Basic RPN Calculator Market Size


What is the market size for a basic/scientific calculator with pure RPN mode of operation? Did HP or anyone else conduct a survey on it? My reference for a basic/scientific calculator is one similar to the HP9s or TI30XA. Probably one without programming capability. But with limited number of memory registers.

Did HP do a survey back in the 80's and decided that the market is just not there and started incorporating algebraic mode of operations into all their calculators (with the exception of the 12C, but I can see that the 12C will very soon be replaced by the 12CP)? or the market is too small for HP's appetite.


I think the perception is that RPN needs to be learned and algebraic entry is "natural." This is particularly considered to be the case for students, although if anything it is the teachers who need to be educated, and TI hit that market early smearing RPN calculators because they sold algebraic calculator. (See the Edison/Westinghouse--AC vs. DC controversy for an earlier example of the same marketing strategy.)

Whether there is any truth to the hype I can't tell. I was introduced to RPN by my father with his first calculator (a Sinclair) and it always made sense to me. I had also used adding machines at that time, which are essentially RPN as well. At this point the only reason RPN requires to be learned is that the market has left it behind. Doesn't make sense to me but then I use RPN calculators, Dvorak keyboards, and a stick shift cars. (Didn't buy a VCR of my own until after betamax was dead.)

I'm preparing for a certification exam that will not allow programmable calculators. I would love to have a mass market basic unprogrammable calculator using RPN as there is a bit of math on this exam.


HP did a study back in '70 or so and decided that the market for a shirt pocket scientific was only about 50,000 units. They built the 35 anyway. So much for market surveys.

Maybe now that Carly is gone there might be a change in hp's strategy. I may be wrong but i believe that there is something to be said for making or using the best.


Unfortunately, I don't see HP changing strategy. They are focusing on the Computers thesedays, their no. 2 revenue generating division, behind the printer division.

What is troubling is that they built up a niche market for RPN over a period of 20 years and give it a lukewarm treatment thesedays. A lot of companies would love to have such a niche market, not necessarily in RPN though.


At one time the calculator division was HP's MOST profitable division, as well has having been their ONLY consumer products division. By the late 1980s, neither was true any longer. It's not unexpected that HP chooses to focus their resources on more profitable divisions. To some extent it is surprising that they have actually stayed in that market; it suggests that HP management actually DOES see that there is some value to it above the raw P&L - in other words, the brand recognition for HP calculators carries over into other areas.

But anyone that thinks that HP might ever increase the resources devoted to the calculator division to an appreciable fraction of what it was in the glory days is deluding themselves.


Eric; I guess we'll just have to rely on you and Richard then. I know that I'm relying on you. See ya in 3 weeks. - d

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