Your preferences between the 10, 41 and pioneers


Hey folks,
Sorry to be "hogging" the board this week, but you folks are the only resource I really can find regarding the HP calcs. This question isn't so much about the capabilities, per se, of the calcs, but instead about your preferences between the models.

It seems that the 10 (voyager?) and the pioneers series have a strong following. It seems the 41 series does as well. I am curious about why folks would prefer on over the other - not necessarily based on capabilities alone.

This really isn't research, but just information gathering for my personal interest. Thanks.


The one thing that made me move from the TI-59 to the HP41cx was the 41's I/O capability. I wanted a hand-held controller. I already had a calculator-- not that the TI-59 was as good a calculator, but it was acceptable for my work.


The HP41C/CV/CX is my all time favorite. It was the fit HP calculator to use an LCD display AND support alphanumerics. Writing programs that prompt you for input was a major improvement. Continuous memory was also a big plus.

The HP41 has also 4 ports that allowed connecting the calculator to a variety of devices and plugging in all kinds of HP and custom-made modules.

The RPN programming was very good an flexible. The memory was very good at the time it was introduced. I used the HP-41C as a graduate student and in technical testing labs to process statistical data. The HP41 had an adequate number of registers to store my data and allow me to process it in diferent ways.

So there is my 2 cents worth of answer. I still own a few HP41CX that I bought from eBay. My original HP41CX died a few years ago when I spilled coffe on it in my office.


Edited: 27 Jan 2006, 4:13 p.m.


Well, my favourite is still the 15c: it fits in my pocket, does everything I need a calculator to do... and it is beautiful!


Between the 3, I prefer the 41. Unlike a lot of people here, I don't care for any of the voyager. The Pioneer's are OK, and unlike a lot of people I don't care for the 42s either. The 32SII is kind of interesting but for real use it's not that hot. I do like the 48 series but I am not sure that they are considered Pioneer.


Chan Tran posted,

...I prefer the 41. Unlike a lot of people here, I don't care for any of the voyager...

I know, I know, "To each his own"... But here are several practical sample problems worked out on a 41 and on a Voyager:

Problem 1:

Show that arcsin (- sin (x + pi radians)) = x, if -90 deg <= x <= 90 deg)

  1. Enter an angle in degrees
  2. Convert it to radians
  3. Set to radians mode
  4. Add pi
  5. Take the sine
  6. Change sign of result
  7. Set to degree mode
  8. Take the arcsine

The result should be exactly (or almost exactly) the original angle within the specified range.

HP-41C/V/X:                   HP-10C/11C/15C:

(set degree mode if necessary:)


(enter the angular value)

[PI] [PI]
+ +
[SIN-1] [SIN-1]

[bracketed] keywords are keyboard functions; shift keys are not shown. Which is quicker and easier?

Problem 2:

A lottery game requires the player to correctly pick six unique numbers from the set 1 to 40 to win the jackpot. What are his chances of doing so?

Answer: 1 in COMBination (40, 6) = 3,838,380.00

HP-41C/V/X:                     HP-11C/15C:

40 40
6 [Cy,x]

(Of course, this HP-41 procedure could be quickened by assigning the FACTorial function to a key. Unfortunately, this procedure will not work if any argument to FACT exceeds 69. A more-robust algorithm will require the user to write a program.)

Which would you rather have at your disposal during a one-hour probability/statistics exam?


The 32SII is kind of interesting but for real use it's not that hot.

Hmm? It's got all those built-in mathematical functions the 41 is lacking, and it's six times as fast. Built-in SOLVE, INTEG, algebraic expressions, and fractional-number support, as well. Also, it's got microcoded versions of the 41's Math ROM complex-number functions. This allows the creation of real-world solution programs like this one.

-- KS


I started with a TI-59 (complete with the PC-100C printer). Neat combination, good specs on paper. But then the 59's keyboard started missing keystrokes and then the card reader had problems, so I got rid of it and switched to an HP-41C (early model with the upright keys and all the bugs). I still have it and it works apart from the
1 key that does not click any more. Throughout the 80s and most of the 90s it was my PDA and alarm clock (then I got a cellphone!).

So I can say that I am an HP-41 fan, but I *really* adore the HP-97. This machine is sooooo beautiful, I have one on my desk right next to my keyboard. This machine has it all.



The problem with most modern PDAs or cell phones is the poor battery life. Anything portable with less than a month battery life just doesn't cut it :)

... Although I also adore the HP-97. It is welded to my desk.


Well, what can I say, I'm not a good mathematician, but I love engineering, and from a hardware point of view HP-41 is an "open system" more than a calculator.

This feature allows a whole range of developement choices that goes far beyond its calculator abilities (not short indeed).

No other device in its class can cope with that, many surpass it in speed or math functionality though, but its posibilities are only limited by your imagination and ingenuity, and some people here are certainly very "imaginative"... ;-)




For the most types of work I do with a calculator: HP-41CX. It is my PDA, my alarm clock, my statistics analyzer, my note-keeper and my programming environment for all sorts of programs from games and role-playing character creation to equation programs.

For work, I use the HP-97. It is my most sturdy calculator. I use it for statistics, business decisions, quick calculations - it has the convenient built-in printer.

For quick business calculations at work, I use the HP-38E.

Not had much interest in the Voyagers or the Pioneers.

Had high interest for the HP-48, but that sort of faded.


I don't think anyone here will fault you for asking that we give our opinions about vintage HP calculators. We do it all the time without being asked! 8)

As a calculator enthusiast first, and a collector second, my favorite among the three is the HP-41. This is partly because that was the first machine I learned to program on, partly because it was very advanced for its day, containing lots of computer-like features, and partly because continuing interest in the machine means there are lots of options for obtaining new hardware to do cool and interesting things. I'm thinking mainly of the MLDL (Machine Language Development Lab) add-ons like Clonix/NovRAM and MLDL2000. These allow the user to load practically any add-on ROM module ever built for the 41C, provided the bits are available. Most old modules are available as compuer files, so we get to enjoy add-ons that used to be rare and expensive, like HEPAX, CCD, AECROM, PPC ROM and others. And we also get to use new ROMs built by other enthusiasts with the MLDL add-ons. There's also the fact that 41C machines and peripherals are plentiful on eBay and elsewhere.

The other two models you mention have their virtues too. For programmability, I prefer the HP42S, which was the top of the line Pioneer scientific. It represents the zenith of the RPN keystroke programming model. I've coded a 1500 line program on that machine, and enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. The Voyager series has the best form factor of any calculator ever made, in my opinion. the 11C, 15C and 16C all have special characteristics that appeal to me.

But the HP-41 still wins. It's my sentimental favorite, and it has a vibrant and productive community behind it right now. For me, the combination is hard to beat.




My first HP was a 41CX, then I got a 15C as a backup if something happened to the 41CX during class. The 15C is a very capable device, but it is not as versital as the 41CX. I later got a 42S and really fell for it. The 42S had program compatability with the 41CX and it fit nicely in the shirt pocket. I have sense gotten a 48GX because of the unit conversion, but my faverates are the 42S first and then the 41CX. If HP made a new version of the 42S with more memory, the 48G unit conversions and a PC interface, I would buy at least 3. 1 for home, 1 for office and 1 always in my pocket.


For me, my favorite has been the 32SII ( a Pioneer). I haven't needed a lot of power in my calculator like many of the others here. Mostly I am doing lots of chain calcs with relatively simple terms. I really like the equation capability. I have an equation in it that dierectly calculates the area of steel for reinforced concrete-a huge time saver for me. I also like the solver. I was also a fan of the 11C, but I prefer the 32SII because it is faster. My prefered design is the voyager series, I really like the landscape layout.

My ideal calc would be if you combined a voyager and a pioneer. Give me the form factor of the voyager and the functionality of the pioneer and I will buy MANY.


Like many others posting, I have tried all three types of calculators. Me, I prefer the 41 for many of the same reasons cited. The alphanumeric capability was a BIG help when packing many small programs for field calculations. The addition of I/O and external storage didn't hurt either. Adding the Petroleum Pac and for a petroleum engineer you had much joy. I would have liked more built in math functions, but this could be solved using the Math Pac.

The Voyagers never really appealed to me, primarily because I had trouble getting used to the vertical Enter key and I couldn't program the prompts like the 41. But I did like the form factor, and much preferred the display to the robotic 41.

I used the 32 and really enjoyed its speed. I would say that in order of preference mine was the 41, then the 32S and then the 11/15. Since that time I have also started using the 48, and while it is powerful, it also suffers from a convoluted menuing system (locating the percent key for example is a circus) and a poor display (mine is the blue display - I have been told that the black display is much better).


I'm gonna be an old fart here. In all fairness, "your mileage will vary..."

I feel that perfection was achieved in the HP-35.

The HP-35 did everything that I have ever needed out of a calculator. It had an incredibly clean key layout. It had standard mode display, with a 10 digit mantissa even when there was an exponent. It completely replaced a slide rule.

I disliked the HP-45 from the onset. First and foremost, they took away standard display when they added SCI and FIX. Second, too many things were shifts. I notice that today HP-45 commands a much lower price on eBay than HP-35.

The HP-65 is, of course, special because it's programmable.

In the next series they took away two digits from the mantissa. The current models (HP-30S, HP-33S) give you 10 digit mantissas again, but both have cluttered, poorly-designed key layouts and the HP-30S is algebraic (ugh) and the HP-33S has that hideous chevron.

The Voyagers have a nice form factor, but are still cluttered and have the 8 digit mantissa. I haven't really used an HP-15c enough to judge its capabilities fairly, but the HP-16c has proven useful to me when programming.


The 41CX. My first HP programmable was the 41C. My HP41cx, as well as 41C sit on my desk and I use them daily. The thing that sets the 41 series apart for me is how they feel in my hands. They just feel so natural. And I learned to program with the has the card reader on it but no longer use that. The calculator I use most though is the HP10B. The very best financial calculator for the money and I have lots of other HP financial calculators.

Best wishes



"blurdybloop" posted,

I feel that perfection was achieved in the HP-35.

The HP-35 did everything that I have ever needed out of a calculator. It had an incredibly clean key layout. It had standard mode display, with a 10 digit mantissa even when there was an exponent. It completely replaced a slide rule.

You can't be serious!

OK, let's define the objective as a basic, straightforward, non-programmable scientific calculator. Granted, the HP-35 was a revolutionary product and a very impressive first effort. But, where might it fall short of perfection?

  • Most keys are too small, even though plenty of space is available on the faceplate.
  • Most (early) keys did not contrast very well with the faceplate.
  • No radians or gradients angular mode.
  • No % or delta-% functions.
  • STO disables stack push unnecessarily.
  • xy may be visually intuitive, but not in usage.

We won't even begrudge its power-hungry LED display and lack of continuous memory, because the technology of the time did not permit better. It had only one memory register, but didn't really need more.

I disliked the HP-45 from the onset. First and foremost, they took away standard display when they added SCI and FIX.

What's wrong with those? They use less battery power, and reduce clutter by showing the user only the meaningful digits. It's nice that FIX and SCI were unshifted -- very convenient.

As for "standard display", that was restored in the Pioneer models as the "ALL" display format.

The HP-65 is, of course, special because it's programmable.

But a poor, impractical programming paradigm (which unfortunately got carried over to the HP-10C and HP-12C). The HP-67's was much better; it was carried over to the Spice and the other three Voyager models.

In the next series they took away two digits from the mantissa...

The Voyagers have a nice form factor, but are still cluttered and have the 8 digit mantissa.

The full mantissa (without exponent and sign) can be viewed on the HP-34C using "MANT" and on Voyyagers using "CLEAR PREFIX".

I think that the Voyager faceplate/keyboards were quite well organized, even if function-packed with two shift keys. But, if simplicity is synonymous with "uncluttered", the 10C's single shift key made for a clean layout. If only it were nonprogrammable, and had a few more functions...

-- KS


While I appreciate your love of your machines, I would hate to see this thread turn to a flame-war due to a misunderstanding. Leave that for some of the lesser forums. :)

We are interested in folks reasons for using the calcs, not bashing them due to their choice. Everyone has their own personal preferences. Let's leave them to enjoy those preferred machines.


Joe --

Sorry if the tone was a bit direct, but some assertions were made that called for challenge, IMO. Nobody is being "bashed" -- and "blurdyploop"'s posts have been pretty good, as I remember.

First efforts rarely achieve perfection, as I think almost all of us would agree. HP had valid and practical reasons for changing "xy" to "yx"; for adding FIX, SCI, and ENG; for making keys larger and rectangular; and for retaining stack push on STO.

All those changes improved practical usability, inspired by customer experience and input. It was part of the maturation process of the product.


-- KS


The alpha display of program steps on the 41C was the killer leap forward. The form factor isn't as pocketable as the voyager series, but the availability of application modules, solutions books, the software library and of course the peripherals and I/O much more than compensate.

41, all the way!


--- Les



Hello, Joe --

As a fairly-accomplhished collector of what I consider the "golden era" of HP calc's, I have to weigh in...

It seems that the 10 (voyager?) and the pioneers series have a strong following. It seems the 41 series does as well. I am curious about why folks would prefer on over the other - not necessarily based on capabilities alone.


I have the complete line, at least one of each model: 10C, 11C, 12C, 15C, 16C. The 12C is a financial model, and the 16C is a special-purpose computer-science model. The 15C is the premier advanced scientific model, eclipsing the 10C and 11C.


The only RPN scientific models are the 32S, 32SII, and 42S. I have one of each. The 42S is the most capable, and can run most 41C/V/X RPN programs. However, the 32S and 32SII are easier to read and use.


I have one of each, perferring the older (1979-85) "fullnut" desing for their sharp displays and crisper keys.


The 41's excel in their plug-in expandability, many supported I/O devices, and the most-advanced RPN programmability (shared with the 42S). As pure calculators, though, they can be somewhat cumbersome.

The 15C beats any 41 hands-down as a pure calculator, and cost considerably less, as well. I bought mine new in 1983, after having coveted the unaffordable 41C several years prior. The 15C features four kinds of built-in, easy-to-use advanced functions:

  • matrices and linear-system solution
  • complex-number mathematics,
  • numerical rootfinding
  • numerical integration

Every function is on the keyboard -- no spelling or menus -- and the 7-segment display is large, crisp, and legible. The 10C and 11C have the same attributes, but lack the advanced functions, and have diminished programming capabilities.

The four kinds of advanced functionality were available on the 41C only by installation of plug-in modules.

The 32S and 32SII excel for their user-friendly programmability and Saturn-processor speed (12x that of a 15C; 6x that of a 41C/V/X). Their alphanumeric dot-matrix displays are nearly as legible as the 7-segment display of the Voyagers. The 42S is amazingly capable, but suffers primarily from a poorly-legible display and extensive menuing of functions.


The 15C is the best-designed pure scientific calculator of the bunch -- the one I'd want to use during an exam that did not require or allow pre-programmed subject-matter application software.

The 32S and 32SII are the ones I'd want at my desk -- as long as a PC with Matlab was available when needed for matrix and complex-number functions.

The 41C/V/X is the best lab or field calculator, to expand with advanced programs that can be securely archived.

-- KS

Edited: 28 Jan 2006, 3:54 a.m.


No need for excuses, it's our favourite question!

At home I most often use the 12C and the 97. Although I'm an engineer, I nowadays need financial calculations more often than scientific stuff. The 97 is great for its printer, but I admit that it's also a nice and decorative item to have on ones desk.

At work I need complex arithmetics (I'm an EE), but my 15C has become too precious, so I keep a 28C in my desk drawer. I like its alpha display, and appreciate its programming capability for a couple of small programs I can take everywhere. I also keep the IR printer in my drawer, but I only use it for program listings, which means once a year. I consider the 28C keyboard an improvement over the 41, and also much better than the 32/42's keyboards and all that followed.

I find the 41 clumsy, and never felt the need for a full-fledged controller. Even at the time, I found the Casio FX602P superior to the 41.

Oh yes, and my first HP ever was the 16C, which served me well for many years a long time ago, but now rests idle in a special place.

You see how a reply to such a question always turns into a rant...



It's got all those built-in mathematical functions the 41 is lacking, and it's six times as fast.
You just need the Advantage module. I got my 41cx when they were giving that module out free with it. It's my understanding that they called it that because the 41 was losing the advantage with the 12c having the financial functions, the 15c having the complex-number, matrix, root-finding, and other such functions, and the 16c having things like the base conversions, ANDing and ORing, etc.. So for the 41 to gain back the advantage, they put all this in the Advantage module (although admittedly the 41 is still a little more clumsy at handling complex numbers). I've never had a 15c, but I've read that the 41 with the Advantage module can invert a matrix twice as fast as the 15c. I measured it to be about 25 times as fast as my TI-59 could do it, IIRC. To me, the 41 is generally better as a calculator than the 71 (which does better as a computer), but when I want to do complex-number crunching, I reach for the 71.


Hello, Garth --

You just need the Advantage module. I got my 41cx when they were giving that module out free with it.

I do, in fact, have one Advantage ROM for my 41C, 41CV, and 41CX (all purchased used since 2002). I also have each of the Voyager models, but only the 15C did I buy new from the store, in 1983.

The Advantage ROM is a 12kB chip with some of its routines as microcoded programs (e.g., SOLVE, INTEG, base conversion functions, and most of the matrix functions), but many others are slow RPN keystroke routines. Still, it is the best HP-made ROM for the 41-series, IMO -- a "must have" for the collector.

SOLVE and INTEG are very well-done, and the library of powerful microcoded matrix routines is impressive. However, the user is still burdened with having to remember the names of the extra routines, and to endure the clumsiness of the RPN routines (e.g., the complex-number functions).

No, "added on" in a handheld calculator is not as good as "built in". Much of the added functionality, moreover, represents only a sample or a limited set of what the respective "dedicated" models offer.

The intuitivity and ease of use of the matrix-math and complex-number functionality on the HP-15C just isn't equaled on the HP-41 Advantage ROM -- trust me. This can be very important on collegiate examinations.

BTW, it's interesting that the Advantage ROM was a "throw in" when you bought your 41CX. One of my colleagues has a 41CX and Advantage Pac from his college days in 1988, but I think he paid for the Pac.

-- KS

Edited: 29 Jan 2006, 3:27 a.m.


I am overwhelmed at the support for the various machines mentioned in this thread. Since posting this thread, I have started to read the Memoirs section of the Museum (interesting stuff). I greatly appreciate all the information and hope to read more.

From '88 to 2003, I owned the 32s (purchased at the University of Texas at Arlington), but never really used it for more than just an RPN calculator. The programming aspect seemed unnecessary during my time in the military. Hence, my 32s acted as a device to balance my checkbook. :(

In 2003, I found this site and was overwhelmed by the variety and history of the HP machines. Since then I have bought and sold several of the models, trying to get a feel for which ones would be the most useful for my return to university (I don't really "need" a graphing). So far my useage has included the following, 32s, 42s, 41cv, 41cx, 11c, 15c, 16c, 20s and my coveted 27s.

While I realize the construction of (eaiser disassembly too) the Voyager series seems more robust and the LCD is very easy to read, I find the layout a bit difficult to use. Maybe this lies with my first calc being the Pioneer model 32s. The 41c models are a special case in that they just have a special "panache" about them. They are harder to use compared to the voyager set, no doubt. The typing in of the functions can get old fast, but it is still a beautiful (if not clunky) machine.

Strangely enough, the 27s has become my "baby". While is is Algebraic, is has a stack and SO MANY FUNCTIONS. And this is where I become confused. The 27s has a SOLVER that lets you input a formula/equation and solve for any variable. Is this any different than the 15c? I have yet to play with the 15c to any extent (just recently giving it a second chance). The 32s SOLVER seems more like the 27s SOLVER.

So, it comes to progammability. How important is it, when compared to the ability of the 27s. I have compared the 15c, the 32s and 27s and it seems that for standard equations, the 27s is the alpha wolf. So where does the strenght of the programming come into play versus just using the SOLVER on the 27s. I have an idea of the differences, but it would be nice to get more details from those who use them. By the way, does anyone here use the 27s?




Joe --

I think that your main question is how to fully exploit the capbilities of the equation editor on the HP-27S and other models. You should get the "HP-27S/19B Technical Applications" book, scanned on the MoHPC CD #1 or DVD. I wish I had a paper copy...

Regarding SOLVE capabilities, here is some history:

The original numerical-iteration SOLVE function was introduced for programmable RPN calculators on the HP-34C in 1979. It requires the user to program a function f(x) as a labeled RPN keystroke routine that takes a value "x" from the stack x-register and leaves f(x) is the output in the x-register. The user provides two first-guesses x1 and x2 in the x- and y-registers to SOLVE, wheich then executes the function repeatedly to obtain the answer.

The SOLVE function was implemented, apparently unmodified, in the HP-15C in 1982, and was adapted with minor changes for the HP-41 Advantage Pac in 1985. The same mathematical algorithms of SOLVE were later adapted with some changes to operating paradigm for the RPN HP-32S, HP-32SII, and HP-42S.

The algebraic HP-17B, HP-17BII, HP-18C, HP-19B, HP-19BII, and HP-27S do not have keystroke programmability. However, these high-end Pioneer-series models do have high-resolution multi-line dot-matrix displays that provide up to six alphanumerically-legended softkey menu items in the bottom row of the display.

SOLVE on these algebraic models is the same: The user must define the function to be solved as an algebraic expression. SOLVE will validate and parse the expression, and provide a convenient means via the menu for the user to initialize the fixed variables and select the variable to be solved. A direct algebraically-derived (instead of numerically iterated) solution will be returned if the calc deems possible.

The algebraic HP-22S has a coarse one-line dot-matrix display that does not support the alphanumeric legends for menus. However, a less-sophisticated expression-entry capability with SOLVE was provided. This was later ported to the HP-32SII, complementing its RPN-keystroke programming capabilities.

SOLVE on the HP-33S has all the capabilities of the HP-32SII, with the addition of the algebraic direct-solution logic.

Some additional info about SOLVE (primarily for RPN models) is available in my MoHPC article.


-- KS

Edited: 29 Jan 2006, 3:32 p.m.


Hi Karl,
Nice summary :-)



I have a 27s and I do use it. I like the solver and large memory along with scientific functions. It is great for anything that can be solved with a solvable equation. But I use the voyagers/pioneers mostly, for their keystroke programming which is useful for keyboard shortcuts and programs that streamline repetetive tasks.

I also have a 17bii which is nearly identical in functionality except that it is RPN and missing the scientifics. The one notable difference in operation between the 17bii and the 27s is that in the 27s, there is no "swap" function. This is unfortunate. It means that you have to store, roll down, recall, instead of swapping. Interestingly, the swap on the 17bii works whether it is in "Alg" or RPN. (of course the Alg on the 17bii is not alg--it is simple infix with no precedence) .

The other great thing on both the 17b(ii), the 19b(ii) and the 27s is the "STAT" (27s) also known as "SUM" (17b) which makes the whole process of going through a checking account while not at a comuter so much easier!



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