Long Live the HP-42S !



#25

Hi all:

HPCC's Datafile has kindly
made available on-line my article "Long Live the HP-42S!",
recently published in that magazine.

It's a 14-page commemorative article which includes an
all-new 423-line program written specifically for the
occasion, in order to demonstrate interesting 42S programming techniques and methodology, from menus and
matrices to error handling and fast graphics.

If interested, you can download it in all its PDF glory from HPCC's web site:

HPCC - Handheld and Portable Computer Club

You've got no excuse to don't give it a try, even if you don't own an HP42S, as it runs perfectly in the wonderful free HP42S emulator Emu42 (I haven't checked Free42, it would be a very good compatibility test indeed if it can run this program !).

Hope you'll enjoy it, and

Best regards from V.


#26

Hi Valentin!

I can only congratulate you for having written a very nice article indeed! Reading it did actually put me in a very good mood and high spirits!

Best regards,

Erik


#27

Hi, Erik:

Erik posted: "I can only congratulate you for having written a very nice article indeed! Reading it did actually put me in a very good mood and high spirits! "

Thank you so much for your encouraging words, I'm very glad
that it dit have that most positive effect on you, of all persons ! There's probably noone more enthusiastic about the HP42S than yourself.

In this same mood, I think you'll be interested to know I'm writing another all-new, (hopefully) interesting and complex program for the HP42S right now, this time with plenty of real-life applicability, which will eventually be made into an article to be published in Datafile in the very near future. I'll let you know in advance.

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, have a look at this excellent short essay by Erik, Keep the HP spirit alive!, it's an emotional roller-coaster for those of us who love the HP42S and well worth reading and passing it along.

Best regards from V.


#28

Hi,

Interesting essay Erik (and nice job Valentin).

"this is the year when I have given up hope altogether about Hewlett Packard's calculator division"

Thats a bit sad. I suppose you really like your HP42s. Fair enough, its a fine machine. However, do you really think all of your suggestions make sense for the average user? Playing devils advocate here...

"HP will never put the HP-42S back into production again"

They would overnight, if it really made economic sense. Suppose you could go down to the store and buy one tomorrow, exactly the same as they were years ago. Suppose it was priced roughly at about the same point as the HP49g+.

Honestly: Who would buy it?

I'm sure the readers here would snap them up. But you need many, many more buyers before HP turns a profit. How would you market it compared to say a TI89?

The 42s has no expandability. It has a tiny amount of memory. It is limited to a 4 level stack, which is really annoying if you are used to an RPL machine. Also the electronics are obsolete. The Saturn is dead and is never coming back. To put it back into production would be a complete redesign.

Now, I know I am probably going to get alot of flames about this. Think about the average user, reading websites and comparing features.

4 Level Stack vs Unlimited stack
7k memory vs a megabyte or so, or hundreds of megabytes on SD
no PC connection vs USB / IrDA
numerical vs numerical + symbolic mathematics

etc, etc. For the price, what do you think the *average* user will choose?

Finally, remember the average user probably has never used RPN at all. By not including an algebraic mode you have scared off a fair number of potential customers (who might otherwise have experimented with RPN and liked it).

What I'd like to see is a slimline, simpler HP49 with perhaps a smaller screen, and built like a tank. Basically a very powerful calculator that really fits in your pocket.

"HP will never start to include Hrastprogrammer's HP-42X with every sold HP-49G+"

I'm sorry, but I think this is a bad idea. Most people think the HP49g+ is too confusing as is, and the majority have never even heard of the 42s. Of those who had, much fewer still would want to emulate it.

The tiny, tiny minority who would use it can get it easy enough. HP has to consider additional documentation and support costs, as well the chance of possible bugs. Why should they go through the hassle of including it?

best regards, and let the flames begin,

.


#29

Quote:
"They would overnight, if it really made economic sense. Suppose you could go down to the store and buy one tomorrow, exactly the same as they were years ago. Suppose it was priced roughly at about the same point as the HP49g+.
Honestly: Who would buy it?"

With minor updates (I would vote for 32K and I/O being the most important improvements) it would be bought by:

- People traditionally used to RPN calculators (e.g. the HP67 people, the HP-41C(V/X) people, the HP-11C/15C people and of course the HP-42S people). The HP-42S is an ideal small calculator to carry with you and is simple enough so that you never need to look in the manual while in the field.

- New generations (e.g. college students) that want a calculator with an unsurpassed "easy of use vs powerfulness" ratio (i.e. accessibility). And this calculator would in several cases be the only calculator they would need all the way through university. But of course - and this is pointed out by Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz in his report from Copenhagen - someone has to tell this new generation about the superiority of RPN. Currently HP shows very little interest in doing just that.


Remember, the number of features is not necessarily the most important thing here, the accessibility is what counts in the long run. What is the point for a newcomer to have a lot of features in the HP-49G+ that they need to hunt down a copy of the old HP-48 Advanced User's Guide to use? How many new HP-49G+ users would actually end up programming their HP-49G+? I bet a lot of "HP-42S+" users would, just because programming on it is so pure simple. So, it is not the number of features that is important, but what the calculator actually delivers to its user in the end!




Quote:
The 42s has no expandability. It has a tiny amount of memory. It is limited to a 4 level stack, which is really annoying if you are used to an RPL machine.
- I agree on the first one. An Xmodem server or similar would be absolutely necessary - releasing the HP-42S without I/O was a big mistake in the first place.

- But I don't agree on the second one - it doesn't have a tiny amount of memory however. It supports 32K (any HP-42S is easily upgradable to 32K) which is a fair amount of memory for RPN programs. (And the HP-42X emulator has 96K so with some tweaking more than enough memory is within reach)

- Neither do I agree on the third one. The Saturn might be dead, but it is excellently emulated on the ARM CPU. The emulation layer is already there on the HP-49G+, reusing this for the "HP-42+" would make perfect sense in reusing this investment.




Quote:
By not including an algebraic mode you have scared off a fair number of potential customers (who might otherwise have experimented with RPN and liked it).

Of course, if you believe in RPN you should not include an algebraic mode! Including algrebraic modes on the 33S and the 49G+ makes it look as if HP does not believe in what they are doing! (And put the ENTER button in its proper place, please!)




Quote:
"HP will never start to include Hrastprogrammer's HP-42X with every sold HP-49G+"

I'm sorry, but I think this is a bad idea. Most people think the HP49g+ is too confusing as is, and the majority have never even heard of the 42s. Of those who had, much fewer still would want to emulate it.


I still regard this a good idea. Remember the HP67/41/11C/15C/42S people are among the most important customers to HP nowadays as recruitment of younger users is totally absent. And many of these users (not all, but many) prefer keystroke programming to RPL. Personally, I am hoping for the Qonos project to finish soon - it will be very nice to fire up HP-42X in its emulated HP-48/49 mode!



Best regards,

Erik Ehrling (Sweden)

www.hp42s.com


Edited: 19 Jan 2005, 1:02 p.m.


#30

Hi,

only two things to add:

A new (reintroduced) 42S would be worth to buy if it has a

reliable keyboard (and of course the classic kbd layout),

and a display with better contrast than the original one.

It doesn't need to have more pixels, they should only be better readable.

'hp' doesn't even have the need to change the original ROM code,

the dock location for OS extensions should be sufficient

for adding I/O code and the like.

BTW: Any news regarding the latter topic?

Regards,

Raymond


#31

Erik and Raymond…

I agree whole-heartedly. I have a 48G+, and it's a phenominal machine, but I prefer my 42S as a ***calculator*** for many of the reasons you state. I use it probably 10x as much as my 48G+. My programming experience follows the path 55-34C-41CV/41CX-42S. I find traditional RPN very easy, and can do quite a bit just in my head (unfortunately, I can't XEQ the program there!). I still struggle with RPL…not because I don't like it, but because I don't have 30 years' experience with it. Plus, I don't like having to keep looking up what each function requires and what each does to the stack.

I would only make one change to the mathematics code in the 42S: fix the power curve prediction bug. I would simplify ALPHA entry by assigning each letter to a key like on the 41 and 48, and I would certainly vote for a better screen. I agree that 32k is enough. I have all the programs I use everyday in about 6k. I also want USB connectivity, with the new and improved 42S showing up as a hard drive. Last, I want an external USB box that will accept HP-41 modules.

I would actually $500+ for an updated 42S. Mine is 18 year's old and has never given me a day of trouble, but…

Fred


#32

I would only make one change to the mathematics code in the 42S: fix the power curve prediction bug.

What's this bug you're referring to? I have never actually used the curve fitting functionality of the HP-42S, and I wasn't aware that it even had any bugs in that department...


#33

Thomas…

For a power curve fit FCSTX does not give the correct X estimate. Perhaps a year ago (?) I offered a .pdf of HP's manual update sheet to the MoHPC family and I had about a dozen takers. I can't find the file right now--I may have lost in a hard drive crash last spring--so I will remake the file and email it to you tomorrow.

Also--if anyone else still need a copy, drop me a line.

Fred


#34

Fred,

please send me a copy, too. Thanks in advance!

Walter


#35

Fred,



please send me a copy, too. Thanks in advance!



VPN

#36

Fred,

Please send me a copy, too. Thanks!

Tommi

#37

I got the manual addendum -- thanks Fred! -- but I can't reproduce the FCSTX bug on my HP-42S (rev. C, serial # 3323S<whatever>). I take it this is specific to certain earlier revisions? Or does the bug only bite with certain tricky data sets?


I couldn't reproduce the LASTX bug mentioned in the addendum, either. I *could* reproduce an entirely different bug, where summing a matrix in LINSigma mode causes the machine to crash.

- Thomas


#38

Thomas…

I don't think HP ever updated the ROM, but maybe someone here knows differently. I use linear regression far more than power, log, or exponential and I haven't had to deal with the FCSTX bug in years. However, I remember it being a problem on my machine. Also, I never had a problem with the LASTX bug because I never make mistakes :)

Anyway, I am home for lunch and my calculator is at work. I will play around with it tonight as see what I come up with.

Fred


#39

Hi,

Craig Finseth discusses some other bugs at his site: http://www.finseth.com/hpdata/hp42s.html

Does anyone have a comprehesive list of the bugs of the 42s?

These bugs make you think a bit differently about that machine, yes?

By comparison, the 11c and 15c were so remarkably bug free....

Regards,

Bill Platt


#40

There may have been bugs found in the 42s after it was released, nothing is ever 100%. But it was and still is a solid machine with a well written manual. Not like what HP has released in the last few years. Everything from the 49G forward, it seems that the customer is the Beta Tester and the ones left to write the manuals. I'll take a 42s with a few bugs over the others any day.

#41

These bugs make you think a bit differently about that machine, yes?

Hmmm, well, I would always prefer a machine without bugs, but when it comes to the few bugs I'm aware of in the HP-42S, they are all in areas that are very easy to work around, and that most people will never run into in the first place.


Consider: LINSigma mode is mostly just an HP-41 backward compatibility hack. Nobody actually *needs* it; in ALLSigma mode, it just uses a few more registers.


And about the famous PERM and COMB bugs: I guess they can be annoying if you often enter wrong numbers, but they're hardly show-stoppers.

The bugs I know of in the HP-42S all fall in the "slightly annoying" category. Compared to the bugs in some older models, where some functions would give answers that were just plain wrong, I think the 42S holds up pretty well.


And, not that it's an excuse, but after spending roughly 600 hours rewriting most of the HP-42S, I have gained an awful lot of respect for how well they (HP) did their job! I tried to be thorough, too, but just look at the HISTORY file on the Free42 web page to get an idea of all the little things that can fall between the cracks... So what if I'm just a one-man operation, I *could* have done it better, the problem being that it would have taken years instead of months.

- Thomas

#42

"With minor updates (I would vote for 32K and I/O being the most important improvements) "

OK, you are not talking about a 42S, but an enhanced new model based on the 42S. I thought you meant the 42S exactly.

"People traditionally used to RPN calculators (e.g. the HP67 people, the HP-41C(V/X) people, the HP-11C/15C people and of course the HP-42S people)."

How big do you think this target market is? If the volume is small, then the price will be high.

"New generations (e.g. college students) that want a calculator with an unsurpassed "easy of use vs powerfulness" ratio (i.e. accessibility)."

This is a matter of personal opinion only, I'm sure some people will think this, others won't.

A calculator of this nature would most likely only be of interest to those studying engineering and the hard sciences. Of those, it would not attract those who weren't highly technical. Lets face it, most students think RPN is confusing and pointless.

Those who would be intereted are probably after the most computational power they are allowed in an exam. Surely a student using a 43s could be at a disadvantage to a student using even a TI89.

"And this calculator would in several cases be the only calculator they would need all the way through university."

In some cases, sure. But if I were a student doing an exam with a 43S, and my fellow students all had TI89s with CASes, I'd feel disadvantaged. Symbolic mathematics can be really helpful.


"But of course - and this is pointed out by Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz in his report from Copenhagen - someone has to tell this new generation about the superiority of RPN. Currently HP shows very little interest in doing just that. "

Just a question: How would you demonstrate 'the superiority of RPN' to students, if you were HP? What would you do to make them think "Wow, this leaves my TI89 for dead!"?

Its probably blasphemy on this forum, but I consider 'classic' numerical only RPN, limited to a 4 level stack, to be greatly inferior for exam type problems. I think removing the 4 level limitation would be a great help. I admit that RPL is a very poor programming language.

"Remember the HP67/41/11C/15C/42S people are among the most important customers to HP nowadays as recruitment of younger users is totally absent."

If you were HP, which market would you like to corner? The massive, ever growing student market, or a handful of professionals who remember HP's glory days?

I wish I could say both, but I think thats not feasible.

best regards,

.

#43

Nice article, Valentin. Hope your next article will be available to all of us as well, instead of hpcc members only.
But you have missed one trick: the way to make an alphanumeric label start with a digit - you could have called it "8QUEENS". (Press any 'character menu' key first, then the digit - it will be entered as the first *character*, not as the first *digit*)

Werner


#44

Hi, Werner:

Werner posted: "Nice article, Valentin. Hope your next article will be available to all of us as well, instead of hpcc members only."

Thank you so much for your interest. As for my next articles, it's fully my intention to make them freely available on-line, either as HTML or as PDF documents (or both), albeit a number of months after said articles have been published in Datafile.

This particular HP42S-related article has been made available on-line right now, with near to no delay after its publication in Datafile, with full consent by Bruce Horrocks (Datafile's Editor). Matter of fact, it was him who came up with the idea in the first place, and I couldn't agree more. But this isn't to be construed as a precedent, more like an exception actually.

Three more articles by me have been submitted to Datafile in these past few days and are due for eventual publication in the very next issues (at Bruce's discretion of course), with three more on their way. One of them is truly, truly outstanding, even by my own standards (I was as amazed as anyone can be when it turned out the apparently preposterous idea actually worked!), and the rest gallantly try to follow suit.

"But you have missed one trick: the way to make an alphanumeric label start with a digit - you could
have called it "8QUEENS".

Thanks for pointing this out but I didn't miss it, it just happens that I like "EQUEENS" best.

Best regards from V.

Edited: 18 Jan 2005, 12:17 p.m.


#45

On top of Valentin's excellent input on the merits of the 42s, I would add than emulation on a PocketPC (with Emu42) or simulation on a Palm (with Free42) remove the major concern with the 42S, which is the lack of I/O: both programs allow you to load programs in .raw format (also V41 compatible !) which gives you mass storage in your pocket! (with no real keys and poor battery life, granted, nothing is perfect).

As for the time module, its need disappears more or less once you choose the emulation/simulation route: A modern PDA is much better than an HP-41CX for time, alarms and memo functions... In 1983 you had nothing else, but today the programming functions are enough to emulate/simulate. Trust your PDA for the PDA stuff!

I can understand though, that you would miss the extended memory functions from the 41, even though file management pushes the 41 to its limits. Synthetics are nice, too, I agree - but the very complete feature set of the 42S reduced the need for hacking (unless you want to use it as a hacking toy).

Well, you can also run a 41 emulator on your pocketPC (ev41) or Palm (P41CX).

My Ipaq 1940 serves me as a 12C, 15C, 16C, 41CX, 42S, 17BII, 27S, 48GX, and 49G ! What else could we want? Only the 32SII and 19BII are unfortunately not "emulable", besides the pre-41 machines (but these are superseeded by the 41CX and the 15C).

Long live emulation/simulation ! :)

Cheers,

Vincent

#46

I have a perfect excuse for not trying it. I am not going to type in over 1000 lines of program for a problem I am not particularly interested in. And I don't have anything to run those emulators on.

I've said this before, but I regard the HP42S as one of the worst mistakes HP ever made. Take a very nice calculator (the 41 series), take out the good bits (extended functions, I/O, synthetic programming, time module, etc, etc), put in the Advantage Pac (which of all the modules I own is the one I use least). There's no way of backing up the 42S memory to anything else (unlike the 41, where you can use cards, tapes, floppy disks, or another computer system).

I really can't see the atraction of the 42S over the 41.


#47

Hi, Tony:

Tony posted: "I have a perfect excuse for not trying it. I am not going to type in over 1000 lines of program for a problem I am not particularly interested in."

The excuse may be perfect but the counting is not: my program is 423 lines long, not "over 1000 lines".

"And I don't have anything to run those emulators on."

That means you don't have any kind of PC (to run Emu42) and you also have no HP-48GX, HP-48SX, HP-49G, HP-49G+ (for HP-42X). I find it very hard to believe, but assuming that's possible, you'll concede such is not exactly frequent among HP fans, specially those contributing to this forum or enjoying an HPCC membership like you do, both.

"I've said this before, but I regard the HP42S as one of the worst mistakes HP ever made."

Let's see ...

"take out the good bits (extended functions, I/O, synthetic programming, time module, etc, etc), put in the Advantage Pac (which of all the modules I own is the
one I use least). There's no way of backing up the 42S memory to anything else (unlike the 41, where you can use cards, tapes, floppy disks, or another computer system)"

Comparing calculators meant for different niche markets is like comparing apples and oranges. The HP42S was originally intended as a successor and replacement for the HP-41C, then
redefined

as the same but for the HP-15C instead, which was its
final

redefinition. As such, comparing it to the HP-41C is like comparing the HP-15C vs. the HP-41C: can be done, can be fun, but it's meaningless ultimately.

Nevertheless, let's engage in some 'comparisons'. You've stated at leisure the 'good bits' taken, but of course, you concede no 'good bits' added or even acknowledge that it might have some. I'll try and fill up that void in your argument:

  1. Less bulky, quite comfortable slim design.

  2. More robust, less prone to hardware failures (corrosion, anyone ? discrete components failures ?).

  3. Better, more modern low-power electronics, with much larger useful battery life.

  4. Wider, 2-line x 22-character dot matrix display with user-accessible variable contrast.

  5. Simple but useful graphics capabilities.

  6. Over 7 Kb of usable RAM, easily expandable to 32 Kb.

  7. Much faster program execution.

  8. Greater precision, 12-digit mantissa plus exponents up to +-499, internally extended to 15-digit.

  9. Much enhanced, classic RPN 'keystroke language', including menus, named variables, graphic commands, the works.

  10. Much larger Alpha register, up to 44 characters long.

  11. Incredibly expanded math functionality, with full matrix operations, full handling of complex numbers, solve and integrate, boolean operations, base conversions and arithmetic, all working at full assembler speeds and with extended, 15-digit precision.

  12. All new objects (complex numbers, matrices) are seamlessly integrated with classic RPN, and can be stored in a single stack level or named variable, plus most mathematical functions act upon them transparently to the user, so that you can attempt to take the sine of a complex number or a matrix and the function will work and produce a useful result.

  13. Ergonomic features, such as the program, variables and functions catalogues, with menus and submenus.

And I could go on and on and on. But, being a highly intelligent individual, you yourself could easily come up with such a list if you were to try, so if you haven't it's just because you're sacrificing your objectivity for reasons only known to you,
which can hardly pass for rational arguments.

"I really can't see the atraction of the 42S over the 41."

I know. And you'll probably never will. But that's your prerogative, "Ye pay yer money, ye take yer choices" and I'm not the one to discuss them. You don't like the 42S ? Good for you.

Best regards from V.

Edited: 18 Jan 2005, 11:09 a.m.


#48

To come back on some of your points :

> Less bulky, quite comfortable slim design

I find the 41 much easier to hold, with a much nicer keyboard feel. Having fairly large hands, I don't like things that are too small.

> More robust, less prone to hardware failures (corrosion, anyone ? discrete components failures ?).

But the 41 is much easier to repair when things do go wrong. The case is screwed together, there's proper service documentation, a diagnostic ROM, and so on. I know which I'd rather have on my bench...

> Better, more modern low-power electronics, with much larger useful battery life

And the HP41 can be run off a mains power supply (what, you don't have one with the gold balls).

> Simple but useful graphics capabilities

But the HP41 will drive a real pen plotter....

As regards your other points, if I want an advanced calculator, I'll grab a 48 or 49 of some type (note : With an RS232 port, so I can back it up to one of my other machines). The 41 is used because of the tremendous range of add-ons available for it...

As regards my PC, it is strictly command-line only, and doesn't have a graphical display. Therefore it's not going to be a lot of use for running said emualtors. I suppose I could run the one on my 48 or something....


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