[OT?] The strangeness of the programmable calculator market


Some time ago, out of curiosity, I bought a Sharp EL-5250. (At a bargain price, otherwise curiosity wouldn't have been enough.) It's obviously targeted at high-school students -- x^3 on the keyboard, as a primary key, no less? Check. Quadratic equation solver? Check. It is also programmable in a kind of pidgin BASIC, with 4 KB of storage shared between programs and equations.

Now, there is a good reason why the above link is to Sharp's Australian site -- it's the only English-language page with non-bare-bones specs for the calculator. Of other Sharp regional sites, only the Italian and Central/Eastern European sites have that model listed. The German site offers EL-5120, the predecessor of the 5250. The rest may have a few non-programmable scientifics, or no calculators at all.

I'm sure that Sharp has done its share of marketing studies which translated into this pattern of availability, but what I'm wondering about are the underlying reasons -- what is it that makes a programmable scientific calculator marketable in Italy and Australia, and not in France and the UK?

As for the 5250, it's a nice enough machine, although in a cynical mood I would call it a monument to non-orthogonality. (HP-33s, as constrained as it may be, is probably a better machine.) Programming is a bit awkward, there is no debugging, and the programs consume memory with abandon. But it's there, it's useful, and yes, it's fun.

(An interesting parallel: the 5250 is powered by two CR2032s. The manual warns that batteries must be replaced one at a time to avoid memory loss. Sounds familiar?)




Even more OT and no answer to your question, sorry:

I've owned the EL-5120 since this machine has basically everything the 32SII has and I was looking for a cheap replacement. When I got it, I noticed that there was no reasonable way to work with arrays and the interface was quite awkward so I sold it a few days later. No more Sharp 'scientifics' for me! (Of course, I still have my PC-1500 :)


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