it from being acceptable on the FE/PE that Norris successfully argued was a key scoring point for the current 33s.


I am afraid that you are correct.

If you want to sell an expensive calculator to a professional engineer or surveyor in the US, then it needs to be legal for use on NCEES licensing exams. This is an important selling point.

But NCEES will ban *any* calculator that can (a) store text, and (b) transmit that text to a computer. The 33S is arguably capable of storing text (as an "equation"). If the 33S also had a USB port, it would also be capable of outputting that text, and would be banned immediately.

The announcement of the NCEES calculator policy in August 2003 may go down in history as the final nail in the coffin of the high-end professional calculator. As long as this policy is in place, there is no real reason for HP (or any other manufacturer) to offer anything more sophisticated than the 33S to the professional market (in the US anyway). The most advanced models will be marketed exclusively to students.


... may be next year...a new and improved hp 33s whit a full control of the memory (partition...), many letters labels and many letters memory names or number memory limited only by the memory of the calculator...so a 41c-42 in a 33s!


I got my two HP-33s' a couple of weeks ago - ordered direct from HP. I'm happy in that they're RPN and all...

1. It's all related to the NCEES exams. They've banned calculators with alpha-numeric keys and/or commo ports, IR, USB, etc. So if you're an HP user and like RPN, you either already have an older model (e.g., 32-S) or you buy this new one.

2. I really dig my HP-28S. But... since it has an IR port and an alpha keypad (not QWERTY, though) it's no good.

3. I wish that my HP-33S was/had:

Unlimited stack
Unlimited labeling
Matrix operations built-in
Bigger ENTER key in the "right" place.

I can do without the graphing, but would like a four-line display, though I'm getting used to the two-line display.


I agree with the features request & would add I wish it had better complex number support.


The only thing that makes the 42s unacceptable on the PE exams is its IR output. Some misguided souls think that every one of us with a 42s would copy all of the test questions onto our calculators and print them out on the IR printers we all have (wink wink) for profit. If the 43s didn't have i/o, or if there were (ex.) two versions, the 43s without i/o and the 43sx with i/o, then there would be a market for the 43s without i/o for the PE exam. Just my $.02


Would a compact flash/sd-card (but no IR/serial/usb connection) be considered as I/O?

Best regards,

Erik Ehrling (Sweden)



>Posted by Erik Ehrling (Sweden) on 5 May 2004, 12:41 a.m.,
>in response to A 43s wouldn't have to be banned, posted by
> Bill P on 4 May 2004, 5:22 p.m.

>Would a compact flash/sd-card (but no IR/serial/usb
>connection) be considered as I/O?

Only if the calculator couldn't write to the sd card. If one can take data input at the PE exam and somehow load it onto one's computer, then it would be banned.

If, however, the sd cards could only be used to put programs onto the calc and not to remove data, then it might not be banned.

I suspect, however, that that is not a likely scenario, unfortunately.


OK, it is possible that a "43S" without an IR or USB port might be acceptable to NCEES. No guarantees, but it seems possible.

But even if a "43S" was NCEES-compliant, this still doesn't address the bigger problem: a "43S" wouldn't be able to compete with graphing calculators in the education market. And the education market is the only one that really counts today.

It's true that the professional demand for the 33S is currently high -- but it's artificially inflated. The recent NCEES calculator policy forced large numbers of exam candidates to replace their old models: anyone with an HP28, HP41, HP42, HP48, HP49, TI86, TI89, etc. has been forced to find a replacement. But the replacement process will be essentially complete after a few more exam cycles, and then the demand will subside.

In the long run, professional demand for the 33S will be related to the number of new examinees that begin the licensing process each year. But this is a relatively small number.

The first step in the professional licensing process is to take the Engineer-in-Training or Land Surveyor-in-Training exam. Here in California, about 6,000 EIT/LSIT exams are administered every year. The actual number of examinees is lower, because the exams are offered twice per year, and some people take the exam repeatedly. There are probably fewer than 5,000 new NCEES exam candidates in California per year.

For comparison, about 475,000 new 10th-grade students are enrolled in California public schools every year. Many others are enrolled in private schools or home schools, and so the actual number of new 10th graders probably exceeds 500,000 annually.

So to really sell well, a high-end calculator has to appeal to teenagers. That's why HP designed the 33S to look like a cell phone. And in the long run, even the NCEES-approved 33S will not be successful unless students buy it. The NCEES exam market is just not that big.


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


I agree that an "43S" with no I/O would be silly. And I would certainly like NCEES to consider reversing their policy.

But even if NCEES agreed to drop their current policy, there still might not be a niche for a "43S". If NCEES allowed calculators with I/O, then HP could offer three RPN calculators to examinees: the 33S for $55, the 48GII for $100, or the 49G+ for $135 (prices from hpcalc.org). Realistically, there might not be much room for a fourth model in this lineup.

Furthermore, the market for new HP calculators would shrink if NCEES reversed itself, because then people would stop replacing their old models. For example, I expect to buy a new 33S for an upcoming PE exam -- but only because my 48GX has been banned. If NCEES were to drop the ban, then I would happily go back to my 48GX, without buying a 33S, a 43S, or anything else.


What I really wish for is a pockettable RPL calc, the 49g+ is just a little too large. Especially in its case.


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