Back from the HHC2004 Conference



#2

Well I am back from the HHC2004 conference in San Jose. I really had a wonderful time. I saw old friends from the PPC that I have known since 1980!! I also met new friends some of which are regulars on this website. Of course it was a pleasure to meet the museum’s curator. Meeting Gene Wright was special too since he has shared a lot. Gene showed me his NoVRAM module that works for the HP41C. I was impressed with it’s features AND it’s price! I also met author Wlodek Mier-Jedzrejowicz who has written the famous RCL 20 (among other several HP calculator books) and contributes with Gene to HP calculator documentation. I also met Eric Rechlin, the curator of the hpcalc.org web site.

HP sent some of its calculator division people, including the calculator R&D man—a very energetic Frenchman, Cyril, originally from Lyon. HP was kind enough to pass free HP-33s calculator to each attendee!! Yes they sure did that. They also heard our complaints and critical feedback. Gene eloquently reminded HP that despite our critical feedback, we were at the conference because the HP calculators (old and new) meant something important for us.

The HHC2004 was two days of sold fellowship between calculator enthusiasts. There were many talks about different aspects of calculators. Gene, for example, talked about keyboard contrasts and how to quantify that aspect of the calculator. David Hicks talked about the HP Museum and was very generous in handing free copies of the museum’s CD (both CD and DVD versions). Eric Rechlin talked about the hpcacl.org web site and gave free CDs for that website. Wlodek gave two talks—the first about 10 (well almost ten) things the calculators can’t do, and about the conference of educators in Copenhagen that took place this past summer. Eric Smith talked about emulators for various HP calculators. His emulators are currently for LINUX and should be available for Windows. Other speakers discussed various topics such as HP-33s programming, speeding up the HP-41C by a factor of FIFTY, and keyboard layouts.

We hope that Richard Nelson and other folks behind the HHC2004 conference will announce the conference for next year.

I hope more folks who are regulars in this website will attend … or have to offer a very good explanation why they did not to Mr T who will come knocking at their doors! Don’t say no one warned you!

:-D

Namir


#3

Thanks for your awful post.

Well, it's most selfish to pretend your post is awful, as the only reason why it is so is because one wishes he was there.

I really am sorry to be so far away from what seems to be the only places in the world where several people can spend one full day just talking about HP calculators.

You know, every time we have an off-site at work, the first session is kinda introducing yourself, such as your name, function, grade, seniority, and something personal. Rather than telling that I'm married and proud father of 3 kids, I usually say 'I'm the nerdest of you all, 'coz I collect HP calculators, and I've got more than one hundred of these'. Guaranteed laughter in the room, but also a few guys waiving at me and showing me their 11C or 15C they've never parted of since the time they were students. I even impressed my new boss as he just bought a 12C, and having had a self test finishing with all digits litten on. He was amazed !

But here I'm impressed with all you've could lived at this session. Yes, Matthias prganized one in Basel, there was this 25th anniversary of the HPPCC in London 2 years ago, but I really wish there were some more informal meetings.

Now I'm curious : what are amongst the 10 things a calculator can't do ? do you have minutes of Wlodek's speech ? I'd be delighted to know that !


#4

Jake Schwartz will (eventually) produce DVDs of this conference like he has all the earlier ones.

Gene

P.S. Door prizes included 3 49g+ calculators, 5 48g+ calculators, a 17bII+ (with the let and get functions), and a host of other goodies, such as an 18c and 20s calculator, some great books and more.

Most everyone went home with more than they brought.

Rumor has it that next year's conference may be in Chicago!


#5

Thanks ! How to order ?


#6

http://www.magpage.com/~jakes/

I wouldn't say "order" just yet...because it will take a while for Jake to get everything together, but this is the page where the update will be placed.

#7

In case it helps, here is a strong vote for Chicago for the HHC2005.


#8

How does that sound?


#9

Well, call me a curmudgeon, but I don't have a paypal account and don't intend to get one. I'd be happy to send you a check.


#10

Not paypal ONLY, but paypal + other methods. :-)

Gene

#11

Amongst the 10 things (in base 5) a calculator can't do:

1) Increase profit by 10% per year with no investment

2) Operate very well with a 2 page manual

3) Have any keys marked 'Enter'

4) Have any keys twice as wide as any others

5) Be long lasting if made after about 1999

Enjoy!


#12

Hi Tom. Good list!

6) Catch a virus.

Regards,

John


#13

Well, I think it may be possible to create a "self-replicating" magnetic card in a HP41 system and, using synthetic programming, do something like:

01 LBL "VIRUS"
02 SF 11
03 CLX
04 OFF
05 "FORMATTING RAM"
06 AVIEW
07 BEEP
08 STO C
09 ; irrelevant

It will need some actions from the user side, but it maybe somehow comparable to a diskette-propagated virus in the '80s-'90s.

Now, could someone create a piece of SystemRPL code (something I'm not familiar with at all) so such code could be broadcasted via IR to a neigboring HP48/49, and then force a cold reset with memory loss in the "infected" machine?

It all sounds very unlikely, but "impossible"... I would not say!

#14

HP48 and HP49 viruses exist, as do antivirus programs. At least some are spread by IR. For examples, search for "virus" at hpcalc.org

Edited: 29 Sept 2004, 10:15 p.m.

#15

Just a teaser:

Of course this was controversial.

(Most of the presentation was mathematical.)

#16

Hi All,

So one is going to ask, so I will be the first. From one who could not attend due to work and finances, was there any talk from the HP Reps about new products, problem fixes of current products or were they just interested our opinions of products already out there? It would be nice to know if there is something waiting in the wings to keep new products rolling out or that they will really take our criticism, suggestions and dreams to heart and give us something to be proud of in a year or two.


#17

There's just no way a company would tell you something like that.

It would be the equivalent of saying "I know we're trying to sell product X, but you know, in 10 days product Y will cost 20% of X and will be 100,000 times faster. Still, go buy X because we have a lot of them".

It would be crazy. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

HP has a full line and has already been making incremental improvements (witness revised 17bII+ to put let and get back in). My guess is that will continue.

But to expect pre-announcements like this is unrealistic, IMO.

I'm shocked they have introduced as many items in the last 15 months as they have. That's really quite an accomplishment.

Gene


#18

Quote:
Why is that so hard for people to understand?

It's not hard to understand if you think of HP as a business that wants more than anything else to make money. It's harder to understand if you think of HP as being something more important than that... which, I have to admit, they no longer are.


#19

A corporation is owned by the shareholders, who give it their money with the charge to make more money.

Therefore, the reason a company does anything is to make more money for their shareholders.

Finance 101. Should be a required course for Engineers.

And, I don't believe your objection is relevant to the point. ANY company that announces what their next product is and when it will be introduced is just asking for sales to tank.

That's not a very good way to have money to produce the new product.


#20

Quote:

the reason a company does anything is to make more money for their shareholders


As a seasoned engineer, I do agree, with some comments:

- It may be an idiomatic distinction, but I think it is not the same to say "... the reason a company does anything is to make more money..." than "...a company does anything to make more money..."

To make money and to keep a steady cash flow, your products should have competitive features and price. That means quality, innovation, value for the customer, good ergonomics, durability (OK, not too much of this, so you will come back from time to time), etc. For a calculator, accurate and dependable results is a must. Some of these features prevent "anything" from becoming "anything".

Companies (including HP calculator division) do usually announce product roadmaps, statements of direction, things like "we will keep offering RPN versions", "we will introduce N new models before the end of the year". Of course, they do so in a manner which preserves their current offerings.

As they (of course!) are not saying "On day X we will introduce the new YYY model with the following features set (include complete details here), and at ZZ dollars; so to replace the current TTT model", they are not killing their current offerings at all.

And, even after the announcements, a good strategy for the price points of the old and new products will allow the old products to keep selling for quite a time (i.e.: HP 12C).

Just my engineered 0.02$

#21

As I said, if you think of HP as "just a business," then everything you said applies. However, I think of HP (or rather, Hewlett-Packard, a name that HP no longer uses or deserves) as something higher, greater, more important that just another crass money-grubbing business. I see HP as something different from any other organization, and I see what the current management has done not in terms of good or bad business decisions, but almost as a desecration of something sacred.

Let me finish by explaining it like this: I can remember reading criticism in the 1970s and 1980s by business analysts who thought HP was controlled too much by engineers; that these engineers cared more about their status among their fellow engineers than about market share; that their dedication was not to making products that would earn money for the company, but to inventing things that other engineers and scientists would buy because "they're such elegant gadgets!" The analysts painted a picture of HP as a company that behaved more like a pie-in-the-sky academic research project than a money-making business. Well, that was what I loved about HP. I knew people who worked there (not in the calculator division, though) who saw the marketing and sales departments as necessary evils who were tolerated because they were needed to stay in business. All that mattered to my friends about that side of the company was whether they made enough money to keep the doors open and keep funding the labs.

Those days clearly are over; some people don't believe it ever really was that way, except maybe for a few "techies" in the labs. Well, to me those "techies" and their interests were far more important than the interests of all the shareholders put together. Not that anybody wanted the shareholders to know that, of course...


#22

Hi Wayne,

You have made an eloquent and I believe important point--and said it with clarity. No, you are not merely waxing nostalgic---indeed there was something diffrent, admirable about the old HP. The fact that the old HP came to be so wealthy came directly from those core beliefs about engineering--a sense of higher purpose if you will. The money flowed because the products were truly the best, and it mattered.


I will point out that Gene is also perfectly correct, and therein lies the conundrum: By going public, a company will, by the very nature of the joint stock company, come to the "End of the Road" with regards to company Philosophy (remember Horatio and his "Philosophy"? I am afraid there is also more to business than the founder's philosophy).

Many other fine companies have also suffered after a prosperous and honorable run:

Strawbridge & Clothier (Philadelphia) now Strawbridges' and owned by May & co.;

Insurance Company of North America, now CIGNA. The core of the business, property & casualy, sold off to a Bermuda interest a few years ago;


Google? (wait and see....);


Apple Computer. remember the good old days?;


West Marine. Once, a small up-start, private business out West, very friendly, helpful, successful. Now, a behemoth, second only to Wal-Mart in sheer growth and dominance in a major consumer market.


I am sure there are many others....perhaps even WAl-Mart!


So, let us all give our thoughts and otherwise to Hugh and the whole group over at OpenRPN, who may in fact be capturing that spirit of the old HP.


Best regards,

Billl


#23

Yes Bill, I'm coming to realize that Hewlett-Packard is dead and gone, with the current HP merely an interloper trying to trade on their good name...

I applaud Hugh's efforts and wish him (and the rest of the OpenRPN folks) the best. Anything is better when it comes from the efforts of people who love their work for its own sake.

#24

And then there was Commodore with good engineers, but whose president Jack Tramiel had the philosophy that business is war, and did all kinds of lousy things to make money and ended up destroying his own company instead. Too bad he didn't conduct himself honorably and let the company be promoted by good engineering instead of "the bottom line" as he saw it.


#25

Yes, I agree. I was a big Commodore fan at one time; my first personal computer was a Commodore 64. But I always found Tramiel's attitude very irritating.

#26

Sometimes I wonder why Agilent didn't get the
calculator division when the company split...

Agilent has always (to me) represented the
spirit and quality of HP. I was told by someone in Agilent (just after the split) that Carly's group got the HP name because it needed the value behind the name if it were to survive. If true, so sad...

While Agilent is not rolling in the money, I feel they would put reliability and function in the calculators over HP's cheap glitz.

#27

I only knew of HP initially from their Spice series calculators and later because of the verrrrrry nice lab equipment they produced.

But it was still a profit-seeking enterprise. They may have had pride in their craftsmanship and design, but it was still a business.

But the world has seen a change, maybe almost a paradigm change, in the way businesses are run and especially in the financial environment in which they must exist.

While they may very well be quite guilty of some of the smoke and mirrors and unsubstantial flash many companies engage in these days to sell products rather than using actual quality as one of the weapons, they and all corporations must adapt to survive.

I myself started to be quite disappointed first when there were so few affordable scientific RPN models by them (at one time there were the 31E, 32E, and 33E, all fairly affordable; the 33C and 34C taxed you a bit and the 41C series to most of us were just "dream machines"... then all I saw were the 20S, 22S, 27S, 30S and the financial calcs) and worst of all when I bought one of their PCs... shocking, to say the least!

But consider, Kaypro disappeared, Digital Equipment Corporation disappeared(!!!; I've always had a soft spot for DEC over IBM... anyday!), Wang Labs bit it, AST, Northgate, Commodore, Atari... all gone. I suspect all of these "guys" had their loyal following, too.

Well, this company may carry on only the name, but it DID spring genealogically from the one we all admired at one time and it's still here. Again, the climate has shifted and they're still here and the 33S and 49G+ to me were more than halfhearted stabs at regaining the status they once held through some quality. I think it's just that we all have waited so long we all came down like a school of hungry sharks with criticism.

I forget who, but a poster in this board mentioned the realities of silicon fabs and foundries a short time ago in one of our threads here. The Second Law tells us there's no turning back and that unless perhaps millions (billions?) of dollars of un-entropy were poured in, it would be quite difficult to duplicate the machines we all held with such affection, up to and including the Pioneers.

I plan to support their current direction in RPN calculators, including with my pocket. The two recent offerings I do possess and through use have found them to be satisfactory functional replacements for my 34C and 32SII, if not satisfactory emotional replacements (Capt. Picard? Who's he??). In fact, despite my attachment to the 32SII, I have found the similarity of function to it AND THE ADDITION OF A CONSTANTS LIBRARY and somewhat larger program memory to have sweetened the transition over and above even the somewhat puerile cosmetics.

#28

Remember that even the "old HP" was secretive about new models. I saw this as a "feature" because some of their competitors used to advertise products that couldn't be found in stores for months - if ever.

As for making money - they are doing that in calculators now. I think that's a really good thing. I think that HP brought calculators back largely for "good will" reasons but if they also manage a more direct business case of: "and they make money too!" then so much the better.


#29

It seem that I stirred up a hornet's nest when that was not my intentions. Sorry Dave. I was simply asking if HP is working on fixing the problems with the current products or this is as good as it gets until the next new product. I like many others here feel that the 48GII and 49G+ machines are too complex and too large for my needs and the 33S is not enough for my needs. What I need is something in-between. For me that would be the mythical 43S. All the power and small size of the 42S with some of the features of the 48/49 added in.

The second bit of information that I was looking for was, do the HP Reps really listen to our criticisms, suggestions and dreams or are they going to blow it all off and go on as if we had said nothing. If they are listening, it would be nice to know that in X amount of time a new product will implement as much of the changes/fixes as possible. I'm not looking for Product ABC will be released 2 months from now. What I am looking for from the HP Reps is. We understand the problems that everyone has had with our current line and the needs of those that are in need of something different and we think we can satisfy most of those needs in our next product line.


#30

Quote:
Sorry Dave. I was simply asking if HP is working on fixing the problems with the current products or this is as good as it gets until the next new product.

No problem. Yes they are working on fixes. A number of changes have been worked into the current line already. (Causing a different issue in that it's not always clear which version you're buying.) Also the China manufacture adds a shipping delay which lengthens bug fix cycles.

Quote:
do the HP Reps really listen to our criticisms, suggestions and dreams or are they going to blow it all off

Well how can we know? If you make a suggestion and it's implemented, was it your suggestion or was it the obvious next thing to do? If you make a suggestion and they don't implement it, were they not listening or did your suggestion not line up with broader market realities?

I think that HP sending 3 people to talk to a group of 30 says that they are certainly trying to listen. How our feedback fits in the current calculator market remains to be seen. I think the most common request at HHC was for a very simple RPN calculator to get the next generation started. I don't remember a 43S-like proposal coming up.

Another suggestion that came up a couple of times was HP adding a simple Windows RPN calculator to all HP PCs - another attempt to hook the next generation on RPN. They said they had looked at that but it was... "complicated" I think was the word they used.


#31

This is pretty much what I was looking for in information. A low end RPN in the $5 to $10 range with no more than a 2 functions per key and about 24 to 30 functions total may help get more people interested in HP calcs. I still think that HP is missing a much larger group that really need an RPN calc that is between the 33S and 48/49 series. This gives me some hope that things are getting better. Thanks again Dave.


#32

1)The above subject at the confrence was someone's suggestion that a new rpn with the functionality of the 45 would be a good beginer/student/promo-give away calc. It was well recieved all around, and was interesting to one of the HP folks too. I'd buy 3 myself.

2) How can i post two photos i took there? One is of Dave speaking. The other is of the host, Ted Kirber. The back of Gene's head is in one of the shots.


#33

Hi, D.B.;

the first step to place the photos' image here is having them both availble through the web (a valid e-address). In other words, there must exist a link to them.

After that, add the follwoing to your post at the place you want each photo:

[img:the complete link starting with http://...]

If you have any doubt, let us know. OR you can edit someone's post with an image (like this one by Dave) and you'll see an example of how to do that. In this case:

[img:http://www.hpmuseum.org/hhc/hhc1.jpg]

Hope this helps.

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)


Edited: 30 Sept 2004, 12:17 a.m.

#34

Hi D.B., all;

please, allow me to add some words and thoughts to the following:

Quote:
(...) a new RPN with the functionality of the 45 would be a good beginner/student/promo-give away calc.

As many of you already know, I'm a teacher at the local university and I deal with math, logic, analog and digital electronics (design and maintenance), computers, telecom, pedagogic matters and related subjects as both a teacher and a professional. What I see in some Brazilian students is the 'need' of doing more and more with less and less effort. They don't read, they don't learn, they don't want to understand. All they want is DOING! They want to DO this, and DO that, and DO that other. They want to invade someone's cyberspace, they want to create a virus, they want to break access codes, to download tons and tons of gigabytes overnight... but if you ask any of them to seat down a bit and listen to your explanations about how do this all work and what you need to know to develop such systems, they prefer to cut and past some ASP code and change a few parameters to get to road again. Without having a clue about how does that heck works.

I see young guys like Ben Salinas posting high-quality texts here (congrats, Ben; keep tracking this wonderful path of yours) and I think how many others are and where are they. These are the ones we need to lead the others so they can 'wake up' and become future 'creators' instead of simply 'dependant' users. I know that high-level, object-oriented and functional languages are essential to allow non-programmers to develop their skills with computers, and I see no trouble on that. High level programming languages allow high-level professionals in distinct areas to 'talk' to computers easily, without the need of spending hours and hours by learning an imperative men-machine interface (I am a C/C++ programmer and had not found the time to go through some CLEAN or OCAML development so far...). I guess that in most cases, high-level languages simply 'make it happen'.

Without low-level codes, existing processors don't do the job. It is necessary to develop and debug I/O machine-coded routines. Yes, I know that high-level compilers exist to do that as well, and also that some processing cores are already running high-level codes, and that from now to some time, machine coding will be paleontology.

BUT... when these days come, who will care for new developments? The integrated systems themselves? Well, we are reaching the SciFi level of seeing machines coding machines and designing machines and building machines. Soon we are having HAD (Human-Aided Design) systems instead of CAD, where humans simply play a go/no go role on machines final design. O.K., O.K., I know I am asking for being blamed, but I would like you to reason about this for a bit.

There was a time where many guys specialized in calculus took months to compose log and trigonometric tables with as any significant digits as needed. Later the slide-rules replaced these tables. After that the mechanical calculators stood beside the slide rules and, finally, the 'electronic brains' became so small that could fit in our pockets (HP35): the electronic slide rules. TI offered some SR models in an attempt to make them resemble their mechanical cousins.

But calculus is still being taught and aided machines still make it fast, if used accordingly.

As a teacher, have HP finally assumed again the RPN as an operating system for low-end models, I'm writing as many books as needed to support students/beginners/professionals as I'd also stimulate my 'pupils' to use them the best way. The post-sales support from HP would be invaluable in this case so we can 'spread RPN around' as it happened in the 70's. I see RPN as an alternative reasoning way, as there are so many programming languages and paradigms. I'm not stating it is the best or the most efficient or whatever, I only would like knowing that students might have the chance to have the same alternative I was given when I began attending the University classes. I remember that HP calculators were used by many students and those who preferred having AOS-based models did not care for their choices. My first pocket calculator was a TI57, and I remember it took me a while to have money enough to buy an HP41C in 1982 (still with me and working fine). I remember that when I was in trouble trying to understand some subjects, I used to grab my HP41 and try to find the RPN way to solve it and even to write a program in order to make it easy to calculate. I confess that I learned a lot more because of it.

So, folks, if HP actually introduces a low-end RPN calculator, I offer my skills to support any user that wants to go further and I'd write as many papers and books as needed to do so. In Portuguese first, and I think I can offer a raw English text ready to be reviewed and adapted by a native English speaker.

I wrote too much, again. Sorry.

Can I say it is some .2¢?

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)

Edited: 30 Sept 2004, 1:30 a.m.

#35

"It would be the equivalent of saying "I know we're trying to sell product X, but you know, in 10 days product Y will cost 20% of X and will be 100,000 times faster. Still, go buy X because we have a lot of them"."

Gene, I beg to differ.
They came out with a calculator that is much faster than the GX [29G+], cost less than the GX, but why is the GX selling for twice the original price on ebay. Or better yet, the 33S has roughly 80 times more memory than the 32SII, but yet still judging from recent trends on ebay, it sells for 2-3 times more than a 33S.


#36

Hi, Naim;

should this information (HP29G+) be disclosed? If you prefer, there is still time to remove it from here... I'm just mentioning this because no other mention about it has already been posted, and as I was not there, I don't know if this is a confidential information (so far...)

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)

123456 to remove

Edited: 30 Sept 2004, 5:09 a.m.


#37

oops. Sorry bout that typo. Thanks Luiz. Have a great day.
I meant 49G+ of course.


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