TI-89/Voyage 200: worthy successors to the HP-71B ?



#2

Hi all,

I recently got the opportunity to play with a TI-89 and a TI Voyage 200, and especially to have a closer look at TI-basic.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how powerful and simple to use this basic is, and then I had another look at Valentin Albillo's interesting pages on the HP-71B basic/math rom.

Well, the two systems seem to have a lot in commun! And I thought that, for those who legitimately regret the death of the fabulous Titan, buying a TI-89 titanium or a Voyage 200 may be an option worth considering.

TI-basic, just like the basic of the HP-71B, allows user-defined functions which can operate on several data types, seemless integration of matrixes/complex numbers, full recursion, and local variables. I have to admit that it is much simpler to use than UserRPL, and, unlike UserRPL, you do have simple ways to break a loop (Cycle/Return).

Looking at Valentin's pages, it seemed to me that programs could be ported from the HP-71B to the TI-89/Voyage 200 with some adpatation, but not a complete re-writing, like it would be to port them to the 48/49 RPL family.


Compared to the HP-71B:

- You don't have a qwerty keyboard (well, you have in the Voyage 200, even if it is somewhat bulky) with BASIC keywords shortcuts, but you have an efficient menu system to key in BASIC statement fast,

- You don't have module expandability, but plenty of flash memory to download third-party applications,

- You don't have an HP-IL to control a plotter, but you have a graphic screen, which allows easy matrix edition, spreadsheet computation (Cellsheet), and also allows several BASIC lines to be seen at once. One of the major acknwoledged drawback of the HP-71B was the single-line display.

- You don't really have the equivalent of Lex files, but you have access to 68K assembly development, which can expand the calculator functionality greatly.

All in all, I apologize for praising TI on a HP forum, but I found TI-89/Voyage 200 a pleasure to use, with comparable power to the HP-49, but easier to use, especially to those who prefer BASIC to RPL. And they are sold today... The Voyage 200 is bulkier than the HP-71B, but the TI-89 (Titanium) fits in a much smaller package !

My 2 cents,

Vincent


#3

I see the TI more as a supercalculator (all one word), whereas the HP-71 is more of a hand-held computer. The 71 is not that practical as a calculator. For a calculator, I usually use my 41. I have used both the 41 and 71 however to control a lot of professional laboratory equipment. Without that capability, the TI and most other HPs are just calculators. That's all.

I have never had much use for a graphic LCD, but I do have the 80-column video adapter, and have used the Thinkjet printer with the 71 to print graphs I needed to keep on file.


#4

hi guys,

did hp ever consider re-making the 71b into a handheld a bit like they (sort of) remade the 41c into the 42s? 71b basic is indeed very nice, and it makes a good alternative for those not wanting to battle with rpl.

call this the 72s. it would be pioneer form factor but with a 2 line display, 16k ram plus some 71b roms preloaded (eg math rom) and maybe a tad faster. it would have a re-implemented "calc" mode that makes it functional as a regular calculator. the rest would be the same.

this would have been easy and could have been on sale a decade before ti. its almost still worth doing.

any comments?

Edited: 3 Jan 2006, 12:01 p.m.


#5

I doubt that 71B BASIC, as nice as it was for the time, would be competitive in a modern calculating device. But an updated BASIC upwardly compatible with the 71B would be cool. It's not like there's a huge library of stuff for the 71B, but there are one or two nice things. And some of the ROMs are very nice indeed.

I think it's amusing that everyone has such divergent ideas on what would constitute the "ideal" calculator. It's the strength, as well as the curse of software that it is not fixed in place like physical things. It occupies a partly platonic realm between idea and matter. So people can let their imaginations roam. That's wonderful for coming up with new ideas for this or that, and we've all seen the benefits and drawbacks of that facility. But another downside is that it can be very tough to provide certain products when the users can imagine so many different "ideal" machines.

I somehow can't create an account over at OpenRPN so I can join their discussions, but I'm hoping that the "Open" means you can implement a variety of operating systems on their hardware. I know they are looking at LUA as a systems language. That's very extensible and flexible. It would be nice to have the software platform wide open so others could implement their dream machines on the hardware.

Regards,
Howard

#6

Hp95lx, Hp100Lx, Hp200Lx and then spiraling downward from there.

These machines lack an Hp-IB interface, but had an RS-232 port and lots of other enhancements that made them an equal (or better) in many ways over the older Hp71B. Especially the step from the Hp95Lx to the Hp100Lx. The Hp100Lx was truly a portable PC with the customability of a small PC. It was DOS based and also had a built in spreadsheet and a built in Hp19B calculator with the spreadsheet tie in.

I feel the quality wasn't quite as good as an Hp71B, but these palmtops were quite capable and still well made.

From a controls aspect I suspect there is a wealth of interface capabilities for the Hp71B, but DOS based controls are also plentiful and RS-232 based hardware is going to be a lot cheaper and easier to acquire.


#7

Quote:
did hp ever consider re-making the 71b into a handheld a bit like they (sort of) remade the 41c into the 42s?
Although the form factor of my 41 is nice, I was glad for the 2/3 size QUERTY keyboard of the 71. I did an awful lot of typing on it at 30wpm in the 1980's and decided I better take it easy when they discontinued the 71 and wearing out the keyboard would have presented a bad situation. Using a lot of LEX files I was able to write a really nice text editor that was optimized for the small display. An important ingredient was to make it so this tiny window could be moved nimbly around your work.

A keyboard I have no experience with but looks like an ideal, fast, small, one-hand alternative to the QWERTY keyboard is the FrogPad, which you can see at www.frogpad.com . I'd like to see that become somewhat of a standard (although not at FrogPad's high prices). They say that with practice, you can get to 40+ wpm on it.


Quote:
16k ram plus some
The 71 came with 17K of RAM, but many owners added many times that much. I have an additional 160KB in mine, and would have gone for more if it fit within my budget at the time.

Quote:
it would have a re-implemented "calc" mode that makes it functional as a regular calculator.
The 71 did have a calc mode, but I didn't like the way it worked. So the few times I have used the 71 as a calculator, I just left it in BASIC command-line mode.

Quote:
But an updated BASIC upwardly compatible with the 71B would be cool
That was one of the great things about the 71-- the BASIC could be expanded by the user. I have a load of LEX files adding somewhere near 200 new keywords and features or extending the ones in the "mainframe", but I never did get the module (or LEX file) that gave things like the multi-line CASE statement.

Quote:
I think it's amusing that everyone has such divergent ideas on what would constitute the "ideal" calculator. It's the strength, as well as the curse of software that it is not fixed in place like physical things.
The 71 did basically allow for this on the software side, although there wasn't much you could do with the display unless you connected an external monitor (which I have but seldom use). I did write routines in Forth to display two lines in the LCD using only four dots' height per line and no space between, but did not do much to integrate it into other parts of the software to make it more practical. I had 2x33 and 2x44, vertically scrolling.

I have HP's Forth/Assembler module and used the Forth quite a bit. The ironic thing is that although the 71's BASIC is the best I've ever seen (IMO much better in some ways than their Rocky Mount BASIC which I also used on bigger HP computers), their Forth is the worst I've ever seen. Fortunately, since it's Forth, I was able to speed up a lot of things and extend it.

Quote:
From a controls aspect I suspect there is a wealth of interface capabilities for the Hp71B, but DOS based controls are also plentiful and RS-232 based hardware is going to be a lot cheaper and easier to acquire.
The RS-232 lab equipment is a bit cheaper than HPIB, but there's not much available in RS-232. I do use RS-232 on the workbench (and have the FSI dual RS232/HPIL interface), but the major disadvantage with RS-232 is that you need a separate interface for each piece of equipment you want to connect to because there's no loop like HPIL or star connection system like HPIB has. Most HP hand-held users apparently don't realize that with the 82169A HPIL/HPIB interface converter, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of models of professional laboratory equipment that can be connected to an HP-41 or HP-71.

I expect that the ability to display more at once is on everyone's wishlist. With the tape drive, the disc drive, and large 3rd-party memory modules, I'm sure very few people used the 71's card reader. That space would have been better spent on a longer LCD. And speaking of LCDs, virtually all the off-the-shelf intelligent character modules start at 5mm character height. Why so big? Did you ever see a newspaper or magazine use such big characters for their normal text? No. Going to something even slightly smaller would have easily given two lines (and longer ones to boot) in the same amount of space.

Another thing I would have liked in the 71 would be a more mainstream processor. Of course at the time the way HP did it made sense. They wanted to minimize power use while maximizing the floating-point math performance using existing technology.

Although few people filled their 71's memory map, current low memory prices would warrant a much bigger memory-- not for bloated programs, but for data.

I think openRPN mostly has the right idea.


#8

Quote:
Quote:But an updated BASIC upwardly compatible with the 71B would be cool

That was one of the great things about the 71-- the BASIC could be expanded by the user. I have a load of LEX files adding somewhere near 200 new keywords and features or extending the ones in the "mainframe", but I never did get the module (or LEX file) that gave things like the multi-line CASE statement.


The JPC ROM adds a multiline SELECT/CASE statement, plus lots of other good stuff. I've only used it in JF Garnier's and HrastProgrammer's emulators, though. It ought to be possible to extract the code from the ROM image into a free-standing LEX file. But the RAM requirements would be steep.

Anyhow, with that ROM, the 71B's BASIC really does start to rival RMB, in my estimation. Otherwise, the lack of long variable names and real control structures takes it a couple of notches below that, again in my opinion. Still, I do have fun coding on the little guy.

Quote:

I expect that the ability to display more at once is on everyone's wishlist. With the tape drive, the disc drive, and large 3rd-party memory modules, I'm sure very few people used the 71's card reader. That space would have been better spent on a longer LCD.


I have some developer docs for the 71B that carry a cover letter from HP stating that the code documented is now available on cassette tape, since you told us you don't want cards. I think very few of the card readers were sold. They are relatively rare on the market now, and I suspect that's why.

A modern BASIC handheld calculator could choose from a variety of display sizes. The TI92+ (and the Voyager, which I do not own) has a whopping big one, as do the high end graphing from the other manufacturers. Something smaller might be nice for a calculator form factor, though.

But I use my HP-IL ISA card and HP's HPILLINK software when I want to do real work on the 71B. It has its drawbacks, but "LIST" isn't a cruel joke at 80x40. 8) And as nice as the 71's keyboard is, my workstation keyboard is way better.

Quote:
I think openRPN mostly has the right idea.

I think so too. I wish them all the best.


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