Question for HP collectors


Hello everyone,

So I've started branching out in terms of which models to obtain for my HP hand-held collection. Since I have recently gotten my hands on a few HP95LX machines (soo cute and pretty useful as an electronic gradebook for my calculus class), I was wondering if any of you could answer a question on collecting HP hand-helds.

At what point would you say "OK, this is no longer a hand-held machine?" I truly enjoy tinkering on the 95LX, and am thinking of obtaining an HP100LX as well as an HP200LX. Then I noticed that HP also had Omnibooks they produced some time back, not to mention similar "hand-helds" (or would you not classify them as such).

Anecdotes, advice, remarks are all welcome.



Check out the collector's corner:

Study the history a bit and make a list of what you want to start with. In other words, try to have a goal so that you can stop when you have collected certain models.

You might start with one from each family (or series), then decide which family you like the most. If you still have extra cash at that point, you might collect each model from your favorite series. The HP35 was the first handheld scientific, so it's good to have that one. The rest will be up to you. I'm sure there'll be many posts after this one telling you which ones to buy and which are their favorites, but you can decide that for yourself based on how much you appreciate what each family brings to the table. There were some "firsts" with certain models (e.g., the HP55 was the first with a stopwatch feature). If you find this fascinating, then get that model, too.

Watch for Ebay prices being on the high side for some models. You don't have to spend top dollar for the best model from each family if all you want is one calc from each family. Of course, you could collect only the most prized models regardless of family (e.g., HP67, 15C, 41CX, 42S, 48GX, etc.). Let us know which direction you want to take.

It's always good to hear the theme for each collection.

Edited: 16 Apr 2006, 5:25 p.m.


I think the distinction between a handheld calculator and some other device is an interesting topic, full of subtleties, and rife with propenents of this or that point of view. I enjoy chewing over this sort of thing as much as the next guy. But when it comes to defining my collecting goals, it's nearly irrelevant. I collect machines that interest me. I define those interests by the amount of pleasure I get playing with the machines I collect. Currently, the machines that are pleasing me the most are my HP-85B and new Integral PC. These aren't handhelds, no matter how you try to stretch the term. However, the 85B may be a "calculator" depending on who you talk to.

My point is, have fun discussing what people believe "handheld calculator" means. But follow your heart in your collecting. You'll enjoy it more.

Having said that, there are at least two definitions of "handheld calculator" that make sense to me. First, there's the common-sense definition of a machine that can be held in your hand, and is capable of doing math with a calculator style keyboard. Your 95LX, with its numeric pad, certainly qualifies under that definition. My Zaurus systems, running Linux, do not. They run calculator simulations like Nonpareil just fine, for instance, but their keyboards are pure QWERTY. Under this definition, the 71B is a handheld calculator, and the 75C/D is a small computer. The 75 is bigger than a handheld, and lacks the numeric keypad. (Digression: I don't count the overlay of a number grid on the typewriter keys as qualifying the 75C as a calculator. It is interesting that technique was used on the 75, though. It's in use on many laptops today. Does anyone know if it originated with the 75?)

Second, a narrower definition more appropriate to this site might combine the first, and add the proviso that the machine be one of the products produced by Hewlett Packard's calculator division, or "portable computer" division, in Corvallis, or its successors in Singapore and Australia. Your 95LX qualifies under that definition as well.

You can see the family resemblance. The keyboard on the 95LX is reminiscent of the calculators we all love. There's a business calculator program on board as well, that can be switched into RPN mode. All in all, I think these sweet little computers belong in the family of collectible HP handheld calculators.



Thank you for the responses so far. I did check out the link prior to my original post; perhaps I could clarify a bit here. What I meant to ask was: how do each of you personally decide which calculators you fancy?

Me, I have always loved the feel of pretty much any HP machine that has keys resembling those found on the HP48 series. So the Pioneer series and the LX series are my current interests. But to be honest, pretty much any calculating machine with an HP logo on it would interest me. I'm just not sure my wallet is as easily swayed.

So I am trying to limit myself to "hand-helds"... of course I have not really decided what that means just yet. And I am quite curious what other collectors have to say about what they think makes a machine a "hand-held." What are some of your personal requirements when looking to pick up a new HP unit?


Howard Owen wrote:

(Digression: I don't count the overlay of a number grid on the typewriter keys as qualifying the 75C as a calculator. It is interesting that technique was used on the 75, though. It's in use on many laptops today. Does anyone know if it originated with the 75?)

The earliest example I can find is the IBM 026 Keypunch, from 1949! See this 026 Keypunch Page for details. Note that the numbers use the same letter keys as today but are arranged with 1-2-3 on top, telephone style, though push-button telephones were at least a decade in the future. I don't know what the first use of 1-2-3 on J-K-L was; anyone else know?

- Michael


That is really cool!

The site says the keypunch uses "BCDIC" and that it "descend(s) directly from the original design of Herman Hollerith." So I wonder if the numeric overlay goes back that far?

Wikipedia only discusses EBCDIC, which is the 8-bit code in use on IBM mainframes from 1961 forward.



A little more link clicking brought me to this page showing Hollerith's first keypunch machine. (Not the one used in the 1890 census. Scroll up for that non-keypunch punched card system) This machine has only numbers on its keypad, arranged with 1-2-3 on top. Farther down, there's a photograph and a link to
this machine, which is touted as ".. the first machine to punch digits or alphabetic combinations, and print the corresponding letters across the top margin of the card." Unfortunately, neither the photo at Columbia, or the one at the IBM site shows the keyboard clearly enough. But it stands to reason that it would have included the numeric overlay on the alpha keys, given that the original machines had only numbers.



Back on topic, and responding to Han's clarified question, which I answered only partially in my first post.

I like computer systems. I have made a career out of working with them because I just love them to death. The first computer I learned to program, the HP-41C calculator, was actually part of a computer system. It's hard to say whether that fact caused my lifelong attachment to systems, or if I was attached to the calculator because of it, or both.

However that was, I collect small HP systems now. I define a computer system to have processing, and input/output capability, including mass storage at least. The ability to participate in a network is a plus, as is expandibility. The "small" part is dictated by my available space, which is limited. However, I do own three 80 series machines, a 9816, an Integral PC and four HP 9000/300 systems. I also own a few machines that don't meet the above criterea completely, notably the HP-42S. The 42 represents the highest level that the RPN programmable calculator ever attained, in terms of its features and programmability, so I make an exception for it. I bought a 33S to understand where HP is with RPN machines today. Then I bought a 32S and 32SII to understand where the 33S came from. I bought HP-48's because they qualify as systems. I then bought a 49g+ to see where RPL machines were today, and an HP-28S to see where they came from.

So I'm not religious about defining what I collect. The critereon is "does it interest me?" Since I have this bias for computer systems, what interests me tends to be system-like.


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