Please Help Choose - 41C/CV/CX, 48S/SX, 48G/GX?



#16

Can I please get some advice on which HP calculator to get?

I am interested in a programmable RPN handheld calculator. I would like to have access to a wide variety of existing programs on ROM or downloadable, and I'd also probably try writing my own. The subjects would be whatever is interesting me at the time, starting currently with financial, business stats, derivatives pricing; electrical circuits; and antenna design. I'm looking for something usable and reliable, rather than necessarily something vintage and quirky. I don't think I'd use much I/O or printing, but am not sure about that. I would probably eventually get two or three of whatever calculator I pick, one to use and two to stash away as spares.

I'm interested in doing this because I don't see HP coming out with any new high-end calculators, the old HP calculators are just getting older, and AFAIK no-one else makes RPN programmables. So I'm thinking that if I want this sort of tool, I'd better get it now.

Am I correct that my best choices are HP41C/CV/CX, HP48S/SX, and HP48G/GX?

How would you choose between these? What are the pros and cons?

Which one has the most software available? Which one is easiest to get software into, and to program for myself?

Should I assume that because the 48G/GX is the newest, it will be supported by the HP enthusiast community for the longest time?

How about long-term durability, serviceability, and reliability?

Finally, is this just a dumb idea? Do the current small PCs (like the Origami machines, the Toshiba Libretto, or even the pocket-sized oQo) or PDAs (like PocketPCs) make 1980s and 1990s vintage HP calculators obsolete, except for the retro-minded?

Thank you!


#17

Personally, I think PDAs will never make calculators obsolete. Calculators by design have more buttons which allow for faster access to often-used commands. Most PDAs today use some sort of pen and touch screen, with few keys. Even though there exist emulators for older calculators that can run on these PDAs, I think it is safe to say that many people would prefer to use the original calculator over the emulator simply because the "point-and-click" method of user input is very clunky, especially on a caclulator-sized screen.

Am I correct that my best choices are HP41C/CV/CX, HP48S/SX, and HP48G/GX?

In my own opinion, the most popular ones are the HP41C_, HP48_, HP42S, and HP32S/SII in the RPN/RPL category.

How would you choose between these? What are the pros and cons?

Which one has the most software available? Which one is easiest to get software into, and to program for myself?

Should I assume that because the 48G/GX is the newest, it will be supported by the HP enthusiast community for the longest time?

My personal favorite the HP48G series. The HP48 family has quite a large amount of software in both downloadable form (www.hpcalc.org) as well as ROM card form. Loading the programs onto an HP48 is easy as well (via RS232 serial cable). The HP48 has several programming languages: the BASIC-like User-RPL, System-RPL (the language underneath User-RPL), and assembly (low-level programming language).
I cannot speak for the HP41 series as I have never owned one. By the way, I am grossly biased toward the HP48 family, just in case isn't crystal clear =) (At one point in time, I owned more than 10 of them).

How about long-term durability, serviceability, and reliability?

www.fixthatcalc.com seems to work wonders for many people. I myself have never used their services, but they have a good reputation amongst HP enthusiasts.

#18

"jyl" --

Wow, a lot of questions here, but well-formulated, at least.

The HP-41 and HP-48 are quite different.

The HP-41 series ran from 1979-1990, and is true RPN. The successor HP-48 series uses RPL (as explained by Han below). Programs and applications written for a 41 will not be compatible or easily portable to a 48. Personally, I find RPN very straightforward (but not well-suited for very complex programs, being very assembly-like); I find RPL very convoluted and not well-suited to any kind of programming.

The HP-48SX and GX have two ports for installation of advanced pre-programmed software cards and extra memory. These are very popular with surveyors, and command much higher prices than the non-expandable HP-48S, HP-48G, and HP-48G+. All HP-48's have infrared and hardwire I/O, and all offer graphing capability.

The HP-41 has four expansion ports for pre-programmed software modules and I/O devices (e.g., card readers, barcode readers, HP-IL). However, much of the software on the modules consists of klunky RPN routines instead of machine-coded functions. There is also a vast repertoire of user-written "solutions" in the topics you mention, but these also are usually keystroke programs. The 41CX has Time functions, Extended Functions, and maximum memory built-in.

The HP-48's are probably more reliable but less serviceable than the HP-41's. The pre-1986 HP-41's tend to need service due to their age and complex design, but are repairable, and have better quality of construction and componentry.

THe HP-48 G-series includes a built-in useful equation library and runs faster than the S-series.

Of course, the top of the respective lines are the HP-41CX and the HP-48GX.

-- KS


#19

As I read more about this, I'm a bit worried about the ease (or not) of getting programs into the HP41CX.

As far as I can tell, I will need to buy at least a HP-IL card and an old 286 PC to install it in. Then I'll have to somehow connect that old PC to my wireless network to download programs. Not many ISA 802.11g cards out there. Is this going to be as clunky as it sounds?

Other than that, the 41CX seems like it would work for me. The various modules do seem rather expensive/hard-to-get. But it also seems like every program originally available on a module can also be downloaded from hp41.org, along with many user-written ones. I am not sure, can numerous programs be stored in the calculator's internal memory or in Extended Memory Modules, in a non-volatile way?

The HP48GX seems like it would be easier to connect to a PC, using the serial port, and has quite a lot of internal memory. I'm now remembering that I had a HP46G once and didn't like it so much - don't recall why, this was 10+ years ago, seems it was quite confusing to use. But I was more interested in PCs and the Internet back then, maybe I didn't give the calculator its due.

I am having a hard time figuring this out.

#20

Quote:
Do the current small PCs (like the Origami machines, the Toshiba Libretto, or even the pocket-sized oQo) or PDAs (like PocketPCs) make 1980s and 1990s vintage HP calculators obsolete, except for the retro-minded?

Not yet; if the HP-49g+ didn't sell, I'm sure HP would stop making it. Also, the educational market will probably keep TI's calculator business afloat for years to come.


For general purpose handheld computing, I suspect the future belongs to mini-PCs, or large-screen PDAs with QWERTY keyboards like the Sharp Zaurus clamshell models. Prices will have to come down a lot, though.

I'd worry primarily about protecting your software investment, but since you're looking at the 41 and 48 series, you'll be fine, since you'll be able to use emulators for those machines (on PDAs, too!) even when the real thing becomes too hard to find.

- Thomas

#21

I love them all. Even the much maligned 49G+, which I just acquired, is beginning to grow on me.

I am very retrominded and have embarked on being a bit of a collector--I recently just paid way too much for somewhat beaten up 42S, but she works, and I have the box, which is supposed to mean something ;)

But if I were in your position, and wanted only one handheld computing device, I would get a PDA with a good size screen and run emulators and simulators. Actually, I use emulators and simulators more than the real calculators.

In the handheld emulator/simulator category, Thomas Okken's Free42 is darn near perfect, and when it isn't perfect he fixes it, and he is also a darn nice guy. Robert Hildinger's Power48 is positively gorgeous on a 380x420 screen (much too cramped on a 320x320 screen). He has sent me a prelim of version 1.5.2 to fool around with since I was bugging him so much about bugs, and hopefully this will be out for wide release in the months to come. P41CX for HP41 emulation is pretty good, but less than perfect, though Eric Smith advises that this will be superseded in the near future by a Palm implementation of his positively stunning Nonpareil. In the meantime, Free42 is the best bet for running HP41 code, and I credit Thomas entirely with educating me about the wonderful HP42S and his simulation of it.

I love the emulation and simulation concept so much that it was the main reason I got a Palm TX, and why I am thinking of splurging on a Lifedrive. I look forward to the screens of these units getting a little bigger in the future so the emulators will be even easier to use.

If you must have a "real" calculator, the HP48GX is a favourite around here. My only complaint is that it seems a little slow compared to my admittedly harder to learn HP49G+--another reason why I prefer the Power48 emulation with "true calculator speed" turned off.

I think all of the calculators you mention will be supported by enthusiasts for a long time to come. The only exception I can think of right now is the HP49G+, which HP still markets though it no longer actually makes. It can be much harder to use than its 48 and 49 predecessors, and apparently has some hardware level issues that frustrate those experts in such things. It also has a really lousy electronic manual on the CD. I am warming up to mine, but I am a bit of an outlier here--most of the gurus here don't have much good to say about the device.

I don't envy you your decision, which is why I have decided to cut some financial corners elsewhere and just buy 'em all!

Good luck,

Les


#22

...I guess that I'm going to be (sort of) the odd man out, here. As wonderful as all the old HP calculators are, I see them, and dedicated calculator platforms in general, as eventually being relagated to the sidelines of computing. At best, calculator emulations or simulations, hosted on more capable platforms will have some enduring value, but considering that this is the dawn of the 21st Century, may I suggest that you consider something more forward looking?

For the last two years, or so, I've been working with a tool called MathJournal, which is a numerical calculating and plotting application intended for use on TabletPC's (or any PC with Windows 2000 or XP, .NET 1.1 and some sort of graphical input device). MathJournal is just about to be released in Ver 2.0, and this new release is a major advance over the current version, MJ 1.1.

MathJournal allows you to handwrite mathematical experessions which it solves directly. In 2.0, it will handle most everything from basic arithematic to elementry calculus including matrix math and linear algebra. It has not yet reached the point where you can structure repetitive calculations, so perhaps it isn't quite ready for what you want, but tools like MJ are clearly the wave of the future, in my mind.

Regarding the above responses to your post, I agree with many of the comments and observations; the folks at this forum are a pretty smart bunch. If you must, I advise buying an HP-41CX (RPN is simple but very direct) or an HP-48GX (RPL is really a pain, but the -48 is impressively powerful... and speed isn't THAT big a deal!)

But... but, I really think that you ought to devote some thought to more modern approaches...

See: www.xThink.com

#23

"Which one is easiest to get software into"? 48 series (you just need one cable or use the I.R.). For the 41 series you will need to get other mass storage or transfer devices, or one of the clonix series. For that see http://www.clonix41.org/

"and to program for myself"? 41, hands down.

"AFAIK no-one else makes RPN programmables" The only other make of rpn, programmable or not, that is currently available is the Aurora fn1000 which is a functional copy of the hp 12c so it has no storage/transfer. There's two shots of one at http://www.msdsite.com/photopost/showphoto.php?photo=280&cat=534

Richard Ottoson and Eric Smith are working on their 3rd generation RPN programmable. There is a hint that it may have a slot for a flash memory card. We will just have to wait and see.


#24

Thank you for pointing me to clonix41. I also found references to MLDL2000, though I'm not clear if it is currently available to purchase. Anyway, I am getting the impression that owning a 41CX need not mean cluttering up the house with an ancient PC to interface with.

About the calculator vs PC/PDA issue - I admit, the main competition (for me) to an HP 41/48 would be a OQO http://www.oqo.com which would be just as pocketable and run pretty much any Windows or Linux apps, including of course calculator emulators. The OQO is not cheap but by the time you add all the calculator peripherals, the difference is less.


#25

Quote:
I'm interested in doing this because I don't see HP coming out with any new high-end calculators, the old HP calculators are just getting older, and AFAIK no-one else makes RPN programmables. So I'm thinking that if I want this sort of tool, I'd better get it now.

There is the rumored 50G coming out in June. http://commerce.hpcalc.org/

Quote:
Am I correct that my best choices are HP41C/CV/CX, HP48S/SX, and HP48G/GX?

IMHO, from a quality perspective, yes.

Quote:
Which one has the most software available? Which one is easiest to get software into, and to program for myself?

48GX. Large screen makes on-board development nice. Graphics is a plus. Serial port for bidirectional transfer a must. The 48GX can emulate the 41CX (http://www.hrastprogrammer.com/).

Quote:
Should I assume that because the 48G/GX is the newest, it will be supported by the HP enthusiast community for the longest time?

Yes.

Quote:
How about long-term durability, serviceability, and reliability?

Buy two or three, just in case. I give high marks to the 48GX for durability and reliability. For serviceability, well you have outfits like fixthatcalc.com.

Quote:
Finally, is this just a dumb idea? Do the current small PCs (like the Origami machines, the Toshiba Libretto, or even the pocket-sized oQo) or PDAs (like PocketPCs) make 1980s and 1990s vintage HP calculators obsolete, except for the retro-minded?

Vintage HP calculators functionally are obsolete. The current HP models in a general sense are functionally superior. But, if you consider tactile feedback, aesthetic design, serial communications, expandability, software availability, community support, emulator availability, pure joy and a big enter key that screams "stack it", then the 48GX is hard to beat. IMHO, not obsolete.

Printed tables were replaced by the slide-ruler, and the slide-ruler replaced by the pocket calculator (Scientific American, May 2006, Page 80). Yes, something will eventually replace the programmable scientific calculator as we know it today. It will not be a single one-to-one replacement, but more of a function-by-function replacement. E.g., for many the spreadsheet killed the desktop calculator, or at least its monthly usage. Everyone on this list has a computer or access to one, that may not have been true for many when they got their first 41C or 48GX. It begs the question, "How many scientific calculator functions have been replaced by their computers?"

There is a lot of great scientific computer software for complex computation and visualization that cannot be matched with a calculator. Scientific calculators (RPN or not) are losing ground. Colleagues younger than me do not even know what RPN is, older colleagues may have used a RPN calculator a "long time ago", but are not religious about it and both groups just use what ever calculator is available within the OS they run.

My kids school is an another example. Grades 6-12 require a TI-83 (I was not happy about it either). Starting in 2007 they become a "laptop school". I am not sure exactly what that is yet. But each student will use a laptop in class. Does that mean that specialized software will replace the TI-83? (What are they going to do about power? :-)

IMHO, The last hope of the high quality, high function, programable scientific calculator is in developing countries. With 6.5 billion people and only about one billion PCs, billions have yet to pick a method of scientific computation. The cost and available of power, computers, and software make high function, serviceable, rugged programable scientific calculators with their superior battery life a must have. Want to save RPN? Educate the developing world.

The non-scientific non-programmable calculators will continue to have a very long life (the abacus is still being manufactured and used today). If a calculator is handy ask yourself what you reach for when you need a add a few numbers together.

Bottom line, buy both while you can. Put your collection all over your desk, use different ones for different functions. Enjoy it while you can.


#26

Quote:
Printed tables were replaced by the slide-ruler, and the slide-ruler replaced by the pocket calculator

That's not quite correct. Slide rules did not replace printed logarithmic tables. They make good, portable supplements to printed tables. In most cases, a slide rule is accurate for calculations involving two or three significant digits, which is plenty for many common engineering or construction problems. But log tables are perfect for calculations requiring more digits of precision. A person today may carry a pocket calculator for everyday use but also have a desktop or laptop computer for heavy-duty number crunching. In much the same way, it once was common practice to carry a slide rule for day-to-day work but keep a big book of ten-place (or higher) log tables on the desk for use when more precision was needed.


#27

I confirm.

-- Antonio

#28

Quote:


That's not quite correct. Slide rules did not replace printed logarithmic tables. They make good, portable supplements to printed tables. In most cases, a slide rule is accurate for calculations involving two or three significant digits, which is plenty for many common engineering or construction problems. But log tables are perfect for calculations requiring more digits of precision. A person today may carry a pocket calculator for everyday use but also have a desktop or laptop computer for heavy-duty number crunching. In much the same way, it once was common practice to carry a slide rule for day-to-day work but keep a big book of ten-place (or higher) log tables on the desk for use when more precision was needed.


Agreed. It was an over simplification to make a point.

#29

Hello!

Quote:
1. How would you choose between these?

2. What are the pros and cons?

3. Which one has the most software available?

4. Which one is easiest to get software into, and to program for myself?

5. Should I assume that because the 48G/GX is the newest, it will be supported by the HP enthusiast community for the longest time?

6. How about long-term durability, serviceability, and reliability?

7. Finally, is this just a dumb idea?

8. Do the current small PCs (like the Origami machines, the Toshiba Libretto, or even the pocket-sized oQo) or PDAs (like PocketPCs) make 1980s and 1990s vintage HP calculators obsolete, except for the retro-minded?


So let me also give it a try :-)

7: No, not at all!

6: Hp-41s are much more durable than all later products by HP. 48s and 49s tend to develop all kinds of keyboard and display issues with time.

1&2: Difficult... 41 has only one line of display, getting alphanumeric prmopts (which is really a necessity if you dont use your programs every day) is awkward. But in every other respect it is much more straightforward to use.

3: Probably the 48 series.

4: Gettings software into: 48 (if you dont use Macintosh computers like I do :-( ). Programming yourself: 41. RPL, the programming language of the 48 series is a real pain in the ass. The most awful programming language ever conceived if you ask me, and i've seen quite a few of them.

5: No.

8: Well there are other alternatives too: I just came home from the flea market with a Ti-92 (n.i.b. for 25 Euros :-))))) ). Have played with it for the last hour. Sorry to say that here, but no pocket calculator hp has ever made can match this thing. Truly amazing little machine, beats hp48 10 to 1 I would say, but of course, it is nearly 10 years more advanced (mine is from 1997) ...

Greetings, Max

#30

A "HP-50G"? Hmm, I hadn't heard of this one. Is it real?

I'm kind of leaning toward the 41, if it is indeed simpler to program. I guess I'm assuming that the clonix41 product is good, available, and affordable though.


#31

Have you tried out any of the emulators? I definitely recommend giving them a try to get an idea of what the machines' capabilities.

Han


#32

Hi Han,

Scroll up a bit--

I put in a vote for a larger screen Palm device (TX or LifeDrive) with all of the emulators loaded. That is my set-up--I have a beta version of Power48 1.5.2, graciously provided me by Robert Hildinger while he prepares the final release, the glorious Free42, now up to release 1.4.22, and the slightly less satisfactory P41CX, which is to be supplanted by a Palm version of Nonpareil in the foreseeable future, according to emulator/simulator wizard Eric Smith.

The original poster mentioned something about the ogo device--which looks amazing, though is still costly.

I now own 6 HPs in my growing little collection, but in recent days I use the emulators the most.

So your advice the original poster is very sensible indeed :)

Les


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