Last of the Topcats?


I'm sure the answer is out there,in the historical record, or perhaps in the museum's archives, but I thought someone might know the answer(s) to this question: What was the HP-97S the last machine in the Topcat line? The 41C was expandable, and you could certainly spend more on a 41C system than on an HP-97, but is that the whole story, a different marketing model? I ask because I would love to have seen something in the Tomcat form-factor but with HP-41C guts. It would have had built-in HP-IL, 5 times the memory like the 41CV, and the larger keyboard would have accomodated more 41C functions. HP-98C? (Or CV, or CX).



IMHO the HP71 covers what you request. HPIL, expandability etc. It just doesn't have RPN (well, that's a minor deviation). Valentin will praise this model better based on his vast experience for sure.


It's the form factor I'm thinking of. The 71B isn't the easiest of HP's handheld machines to type on, although I can get by in a pinch. It's certainly more powerful than a 97 or even a 41C (since it can emulate one.) But the Topcats were great for cranking out calculations. The keys are BIG and hard to miss. The integrated printer is a boon for keeping track. And I just like the way they look. So my post was aimed at speculation about what HP might have produced in the Topcat line during the 41C era. And I was also interested in whether anyone knew why they didn't go forward with that layout.


Eric Smith was thinking about producing a microcontroller replacement of the the guts of an HP67 (and presumably an HP97).
So you can have an HP97+ that can be more than 100 times faster than an
original HP-97. But adding HP-IL will not be easy since you have
no way of entering the commands from the keyboard (without
redifining the keys that is). In any case what do you need the
HP-IL for anyway? Just add a serial link so that you can download programs to your HP97+

I would add a wireless interface (e.g. bluetooth or even WiFi) so that you do not need to
drill holes to the case.



I'm trying to keep it in the spirit of the times. What would Corvallis have produced if they had designed a Topcat-like machine with 41C guts? I think HP-IL would have been part of such a design.

What would the display have been like? The 97's LED display is nice and bright. You'd need backlighting to get close to that clarity in an LCD. How would the keys have been laid out given the added real estate available in the desktop form factor?

And once again, does anyone know why Corvallis italic]didn't[/italic] produce such a device?


Howard Owen wrote:
> What would Corvallis have produced if they had designed a
> Topcat-like machine with 41C guts?
> [...]
> And once again, does anyone know why Corvallis didn't produce such a device?

But they did. They produced the HP-71B. You see the original design was influenced by the assumptions of the designers. E.g. printing capability. Once you have HP-IL you don't need a built-in printer, so you can take it out. If you want alphanumeric output and reasonable power consumption you switch to LCD. Then you realize that you can shrink the batteries since you do not need all this capacity. And so on ....

Finally you end up with an HP-71B which combines a clean numeric keypad with an alpha keyboard that also contains lots of predefined operations (gold shifted alpha keys)

BTW the thing I love about my HP-97 is the display, I would NOT want a LCD replacement for it. For one, the LCD would ruin the colour scheme :-)


Edited: 14 Aug 2005, 2:44 a.m.


I agree about the 97 display. It is wonderfl to look at, and one of the best features of the machine.

I guess the relationship between the HP-71B and the HP-97 is obvious. Let's take the keyboard. The key with "5" on it is 1/2 inch wide on my 97. On my 71-B it's, well, 3/8 inches wide. But the seperation between it and the "5" key is 1/8 inch on the 71B and, um, 1/4 inch on the 97. Let's try something else, oh yes, the X<>Y key. On the 97, that's 1/2 inch wide also. On the 71B, wait a sec, oh, there is no X<>Y key on the 71B. How about the Enter key? Doggone, the 71B doesn't have one of those either. How the heck do you do number entry on the 71? Oh, algebraic mode. Yup, the 71B is a dead ringer for its lineal ancestor, the HP-97.

The two machines are about as different as any two calculators HP ever made. I haven't even started on the software side. Now, I like my HP-71B. It has the coolest architecture of any of the BASIC models I've tried. It's my principle tool for the swap disk indexing project because of its superior HP-IL implementation. But I vastly prefer the 75C to type on. The keyboard on the 71B is a (very good) compromise. I can actually go fairly quickly with two thumbs. But, I can touch type on the 75C! And for doing ten-key numeric entry, the 97 beats the 71 and the 75 hands down.

I take your point that once you have HP-IL, you don't need the integrated printer and card reader. But which came first in the transition from the 97/67 to the 41C? Did they abandon that particular small desktop calculator form factor, never to revive it, before they decided to go with a component approach or afterwards? It's clear that they decided to cover both the low-mid and middle range calculating markets with one system: the 41C. Perhaps they couldn't afford to engineer and market seperate machines as they had before. Perhaps the sales of the 97 didn't justify the expense of a seperate product line. Or perhaps they got carried away with the component/system model and threw away a good thing in the process.

Does anyone know what the thinking around that decision was?


Howard: An answer to your original question might be the 9815 series. A desktop rpn, it sports a one line screen, user definable keys with i/o (IB & 8 bit since it predates IL) and lots of similarities to the 41's programming model. The mid range unit holds just a few less lines than a cv. It also has a built in tape drive and ribbon printer.
I have one (with tapes thanks to Katie) and i think it's a jewel.


Right, I forgot about those. They are smaller than an 85, right? (An HP-85 isn't that large or heavy in any case.) So they just pushed the evolution of the desktop calculator design up a notch or two in size, and price too, I'd imagine. That implies to me that the 97 really had run out of steam in the market.


db (martinez, ca.) wrote:
> Howard: An answer to your original question might be the 9815 series.

Howard is looking for a descendant of the HP-97. The 9815 and the 97 were both released on the same year. Note also the price difference: $2900 for the 9815A vs $750 for the 97.



Right on both counts.

But HP did continue to sell desktop machines. They just were closer to taking up a whole desktop! 8)

Now that I've had time to think about it, I do take your point that the HP-71 represented a successor to the HP-97. It filled the same market position the 97 did. But they really did turn their backs on a wonderfully compact little machine.

But HP experimented with a lot of other small form factor devices. The DOS plamtops are great, too. The keyboard on my 95LX has the Corvallis stamp on it. Did the later palmtops have as nice a keyboard?


I forgot, to add that the 9915 has a horrible chicklet keyboard (like the early 9825). No way that this thing can be compared with the beautiful HP-97 keyboard.

If you think data entry on the HP-71B is a pain, try entering data on the 9815.


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