Who moved my cheese?


A few years ago I read the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" The book contains a simple story that illustrates how some folks react realisticly to change while others adopt denial, insisting that things MUST and SHOULD BE AS THEY WERE!! These latetr folks become indignant at changes.

The book's metaphor hints at ALL kinds of changes .. in jobs, relationships, beleif systems and so on.

"Who Moved My Cheese?" seems to eloquently apply to HP calculators. All of us have enjoyed HP's calculators in the past -- quality, robustness, workmanship, documentation, support, and so on. In terms of the book, we had our cheese (HP calculators in this case) available in a certain way. In the past few years, the source, quality, and type of cheese HAS CHANGED. We can either see the reality of this change and adapt to it ... or BECOME bitter about the absence of the OLD CHEESE, refusing to adapt to the new cheese.

So which kind of cheese consumer are you? Does you attitude extend to other areas of your life?

Something to ponder about!


Good questions!

Ideally, I'd prefer to skip the bitterness. But I still like the way the old cheese tasted. So I'll keep collecting old pieces of cheese .. um, well, I guess the metaphor leads me into some rather unappetizing territory there.. Let's assume, for the sake of all our appetites, that HP had some magic cheese preservative that allows us to taste the cheese in almost the same way we did back then. The differences would mainly be in our taste buds, instead of in the cheese itself..

Oh, hell.

Here's the deal. I like to play with old HP calculators. And I can, because they made 'em really well, so they've aged gracefully. I don't expect HP or anyone else to bring back the 15C or the 41C or any other old model that wouldn't fit today's market. Nevertheless, I'll ask them to build a modern 15C when I get the chance, on the 1E7:1 shot that they might do it.

But what I'd love to see would be recent advances in embedded systems applied to a machine with a calculator keyboard. I want color! I want speed! I want math on the Internet! I want stuff I haven't thought of! But I would also love it if the same spirit that embued the old machines could also inhabit the new ones. That thoroughgoing love of engineering a marvelous example of cutting edge technology, in order to effectively apply it to real human problems.

So, what sort of cheese lover am I? 8)


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Even the CLONIX has enormus potential, give very creative firmware. It draws 18 mA whehn the coconut is executing giving total system drain of 23 mA (as measured on my test rig).

Infact, the PIC is not the most optimal controller for the project. Not that I want to diminish Diego's and John's work; it was likely an opportunistic decision to use it for the project - the original author knew the PIc and had one. It has been discussed earlier in the forum whether an MSP430 or a Cygnal 8051 would give a more powersaving implementation. Given the NUT CPU runs at 300kHz (likely for power reasons) and the PIC at 12MHz, there has been progress in power consumption over the last 25 years. And, as you also write, consumption can be further reduced by powering-down the system during idle time.

Concerning a PIC for emulation, I think its instruction set is a bit too weak for compact and fast emulation of the NUT, mainly because it'd require too many single instructions to handle the 56bit BCD architecture.



I have ported Eric's nsim to a simpler C and compiled it for the pic16f877. I still have the sourcecode if anyone is interested. I have also built several HP-45 and HP-55 clones with the 16f877, runiing at 4MHz and the speed was like the original calcs. Taking a 18-series PIC, which has a 4 times faster instruction cycle (if I am not wrong?), speed should be no issue!

I like these Hardware projects, but the definitely eat too much time!!!!


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Hello Don,

you can send me an email to khi1981@web.de, and I will send you the files. I agree that you don't count time and money for a hobby, but if it becomes an obsession for you, you should stop.



There is no question about our collective love/interest for the old HP calculators. After all, this web site is all about this interest.

In the 70s and early 80s, the HP calculators (and other advanced ones made by TI, Sharp, Casio, etc) were MORE significant pieces of technology. The advent of PCs with ever ncreasing power and versatility has REALLY made calculators as second-class citizens in the electronic-gadgets world. Using a PC with a math application (Matlab, Mathematica, MINTAB, SPSS, Maple, Excel, and so on) empowers you to do calculations that run circles around the old calculators.

We are not all to ready to toss our old calculators because we have invested a part of ourselves in them. I too "play" with calculators as a mental exercise, but never hope to do anything that my laptop can't do.



The problem with math software is the cost. I nearly had a heart attack when I recently looked at the non-academic price list for Matlab, which is used in many EE courses and textbooks. Many other math software packages have similar pricing. A high-end programmable calculator like the HP-49G+ or TI-89 is affordable to a much larger group of people.


How about Octave? I think you'll find it hard to beat on price. . .


--- Les



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Hi Don,

It is simple yet describes so well how we deal with forced change in our life.



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Oh wow! Sorry to hear about being the target of people with bad intentions. I AM glad you prevailed.



I agree that this is a good read - and the unusual and rather qwerky line is easily, and usefully, remembered even in the middle of the most animated discussion!

However to get back to the question that was asked, I all too often find that my own 'cheese' hasn't so much moved as simply disappeared. As all too often the quality and design seem to be sacrificed in order to minimize cost or production times and increasingly I find that more and more effort is needed to get the product that I like as this trend affects everything and is, it would seem, inevitable.

Fortunately apart from a number of specialist products I find that is possible to find items of a similar type or quality to those I'm used to if I change suppliers. I don't like it, but this is by and large something I've learnt to accept (that is of course the general thrust of the book). Unfortunately the old HP calculators were one product that has to all intents an purposes vanished...

However, to get back to the book, I rather suspect that if you find yourself agreing then, depending on you fashion sense, you may like me have three or even of four pairs of similar, even identical, pairs of trousers (pants for those American readers among you) and a collection of identical or similar shirts to go with them in you wardrobe. (I used to wear a similar tie most days too, but my wife has taken advantage of a more liberal dress code at work to banish them to some dark corner, and to my surprise my head hasn't fallen off yet...)

When calculators were rare and accuracy and reliability were more important than cost then HP could succeed by producing a limited number of expensive machines. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to afford the early HP calculators valued their quality and became used to their look and feel - it may have quickly become intuitive, but I expect we all had to learn RPN!

These days accuracy is taken for granted (actually a little too much for granted, but that is a different discussion). Calculators and computers have become commodity items where cost is more important than 'quality'. Though of course there have been amazing improvements in some areas like performance and capacity we seem take these for granted.

Modern calculators and computers may no longer be special but as far as I'm concerned it is more important that they have become so widespread and easily accessible.

We can see the same history in the development of just about every thing around us, the difference is that with anything to do with computers the rate of development is so much faster than anything else.

Mike T.

Now where did I leave my cheese...


Occasionally I look at it this way.

Consider for the moment that the latest generation of "HP's" had not been put out by HP. Rather, let's say that HP had gone completely bankrupt several years ago. (Side topic: what's an appropriate cut-off point for the end of the HP of old? Right after the 48G?)

Let's say that the latest generation of calculators had instead been produced by an independent group striking out for the first time, trying to resurrect RPN after HP's demise. I think I would be more prone to see the merit in their valiant attempt, coming as it were, from a new startup. I would praise the noble effort, and encourage them to keep up the development.

[Back to reality]
Instead, we look at the new offerings and feel offended because of what HP used to offer us. Can it be that HP's worst enemy is its own past: a tough standard to live up to?

So, what would you think of the new cheese, if it weren't being offered to you by the same party who had given you the previous cheese?


Perhaps the problem is that there hasn't been a widely-hyped massive "improvement" in cheese over the last 35 years (or has there?). Although the "lucky" US consumer can get such high-tech delights as Cheez Whiz http://www.kraftfoods.com/cheezwhiz/, those of us who'd rather get something with a little less preservatives and flavourings can still obtain classic, natural, flavoursome . . droool . . Brie, Camembert, Stilton - all the classics, in fact. If I invite friends over for dinner, I'm certainly not going to finish up a gourmet delight by passing around processed cheese slices with the crackers.

So it is with calculators and other technology. A facile focus on the word "more" by marketing people (more memory, more functions, more "power", more pixels) isn't necessarily the same thing as "better". I read in an article yesterday that Steve Jobs and the management at Apple have realised this with the iPod - they've looked at putting video playing capabilities into the iPod, but concluded that it couldn't be done without messing up the clean interface and design of the machine. Considering the marketing success of the iPod - it completely dominates the market - I'd say they're onto something. All our family have iPods, and the simple and elegant interface is a large part of the appeal.

From where I'm sitting, the same thing has happened with calculators. The 48/49 have too much functionality. They're cumbersome and awkward to use by comparison with the simple keystroke programming model of the 41/42.

I think it's time for high-tech industrial designers to get hold of the concept that just because you can do something, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Sometimes, less is more. I think that the "sweet spot" for a hand-held personal computational device is somewhere around the 41CX; maybe a bit more RAM wouldn't hurt, but no more functions and no more buttons!.

In summary: I'm unimpressed by the latest high-performance, preservative-enhanced, flavour-enhanced, consumer-taste-tested, pre-sliced, conveniently-packaged cheeses. What's more, I suspect that Katrina and Rita might well affect production of those cheeses and drive prices up. ;)


--- Les



My standpoint is the third alternative: the first group mourns the old cheese and besides that does nothing to improve the misery, the second group adapts and starts to eat the modern sh*t (burps...) while the third group has some secret stash of conserved old cheese that will last for a lifetime. Unlike food, calculators of real old-day HP quality (read:Classics + HP67 + Topcats) can be preserved for many decades if not for centuries. What I do is to try understanding their technology to a point where I could replace each and every failing chip or mechanical component. I do now have > 25 HPs and most likely won't run out of spare parts anyway.



Yeah, the cheese metaphor breaks down over the issue of shelf life. 8)

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