Prices for classic calculators then and now



#22

I recently came into possession of a "Users' Library Software Catalog for the HP-41/HP-71/HP-75" from May 1986. I want to share an interesting annnouncement in the "What's New" section of this catalog.

"Announcing Price Reductions for HP-41 Calculators!

"Effective February 1, the prices of four Hewlett-Packard handheld calculators have been reduced by an average of 22 percent. Reduced manufacturing and material costs allow HP to pass the savings on to customers.

"Reductions on the four models are: HP-11C from $75 to $56; HP-15C from $120 to $99; HP-41CV from $225 to $175 and HP-41CX from $325 to $249."

Who would've guessed almost 20 years later, on eBay, an HP-11C goes for $150-$250; an HP-15C $175-$300; an HP-41CX $200-$500.

I still kick myself for passing on a new 48GX back in 2001, on sale at an Office Max for $109. My 48G+ was working great for me at the time so I didn't think I'd need an expandable 48GX as I wasn't going to use those programs on expandable cards anyway. Plus, I thought it was just a matter of time before HP was going to release a killer new calculator to replace the aging 48G series.

I have been known to be wrong.

John


#23

I felt the same way with the 48GX and 32SII. I was planning on buying them, figuring I had plenty of time. I got busy with work (for several years!), woke up, and when I went to buy them, they were gone!... only to turn up on Ebay for nearly twice their normal prices!


#24

> I felt the same way with the 48GX and 32SII. I was planning on buying them, figuring I had plenty of time. I got busy with work (for several years!), woke up, and when I went to buy them, they were gone!... only to turn up on Ebay for nearly twice their normal prices!

Hmm, I paid about 700 Deutsche Mark (that's about 360 EUR or 430 USD) for my 48GX when it was new. (and 444 Deutsche Mark for my first HP - a 28C)

#25

Adjusted for inflation since 1986:

HP-11C: $56 --> $98
HP-15C: $99 --> $174
HP-41CV: $175 --> $307
HP-41CX: $249 --> $437

The 48gx would have been a nice investment. Since technology tends to depreciate no one could have anticipated anything to the contrary back in '86.

#26

Unfortunately prices for UK models were never even close to those in the US - particularly way back in 1979 when I had to work all summer to be able to buy my original HP33C!

Mike T.

#27

Quote:
Who would've guessed almost 20 years later, on eBay, an HP-11C goes for $150-$250; an HP-15C $175-$300; an HP-41CX $200-$500.
Interestingly enough, inflation in 20 years has almost doubled. Peopel earn more and average prices on consumer goods go up. I checked this last year - based on average inflation from 1981 to 2004, a single US dollar in 1981 is roughly equivilent to US$2.08 in 2004. Said in another way, a $100 calculator sold in 1981 would have the same financial impact to a wage earner as a $208 calculator today. So you're actually doing better to buy a $150 HP-11C in 2005 than you would buying it for $75 in 1981. The prices only seem high - but $100 in 1981 was quite large sum once you roll back 20+ years of inflation.

What's more mind boggling to me is that you can buy a $7 calculator that does more than these top-end models of 1981 (though without RPN and without the high quality level).

#28

John Nguyen posted:

Quote:
I recently came into possession of a "Users' Library Software Catalog for the HP-41/HP-71/HP-75" from May 1986...

(and, quoting from it):

"Effective February 1, the prices of four Hewlett-Packard handheld calculators have been reduced by an average of 22 percent. Reduced manufacturing and material costs allow HP to pass the savings on to customers.

"Reductions on the four models are: HP-11C from $75 to $56; HP-15C from $120 to $99; HP-41CV from $225 to $175 and HP-41CX from $325 to $249."


For context, I bought my HP-15C in November 1983 from a US university bookstore for $109. (I don't know if that was a sale discount.) Mail-order prices also often ran lower than manufacturer's prices.

The large difference in HP's price between the HP-11C and the HP-15C might explain why the 11C was manufactured until 1989, just as the 15C was. The HP-11C was a fine product with excellent documentation. But, let's face it -- the 15C eclipsed the 11C so completely only a year after the latter's introduction, so as to render it superfluous except to occupy a price niche.

The 15C looked virtually identical to the 11C; a trained eye was practically needed to tell 'em apart without the logo. The 15C offered a vastly-expanded repertoire of useful advanced functionality, was no less easy to use, and was a bit better organized, as well. Only a substantial cost savings could justify the purchase of an 11C over a 15C, but it may not have seemed to some would-be 15C buyers that they were actually getting more with the 15C.

So, why did the 11C serve as the entry-level model? Because a void was left after the HP-10C was discontinued in 1984.

IMO, it was a good idea for HP to provide a simpler-looking scientific in the Voyager line, with only one shift key and less functionality. However, they probably "missed the mark" on the 10C by making it a crippled and crummy programmable, instead of a fuller-featured non-programmable.

Perhaps HP considered it unthinkable to release a scientific non-programmable, after they had developed and implemented Continuous Memory, LCD's, and low-power circuits. However, the 10C's crude programming paradigm from the HP-55 and small memory (10 registers/70 bytes) rendered progamming nearly useless, even though most of the thin user's manual was devoted to it. The "programming" usurped 10 scarce keyboard positions, which could have been dedicated to useful functions.

So, the 10C -- the original low-end Voyager -- was as poorly-designed as the high-end 15C was excellently developed. If the 10C had been a coherent low-end model, it might have continued to occupy that niche in place of the 11C, which could then have been dicontinued after prices were reduced across the board. That would have left only the clearly and visibly more-advanced 15C as the higher-priced alternative for those who wanted programmability and the advanced functionality to exploit it.

Who knows how many sales the 11C "stole" from the 15C, particularly from 1985-1989? I don't know the figures, but this certainly seems like a case in which misguided product design -- perhaps driven by marketing -- had some consequences.

-- KS


#29

You are definitely an original 15C user, and know the machine well. What is your take on HP making an updated version?


#30

As was discussed extensively in a recent thread, it ain't gonna happen, if for no other reason than lost HP-15C ROM code. Too much work to re-create that, and KinHPo doesn't have the skills or resources to pull it off.

If I were to take any enginnering test that did not require use of a "super-duper" calculator and software, and were allowed to bring and use only one calculator, it would be the 15C. All functions and advanced mathematics directly at your fingertips without menus or spelling of commands, and an easy-to-read display.

However, at work I use the HP-32SII primarily, because I can store and maintain useful programs that run quickly, and that I have a PC with Matlab for heavy stuff.

Today's users would not tolerate not having a useful alphanumeric display for program listings and meaningful error messages. Perhaps the best concept for a new scientific in the traditional HP mold would be based on the 32SII paradigm with a horizontal layout, adding a longer display, and (improved) advanced functionality present in the 15C that "went missing" in the 32S/32SII/33S. Even the HP-42S is too cumbersome in many respects.

-- KS

#31

Hi, Karl:

Karl posted:

"However, the 10C's crude programming paradigm from the HP-55 and small memory (10 registers/70 bytes) rendered progamming nearly
useless, even though most of the thin user's manual was devoted to it. The "programming" usurped 10 scarce keyboard positions, which could have been dedicated
to useful functions."

    I fully agree. It was surprising that the HP-10C had programming capabilities inferior to those of the venerable HP-25, to the point that most 'complex' programs for the HP-25 couldn't be made to fit the HP-10C at all. Though it did have an important advantage over the HP-55 programming capabilities: HP-10C's program steps were fully merged, so that STO+5 consumed just one step of (unbearably scarce) program memory while it required three in the (equally cramped) HP-55.
"Who knows how many sales the 11C "stole" from the 15C, particularly from 1985-1989? I don't know the figures, but this certainly seems like a case in which
misguided product design -- perhaps driven by marketing -- had some consequences."

    I think you're absolutely right. Speaking for myself, HP-11C prices were just about affordable (if very high) while HP-15C prices were completely out of reach, at least here in Spain.
Best regards from V.

Edited: 21 Nov 2005, 8:32 a.m.


#32

I, too, found the HP-15 priced out of my range and I purchased an HP-11C instead. The up-side: I have one of the early HP-11's with the 0.0xxx bug in my collection as well as an HP-11C without the bug.

My HP-28S is a anniversary model recognizing "AMERICAN MATHEMATICS - 100 YEARS - 1888-1988". I don't know where the start date came from. I got it at a garage sale for a few dollars. The previous owner was so mad at the battery compartment cover that he "just wanted to get rid of the damn thing!"


#33

Quote:
My HP-28S is a anniversary model recognizing "AMERICAN MATHEMATICS - 100 YEARS - 1888-1988". I don't know where the start date came from.

That model commemorated the 100th anniversary of the American Mathematical Society which was founded in 1888.

#34

Quote:

"Who knows how many sales the 11C "stole" from the 15C,
particularly from 1985-1989? I don't know the figures, but this
certainly seems like a case in which misguided product design --
perhaps driven by marketing -- had some consequences."

    I think you're absolutely right. Speaking for myself, HP-11C
    prices were just about affordable (if very high) while HP-15C
    prices were completely out of reach, at least here in Spain.

But if 15C prices were completely out of reach, how could any
other calculator "steal" any sales from it? Suppose the 11C hadn't
been available; wouldn't the buyer have just purchased another model,
maybe not even an HP? Or would the buyer have saved up until the
price of the 15C was in his reach?

But that's not to say that the 11C was necessarily a good
marketing decision. Evidently the 15C's price was in reach for at
least some, and sales of the 15C would probably have been better if there
hadn't been a lower-cost model available.

Regards,
James


Edited: 21 Nov 2005, 6:13 p.m.


#35

Valentin stated,

Quote:

Speaking for myself, HP-11C prices were just about affordable (if very high) while HP-15C prices were completely out of reach, at least here in Spain.

James responded,

Quote:
But if 15C prices were completely out of reach, how could any other calculator "steal" any sales from it?

Context, context... From what I've read here, prices for HP calc's were and are much higher in Europe than in North America. I paid a very reasonable $US109 in late 1983 for a 15C.

James sated,

Quote:
But that's not to say that the 11C was necessarily a good marketing decision.

Well, my thesis statement was the following: HP bollixed the entry-level 10C, perhaps causing its early demise, and thereby forcing the fine 11C into the role of price leader, where it may have cannibalized sales of the 15C due to near-indistinguishability despite a large difference in price.

It's more of an indictment of unsound marketing decisions for the 10C, which apparently backfired.

A well-designed 10C, along with the 15C, could have provided buyers a clear choice between two very different models that actually looked different:

  • 10C: basic mathematical functions
  • 15C: that, plus programmability and advanced functionality

Instead, buyers ended up with an "entry" model (11C) that looked pretty much the same as the premium model (15C).

Back to the 11C: The 11C and its documentation comprised a fine product, but its programmability was merely a simple convenience for most users. It was computationally slow, and -- without I/O and alphanumerics -- ill-suited for maintaining a library of programs. However, the same programmability was absolutely essential for the 15C, in order to allow users to define functions for SOLVE and INTEGrate. With complex-number and matrix functions as well, the 15C was a masterpiece built upon the solid foundation of the 11C.

Recently, I acquired a nice HP-11C Solutions Handbook. It contains many application routines that the user can enter by keystroke, to fully utilize the 11C's capabilities. Of course, limited storage essentially restricts the user to one application at a time, and many of these were implemented better as built-in microcoded programs on the HP-15C, HP-16C, or HP-12C.

-- KS


Edited: 21 Nov 2005, 10:28 p.m.

#36

In 1987 I bought an HP11c because I couldn't think of affording the 15c, and I also didn't think that I needed its power although I was still in engineering school. I thought the 11C was an excellent product, although I never used the programming capability of it. It's value to me was based on RPN. RPN is the single most important feature to me, I value it way more than programming ability or graphing. It simply can't be beat for plain and simple number crunching, which is what I mostly did (and still do).

I agree with what you are saying. I had been thinking about getting an HP for some time before I could actually afford it, when the 10C was still available. I vaguely remember thinking that although the 11C was pricier, it had some features that I thought that I might want, and that my money was better spent on the 11C. The 11C had some additional non-programable features over the 10C. If the 10C was still around when I finally made my purchase, I probably would have bought it IF it had ALL of the features of the 11C except the programming.


#37

Brian posted,

Quote:
The 11C had some additional non-programable features over the 10C. If the 10C was still around when I finally made my purchase, I probably would have bought it IF it had ALL of the features of the 11C except the programming.

And, I believe that you wouldn't have been the only one.

The only non-programming functions "missing" from the 10C that I can find are:

  • delta_%
  • hyperbolics and inverse hyperbolics
  • permutation and combination
  • gamma function
  • absolute value
  • roll up

The last two of these are most useful for programming, but all of them could have been accommodated with room to spare if the weak programming capability were omitted.

BTW, the 10C (and 12C) had a y-estimator function that the 11C and 15C lacked.

-- KS


#38

The 11C (and 15C) also have the non-obvious <RCL> <SIGMA+> function that the 10C and 12C don't have.

-kt


#39

Hi, Katie;

the HP15C also has a last-minute sequence (if I can say so) that I remember using once when I bought it, and another time here, later, only after Valentin to show how to use it in a very specific way. Both the HP15C and HP11C allow a number to be stored as a random seed through [STO][RAN#], but only the HP15C allows [RCL][RAN#].

My 2 cents.

Cheers.

Luiz (Brazil)


#40

Luiz,

Quote:
...but only the HP15C allows [RCL][RAN#]

Yes it's allowed, but it does *not* recall the same value that you stored! The decimal point position is lost:

123.45
STO
#ran (press ENTER)
RCL
#ran (press ENTER)

This will return 0.12345

Marcus

#41

Katie and Luiz pointed out several specific functions that aren't evident on the keyboard (which was my focus). However, one can add those, as well as

  • random number
  • clear Sigma

to the list, although the latter isn't much different from "clear reg" on the 10C.

-- KS

#42

Interesting idea. If you compare prices for these calculators with prices of actual calculators with the same calculation power, the "values" might be different.

But to add another hypothetical scenario: In 1986, you buy HP shares rather than the calculators. Closing price for the share

15 May 1986: USD 4.21

18 Nov 2005: USD 29.40

This is an increase of 7 times (and it is definitely not the best you could have done).


With this gain you could buy the calculators for the following prices:

HP11C: USD 56 * 7 = USD 392

HP15C: USD 99 * 7 = USD 693

HP41CV: USD 175 * 7 = USD 1225

HP41CX: USD 249 * 7 = USD 1743

It is all a matter of perspective...


Peter


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