|The (sad) future of RPN?|
Message #1 Posted by Sam Peld on 18 Nov 1999, 12:24 p.m.
The (sad) future of RPN?
I don't like the conclusion I have come up with and would like to be proved wrong! What's your considered view? (Please, no abusive replies.)
This is eerily similar to what has happened to military specification semiconductors, if manufacturers can make their money in lower specification products they won't make the higher specification ones any more.
Facts: (see notes below)
1 The calculator market was very small and has grown to be very large.
2 Prices for calculators were extremely high and are now very cheap.
3 Manufacturing techniques now favor large production runs.
4 RPN will is unlikely to have mass market appeal.
5 Only a small and diminishing number of calculators are RPN (no totally new RPN only calculators have been released for nearly 10 years, the reasons for this are many)
6 Those lobbying for RPN (including myself) are a vocal minority.
7 Prices for old (and not so old) HP calculators are high due to users AND collectors seeing the writing on the wall.
Point 1, 2 and 3: This had the effect that early producers could pander to the users who were generally speaking well off and knowledgeable people interested in getting the most out of their expensive purchase (this does NOT mean that well off and knowledgeable people don't exist any more, it's just they don't form the majority of the calculator buyers.) Now the market is much more broad based and favors large production runs which have to cater for every user (lowest common denominator wins). Modern scientific calculators are now almost throw away items costing $10 or less.
Point 4: The vast majority of people sadly don't care what input system is used just as long as they don't have to learn a new system every time they pick up a new calculator. This will always favor the majority input system which is semi algebraic or more commonly full algebraic. In truth the RPN system always had a minority following, it was just that this minority was the majority of dedicated calculator operators prepared to pay high prices for good equipment.
Point 5: The last ones were HP42/48. The HP49G has both but the manual clearly favors algebraic, and these $100+ calculators will always be small sellers. Any manufacturer launching a new general purpose RPN calculator on the mass market will lose money because most buyers won't like the entry system.
Point 6: People are voting (albeit blindly) with their feet, the percentage share of the market for RPN is tiny (<1% world wide?). In my schooling and engineering career so far (15 years) the number of other people who had RPN calculators could be counted on one thumb (may be this is only true for the UK?). Those who do buy RPN can't hope to sway the opinion of manufacturers selling millions of algebraic calculators every year.
Point 7: Old things only become valuable when they can't be replaced at any (reasonable) cost. Why bother to pay good money for am old calculator if you new something better was just around the corner?
The conclusion is RPN for low to mid range calculators is dead, buy the HP32SII calculator while you can! RPN's only refuge is in high end calculators with low(ish) production runs and it looks only to be as an option.
The garish HP49 does not suit professionals who want something that looks less like a game boy and more like an HP42/48. Anyone have a nice HP42S for sale to a good home?
PS The only exception to this is if one or more of the calculator manufacturers stick their neck out, convince users that RPN is the next big thing and invest heavily in a $15 calculator that does nearly everything, and provide support to education establishments. This would be rather risky and I don't see it happening no matter how much I want it to. :-(