OpenRPN Progress



#2

Hello,

I have not heard any updates about the OpenRPN Project recently. Is it still on track? Will we ever see high quality RPN calculators again?

.


#3

Quote:
I have not heard any updates about the OpenRPN Project recently.
Is it still on track? Will we ever see high quality RPN
calculators again?

No, unfortunately. It appears folks keep worrying about trivial details like which CPU to use, etc. Furthermore, some folks apparently want HP48-like functionality instead of returning to the prime of the RPN era, the HP15C/41C/42S.

The real issue is manufacturability at a reasonable startup cost - making cases, keys + legends, etc. That's hard work and people would rather keep arguing MSP430 vs PIC vs 80C51 vs 68HC05, when all these CPUs are faster/ more powerful than the Nut chips in the HP calcs and all will serve fine.

Bill Wiese

San Jose, CA USA


#4

Bill
I remember several months posting a topic about getting the U.S. to compete with overseas labor (mainly China, Mexico, and India). I brought up the fact that over 80% of Sears Craftsman tools are made in the U.S. and carry a lifetime warranty. You commented that Craftsman tools get lots of business from the "Made in the U.S." folks and they don't want to lose it. The tooling/metal quality etc. is better than any schlocky import (excepting quality European imports like Proto). It was a terrific response, but I don't have room here to enter it all. I am glad that I made a printout of your response. What I would like to know is what can I do as an American to safeguard (and in some cases to bring back) quality manufacturing jobs in the U.S. (i.e., contact U.S. Congressman, boycott cheap imports made in sweatshop conditions, etc.)? I attended HHC 2005 in Chicago, IL and gave a presentation on bringing back an enhanced version of the HP 15C. There is a website on this topic http://hp15c.org:8086
There were others at HHC 2005 thinking along those lines (i.e., bringing back enhanced HP 41 CX, etc.). Cyrille DeB. and Lee Kuan Goh of HP were there and said that HP would have to do their own research to see how much the research and development of new calculators would costs, and how many they could sell to recoup their costs. This was my first HHC attended. I hope to attend more and will gladly pass on feedback to HP persons there.
Frank


#5

I think greater knowledge and understanding of accounting and business will help to answer why HP has not yet brought back the 15c.

First, there's an assumption that HP's calculator division has more people in it than there really are. Second, there's an assumption that of the people who are in the division, there are a large number of engineers.

It would appear that HP had the 12cp re-engineered from "scratch" a few years ago and when it came out, it had several "problems" that have required time to fix.

The question might arise: "If HP could do that with the 12c, why can't they with the 15c?"

Because it is probably not profitable for them to do so. My guess is that the HP12c and HP12c platinum sell 20-50X more units than the 15c ever did. HP repeatedly came out with newer (better?) financial calculators in what appeared to be an attempt to kill off the 12c in favor of the newer product. Of those, the 12c is still made. The replacements are the ones no longer made.

The 15c did not sell well enough to continue making it. Same thing for my beloved 42s.

Assume a development cost of $10,000,000.

Assume HP gets 10% of the retail price to its bottom line.

Now, convince HP brass that at certain price points, the sales volume estimates in your analysis will prove true, whatever price point you pick.

Scenarios:

(1)

Price $99, sales units per year = 400,000
HP nets $9.90 each x 400,000 = $3,960,000 "profit" each year, taking nearly 3 years to earn back the investment.

This would be laughed out of the room.

(2) Price $299, sales units per year = 50,000
HP nets $29.90 each x 50,000 = $1,495,000 "profit" each year, taking nearly 7 years to earn it back.

This is the picture.

Why a development cost of $10,000,000? If HP works like most other large corporations, each product/project is allocated costs of the enterprise. This may be a cost for each product number in the catalog, it may be an allocation based on some other method.

The time it takes the VERY few HP technical people to spec out the 15c replacement OR to test the one made by an out-sourced vendor is time that/those people are not fixing "bugs" in the 49g+, they aren't fixing decimal points in the 33S, they aren't improving the "i" solve routine in the HP12c platinum. Etc.

Why are prices so high on ebay for 15c calculators? Because there aren't thousands of them available all the time. If there are a dozen a week, they may well sell for $150-300 each (My last 15c on ebay I got for $80).

It just won't work these days. Not enough people will pay $299 for a new 15c.

So, we can either dream aka waste out time calling for HP to bring it back, or we can try living in the real world of economics. Personally, I enjoy dreaming at times, but then since I have a couple of working 15c calculators, why do I care if HP makes a new one?

Gene

P.S. Other examples of things that haven't worked include JYA's attempt to make a scientific PDA (couldn't raise the $$ it appears) and so far, the Open RPN project. I've been skeptical of the OpenRPN project all along that it would ever really bring anything to fruition and that appears to be it's fate.

P.P.S. Perhaps I should start a new petition drive to Unisys: Bring back the Univac!


#6

Well said Gene!!! Sounds like you have given it much thought and expressed it very well. Many folks are clinging to the past and also to the perception that the HP calculator division is basically the same one 20 years ago. Boy are they in for a surprise!!!!

Among all of the projects you mentioned, I see Eric Smith as possibly having a chance to produce something. Even in Eric's case, the cost is STILL paramount.

Ironically, the very same PCs/Laptops we are using to communicate here are essentially the ones who have unseated calculators as the "personal computers" (remember the ads for th HP-65, 67, and 41?).

Namir


#7

Gene: Hi again, Namir. I too think Eric may make a go of it, but he's emulating old calculators, not developing a new one. And, he's not a large corporation having to live by lots of rules. Even Eric saw that people won't pay too much $$ for such a "toy". :-)

#8

Quote:
So, we can either dream aka waste out time calling for HP to bring it back, or we can try living in the real world of economics. Personally, I enjoy dreaming at times, but then since I have a couple of working 15c calculators, why do I care if HP makes a new one?

It's worse than that for me. I want the world to want an HP-41C. That way, companies like HP would be designing and bringing to market new calculators that built on the model of the older RPN models. I want a four level stack that I can expand if I want to. I want straight RPN by default, or RPL at my discretion. I want a fairly simple and very robust keyboard and a backlit LCD display. I also want to (rdp|vnc|x11) access to the calculator's innards so I can have a software user interface too. I want the batteries to last as long as the Voyagers to boot. (Chya, right.)

I also want the whole world to sing along in perfect harmony, so none of these weird eastern instruments using non-western scales. (Actually, I kind of like non-western scales, or some of them anyway.)

I know I'm not going to get any of that. I've also learned that for me, it is fruitless to not want something by conscious choice. The best I can do is laugh along with my absurd desires, and/or do the next best things I'm capable of, but in any event, not make myself miserable from lack of impossible things.


#9

Hi Howard. I want them too, but I suppose I have surrendered to my version of "realism". I hope to influence, but know deep inside there are definite limits to what I will ever get back. Sigh!

#10

Gene --

Many good points in your post, but I can't agree with all of them...

Quote:
It would appear that HP had the 12cp re-engineered from "scratch" a few years ago and when it came out, it had several "problems" that have required time to fix.

Au contraire about "scratch" (but not, alas, the "problems"). KinHPo seems to have developed "new" models (12CP, 17BII+, 33S, 49G+) only from legacy HP-engineered models (12C, 17BII, 32SII, 49G) that were still in production when the efforts were first undertaken. That way, the precious tried-and-true source code was available. The problems probably stemmed from porting the old code to the new processors, by whatever means was used (emulation?).

While KinHPo knew what new features they wanted to include in the new models, they didn't really understand or address the functional shortcomings of the legacy HP models (besides limited RAM, which nowadays is cheap and easy to remedy). Thus:

  • The first 12CP was not significantly faster than the slow Voyager-based 12C; it had the same terrible programming paradigm (but with 400 steps!); and it added algebraic-entry without parentheses.
  • The 33S retained rudimentary complex-number functions; lacked equation editing; introduced unintuitive algebraic-entry (at least parentheses were already present!); and, introduced unprecendented mathematical bugs.

Quote:
HP repeatedly came out with newer (better?) financial calculators in what appeared to be an attempt to kill off the 12c in favor of the newer product. Of those, the 12c is still made. The replacements are the ones no longer made.

The 10B, 14B, and 17B, although faster and generally more capable, were all strictly algebraic-entry, and lacked the gold-bezel, horizontal-layout design that looked good and worked well on a desktop. The only true "successor" in appearance and RPN functionality -- the 17BII -- lives on as the 17BII+ (albeit with malfunctioning Let and Get), no doubt thanks to having all of the legacy model fully available.

Quote:
The 15c did not sell well enough to continue making it. Same thing for my beloved 42s.

I'd suspect that production (as well as sales?) of the 15C were drastically curtailed when the successor Pioneer-based 32S and 42S were introduced around 1988. I have yet to see a 15C later than 1987. While neither the 32S or 42S offered the 15C's combination of functionality and ease of use, the two successors were worthy, all things considered.

I wonder if the 42S and the 48S/48G/48G+ mutually stole sales from each other -- RPN die-hards chose the 42S, while price/feature disciples bought the 48-series models. If that was so, maybe one had to go...

I question whether KinHPo would want to re-introduce the 15C while the 33S is being produced, because few users would want to forego alphanumerics on a high-end, programmable, non-graphing calculator. But the absolute show-stopper (based on the unfortunate history Eric Smith has told us), is the lack of the 15C documented source code.

My ideal for such a product would combine the speed, alphanumerics, equations, and fractions of the 32SII with improved-upon complex-number functions and matrix operations of the 15C.

-- KS


Edited: 13 Oct 2005, 12:43 a.m.

#11

Gene,

Maybe I can change your ideas of the economic realities of developing a product.

I'm sorry to hear that openRPN has been unable to settle on basic things like what processor to use. I have no doubt however that they have the capability to make the new calculator(s). I have not been visiting the site and participating in the forum recently because almost no one shared my interests in a hand-held controller like the 41 and 71. I'm not pouting or faulting anyone of course, just realizing that the majority seem to have different goals which are not as relevant to my own work. That's ok.

As an electronics engineer who has brought many new products to market myself however, I know you don't need ten million dollars to develop a new product-- or even one million. If all of the openRPN contributors are just volunteering their time, I expect that once they settle on what the hardware will consist of, they can get this thing going with possibly not much more than $10,000, in spite of the custom LCD and keyboard which are the highest-development-cost parts that come to mind. If they made a custom injection-molded plastic case (instead of using an off-the-shelf deep-drawn aluminum box or ABS plastic case), that would be several thousand more for the tooling.

Of course HP's engineers won't design a new product without being paid, as if it were just an interest group, but HP's major cost in bringing a new calculator to market would seem to be the software. If what others here have said about all that work going in a dumpster at HP years ago is true, that would be a cryin' shame-- absolutely stupid. But I've witnessed some of their management's bad decisions myself.

I did my most complex production design in 1993, a high-end intercom for private aircraft which, if you order all the options, has nearly a thousand parts on 9 or 11 printed circuit boards, most being 6- or 12-layer. You can see what's inside the main box at http://www.6502.org/users/garth/projects.php?project=2 . I'm the only engineer in our 6-man company, and I did the entire design myself with the exception of the cosmetics on the control panel(s) which you can see at http://www.drecomm.com/symproduct.htm . (Please forgive our website's dire need of updating and maintenance.) We developed the entire product, including software and the installation and user manuals, for about $20,000 (twenty thousand). We have an excellent reputation in the industry. I couldn't do it again now for that price, but maybe for twice as much. The only custom parts we used were the control heads' faceplates (cutting and silkscreening), the cover plate for the main box, and the PC boards.

The next year, I did another intercom design for private aircraft, on a slightly smaller scale. You can see the front panel of the resulting product at http://www.drecomm.com/244eproduct.htm . The annunciators (PILot ISOlate, EXTension, etc) are dead-front, so they don't normally show until the ultrabright green LED behind one or more is lit. (Our president just put a white light behind it so they'd all show for the picture.) The knobs are also pushbuttons to change modes. When fully equipped, the unit has about 500 parts on 5 printed circuit boards in a box hardly bigger than a bar of soap. I wish I could show you the inside. This one was also developed for no more than $20,000. Both of these models are still in our product line today, their last revisions being about seven years ago. Most of the cost was just my own paycheck. Each one took about 8 months while I concurrently spent time on things like technical customer service for other products we were already selling.

Garth


#12

I am impressed. That is just real engineer work. Should be the norm, alas is not. Congratulations.

#13

Garth, congrat's.

I was talking about BIG corporations, which operate quite differently than smaller shops.

Centralized costs will be allocated.

New Projects must be sure-fire bets to payback their costs very quickly.

And, I just don't see enough demand that would actually materialize for a 15c platinum.

And, remember, I would like to SEE such a calculator, but I'm realistic enough to know it just won't ever happen.

Sad, but ...

#14

And that is for HP to release a 12C emulator for the PC with only the guts of the ROM - i.e. enough to drive the screen, handle keystrokes etc. The open source people, i.e. us, fill in the rest.
The constraints are that the screen and the keyboard layout must remain the same.

There are some very nice calculators out there for PDAs (are you reading this Hugh?) that could cross-compile and we'd need to add programmability, key layout, solver, functionality trade-offs etc. etc. A lot of work to be sure, but able to be done by volunteers.

At the end of it, there will be a "working" calculator that fits the existing 12C hardware. HP can then relatively easily manufacture it. The retooling cost is limited to producing a new ROM, a new set of keys/keycaps and keyboard overlay, case colour etc.

#15

Frank wrote: "The tooling/metal quality etc. is better than any schlocky import (excepting quality European imports like Proto). It was a terrific response, but I don't have room here to enter it all. I am glad that I made a printout of your response. What I would like to know is what can I do as an American to safeguard (and in some cases to bring back) quality manufacturing jobs in the U.S. (i.e., contact U.S. Congressman, boycott cheap imports made in sweatshop conditions, etc.)?"

Gene: There really isn't much you can do, unless you really want to pay higher prices for things, and while you and a couple of thousand others do that, the rest of the country will continue buying the cheapest alternative.

Consider...because of overt protectionism in congress, Americans pay 3X the world price for sugar, to help sugar farmers in Louisiana, California and Hawaii. That affects everything we buy that has sugar in it. Is that really what we want with all our goods?

A free market is the best method ever found to maximize the allocation of resources and maximize progress.

ALL attempts to interfere with the market mechanism distort reality and eventually fail, sometimes catastrophically.

A rising tide lifts all boats. Adam Smith still lives.

Gene


#16

Another way to look at this:

We are all saddened that we can no longer find calcuators built to the quality of the 15c.

Now, just think back to 1982. At that time, many were lamenting that "cars aren't built like they used to be" or "boy, those old-fashioned ____ tools were so solidly constructed" etc.

So, we never really "lose" the quality--we just see a shift take place--qualtiy calculators instead of quality whahaveyou.

Similarly, we will, in 20 years time, look at something that was made in 2005 and say, "now *that* was a really well-made ****.

Some products which are really at a state-of-the-art right now:

good canoes (Bell, We-no-nah, others)
good kayaks (wilderness systems, others)

These boats are made using a combination of hand-made skill and well-engineered automation, using epoxy, carbon fiber, kevlar. They are extremly light, remarkably durable, fast, stable and able, and beautifully crafted. In a few years, they will no longer be on the market, the tide will shift. But they are made in the USA right now, and they are a relative bargain, and at the top of their art. Soon, the plastic boat revolution will run its course and the market will be saturated.

I just happen to know about these. Someone else can probably comee up with examples from other industry sectors.

We should not lament the loss of production of these gems; rather, we should enjoy our collections--and recollections.

Sometimes I too lament--but today I thought I would show another side...


#17

Hi all.

Note: contents may meander slightly off-topic (?)

Of course, maybe we shouldn't forget the fact that (we in the) the first world has to a degree which varies a lot over time, lived off the back of the developing world, which often either exploits its poorer social class or cheaper labour again from the third world.

I think the true cost of all this electronics technology was "accurate" in the sixties and very early seventies when most of the components were made in england or the U.S. Remember computing components from Mullard and RCA? Few of us are that old, or have the education of that amount of hindsight.

At first the Japanese, then Korea and now finally China stepped in with "cheap copies", etc. I remember only 10 to 15 years ago in my retailing PCs that people wanted really CHEAP stuff but were concerned about "country of origin". How bizarre?! I remember the blank looks when I asked them if they would pay $10,000 for an Australian computer (assuming we really had the technology!).

I think it's amazing that Electronics Engineering "as Art" is
(to me at least) very interesting from a social and historical perspective. That includes politics and geography.

Visitors have turned up so I will cut this post short with a final comment. What happens when the first worlds source of "cheapnis",
clean "infinte source, infinte sink" environment, cheap oil and cheap labour, dries up? Grab your calculators and PCs/Macs and brace yourselves for a HARD LANDING, folks...

Military intervention a.k.a theft of natural resources and meddling in other countries politics won't bail us out of THIS one...

dw

R.I.P. New Orleans...

#18

A rising tide drowns those who don't have boats, or as in the case of New Orleans, those who don't have a means of transportation to leave.

#19

I was planning to post another update here soon. It appears there are many misconceptions floating around here I would like to clear up first:

There are a handful of CPUs capable of doing everything we might ask of them. Figure in fully static operation and the number drops to very few. However, these are minor details since our software is and will be developed in a hardware-independent manor. We also don't want to announce a final decision until the hardware platforms are about to go into production. The bulk of the work right now is out of the public view, investing in manufacturing equipment and designing processes, tooling, etc. Everything is being held to the highest possible production standards, most of the parts will be produced by a business created in part for OpenRPN. Final assembly, testing, and quality assurance will take place in-house.

Too much focus was being placed on an RPL-like programming language until recently. I proposed and created space on the site to support development of a *pure* RPN environment as well. The command set of the 42s has been adopted, and I anticipate this will spark quite a bit more interest from this community.

Much of the discussion in the OpenRPN forums is outdated and could be misleading. There is a good chance that they will be archived and restarted as a clean slate.

Feel free to contact me via e-mail, or post them as questions in this thread. I want to clear up the obvious confusion as much as possible.

Thanks to everyone for your continued interest. I never said this would be a fast process, but it will be done right.

Best Regards,
Hugh


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