33s target of PEs / high school?


Just thinking about the latest models from hp..

I am very satisfied with my 33s kbd responsiveness. I have still not had a single missed entry, which is very good.

Also, the speed is great for my use, so far. Quadratics and quintics solve within moments on my 33s and 49g+.

I raise these questions:
1. Was the 33s a answer to the mixed question of catering to PE exam users, and highschool environment? That would explain the increased memory, quality key press responsiveness, and the latter for the layout. Seriously, I have never EVER experienced as many missed entries as I have on the new 49g+. Yet, the cheaper 33s is very very reliable!

2. In light of these events: hp DID release new calcs after the freeze in 2000, and CF's recent departure..could one imagine hp releasing a 33s-like machine with normal kbd layout, same storage cap, and perhaps soft menu's?

It seems possible, since, the 33s is essentially a speedy, spacious 32sii?

Eric Lundgren


I honestly think that the 33S was released in response to the anal NCEES people concerning "legal" calculators for the FE and PE exams. There was obviously a community, young and older, that liked RPN over AOS, so why not sell them a new calculator?


I doubt very much that HP gave any consideration whatsoever to the NCEES exam market when they developed the 33S. It was designed for high school students and undergraduates, and its success in the NCEES market was probably just a small unexpected bonus.

The NCEES market is simply not big enough for a company like HP to get excited about. There are about 50,000 FE exam candidates per year; however, many of these are repeat takers, so the number of new candidates per year is perhaps 30,000 to 40,000. For comparison, about 3,500,000 students enter the 10th grade in US public schools every year (with more in private schools or home schools). So the high school market is roughly two orders of magnitude larger than the NCEES market. That’s the market that HP wants to reach.

Check the 33S home page at http://www.hp.com/calculators/scientific/33s/index.html. It includes a list of standardized tests that allow the 33S. But they are all college entrance tests that high school students take (PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, AP, etc). HP doesn’t even bother to mention the FE or PE.

Since NCEES banned graphing calculators, the best legal choice for the FE or PE exam has been a programmable scientific. Yet every other major manufacturer (Casio, TI, Sharp) has stopped distributing such calculators in the US, and has left the 33S alone in the market. This suggests that the market is not very important. Casio, for example, could easily compete with the 33S if it wanted to: they currently distribute a competitive programmable scientific, the FX-3650P, in Europe and Asia. It would probably sell very well with NCEES exam candidates (just as the non-programmable Casio FX-115MS Plus currently does), but the market is evidently too small to make it worth the trouble.


Good points from all,

Consider this- NCEES cites two reasons for refusing the IR/graph/programmables calcs:
1. transmittal during exam => cheating.
2. exam information being carried out of room.

I have heard of various approaches to eliminate the IR risk, but to protect their other concern (the export of exam problems), one solution which was to clear MEM's upon exit, which was too time consuming acc to NCEES). I suggest this-why not simply confiscate calculators upon exit? Surely a budding PE can afford to lose a $130 machine, what's that compared to all the money people spend on prep mat'ls?



NCEES is seriously considering a proposal to supply calculators to examinees, just as they currently supply mechanical pencils and FE reference handbooks. The NCEES-supplied calculator would be collected after the test, just like the FE handbooks (NCEES does let you keep the exam pencil).

As for sacrificing your own calculator, note the following issues:

(1) Licensed engineers or surveyors typically take two separate tests, the FE/FLS and the PE/PLS. This would double the total cost for sacrificial graphing calculators to around ~$250. That's a minimum; your total cost could easily be $500+ if you had to repeat one or both exams, or if you wanted a replacement calculator after passing the exams. Maybe some people could afford this, but there would be loud protests from those who couldn't.

(2) Some of the banned calcs, like the 48GX or the 49G+, use removable memory cards. NCEES would still perceive a potential security threat even if the calculator was confiscated, because you could remove the memory card first and walk away with it.


I'm seeking to become a PE and am scheduled to take the April Civil exam. I bought my calculator because it was allowed by NCEES and offered the programmable features.

I don't want to hijack this thread, so I am posting a new one titled HP 33s programming, to which I'm hoping that Norris may reply. I found his response (dated April 4 2004 in the archive) to a similar thread, but wasn't able to respond to it, as I guess it's expired....

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