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New HP?? Xpander
Message #1 Posted by bill duncan on 7 Aug 2000, 11:36 a.m.

I found this news on slashdot. Rumours of a machine with a fast risc cpu, 20x200 screen 256 shades of gray, MP3 playing capabilities. Might even run Linux. See the stories here:

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #2 Posted by Michael H. on 7 Aug 2000, 2:47 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by bill duncan

Makes me nervous that it is being targeted to educators/students. ("Featuring ease of use you've only dreamed about, now you'll have the power to teach math, not calculator usage.") It seems to me like they would include some kind of rudimentary networking capability - then they could get rid of those awkward overhead interfaces - for problem demos, etc.

I guess if they make it fully expandable it might not be bad, but what about pocketability, keyboard, etc.

But the question remains - why can't they make a calculator for professionals? Do other people drag their laptops to meetings??? Professionals/businesses have much more money than students, school systems, and educators.

By the way...has math education changed so much in the last 10 years (I had high school calculus in 1991) that one has to have a calculator to learn effectively? I did just fine without one. Where my HP's came in very handy, were Chemistry and Physics. Calculators are for applied math - one's brain is for conceptual/pure math. I really would like to know if HS students learn much more than I did. My paranoid mind tells me that these new calculator based math curricula are a result of a business arrangement between calc. manufacturers and textbook publishers.

I'll say it again...give me a programmable, RPN 27S (make it both algebraic and RPN and call it 27SII - I like that about the 17BII - people can actually borrow your calculator with out feeling stupid) with a three line display (X:, Y:, and menu functions), I/O (and a program lib. to go with it), and make it look like the original 27S. I don't want a futuristic looking calculator - and I'm relatively young. I don't care about mp3's (do you listen to music during meetings, in the lab, on the shop floor, etc.). Why does one need a grayscale display (I don't play Doom or Tetris at work)?

One question for you old guys :) Did the 41 look "futuristic" when it came out (without respect to its capabilities)? Did this influence your decision to purchase it?

My rant is over. Sorry to keep rehashing many of the same old arguments.

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #3 Posted by Steve on 7 Aug 2000, 7:16 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael H.

> One question for you old guys :) Did the 41 look
> "futuristic" when it came out (without respect to its
> capabilities)? Did this influence your decision to purchase it?

Yes (and sexy looking too) and yes.

I just loved to run my fingers over the keypad, feeling those keys. Falling in love...

(I hope nobody reads this, they'll think I'm a calculator geek).

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #4 Posted by db on 7 Aug 2000, 9:19 p.m.,
in response to message #3 by Steve

steve; you are, and all us duffers are glad of it or we'd have to learn to do more than just ask you how to do stuf. anyway, each feature bill listed makes this sound like another hp gameboy, which might make them some sales, but what are THEY going to do when the people who design these things cant get a 16 or 41 or 42 and they have to use thier own trash? hey, while were on this subject; has anyone seen the new tds unit? (tds writes some popular but rather dodgy surveying software and has probably caused more gear to be bought from hp than ted kerber, ram ss, john rusch, redshift and ppc combined). it is supposed to be thier own but it looks like a newer husky. if tds - whose owners are a bunch of former hp hackers - can't trust hp to keep making good (enough) stuf: what can we expect? i'll stop ranting now.

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #5 Posted by Chan Tran on 7 Aug 2000, 10:11 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael H.

Yes the HP41 did look futuristic back then. At the time I didn't like its look. I like the look and feel of the HP97 better. I did buy the 41 and not the 97 for is capabilities and because I can put together a system piece by piece (card reader, printer, wand etc..). I couldn't afford the 97. I could afford to buy a piece of the HP41 system at a time.

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #6 Posted by bill duncan on 8 Aug 2000, 2:05 a.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael H.

About the only thing that interested me in the announcement was that it might run Linux...

It's interesting Michael, that the same arguments keep coming up, not for years, but for decades. I went through HS and University in the '70's, and back then people were saying that even four-banger calculators didn't help students. I have to admit that perhaps people (including myself) have become lazy and pull out the calculators a little too quickly.

On the other hand the programmability of the HP's in the late 70's and early eighties were a chance for that generation to experience programming, perhaps thinking at other levels of abstraction and imagination. Many of today's programmers probably got their start on those early machines.

Look at the incredible creativity those machines sparked in the libraries of programs developed for the 65, 67, 41 and much later in the 28c and 48 series.

Perhaps if this new machine is in fact Linux based and an open architecture, it might develop a whole new generation of programmers and libraries.

Of course that doesn't really solve the issue of having a decent professional calculator in their lineup...

As to the "conspiracy theory" you mentioned, it's interesting that HP made a big sale up here for the Ontario schools. They almost tried a "bait-and-switch" number on us as well. (They quoted on HP-38's, and tried to deliver HP-39's!!)


Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #7 Posted by bill duncan on 8 Aug 2000, 8:43 a.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael H.

At the time when I bought my original 41C (1979?) I didn't think too much of the look of it in fact. I preferred the more solid feel of the HP-29C I owned (and still do). The 41C did not seem as robust and the keys didn't have the same feel. The reasons I bought it were strictly functional and the fact that it was expandable.

I own three 41's now, the original, a 41CV and a 41CX. They still seem a little more "delicate" than others I own, and in fact the 41C and CV need a little work. (The 41C has two ports which are dead, I had sped it up by 50% in the early days; the CV has a few sticky keys now.)


HP 41...
Message #8 Posted by Andrés C. Rodríguez on 8 Aug 2000, 8:52 a.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael H.

The HP 41 looked futuristic but not flashy or "sci fi"; just sheer capable. Certainly HP 41 first ads were on a futuristic line.

I would like to classify the HP 41 as a evolutionary BIG step. It introduced many innovative features (alpha capability, powerful programming constructs, catalogs, redefinable keyboard, flag annunciators, LCD, optical wand); and improve in many others (continuous memory, battery life, expandability far beyond the TI 58/59 printer, a reliable and silent card reader, multiple ROM / RAM cartridges, etc.).

From previous HP models, migration was a breeze, and the card reader had many features for 67/97 compatibility. Then HP-IL (introduced about 18 months after) opened new possibilities, as the time module, and extended memory did. Personally, I think that the extended memory management was not up to the quality standards of the HP 41; perhaps the classic calculator architecture was stretching a bit too far when dealing with files and character strings.

It allowed us to write amazingly powerful programs, but these assertions should be seen from the 1980 timeframe; today you may prefer a spreadsheet for many of those uses.

The HP 41 could be stored in a normal size pouch/case. It did not conspicuously draw attention from far. But I think that some things like the BEEP function on a prominent place were set to be "attractive" to its market.

Has math changed?
Message #9 Posted by Jerry Doctor on 8 Aug 2000, 1:44 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael H.

It is my sad duty to report that HS math has changed that much. Unfortunately, I am not talking about lower level math but the top HS offerings. The Advanced Placement Calculus Test, for example, now REQUIRES the use of a graphing calculator.

The calculators used are usually TI's. Indeed, some of the problems that show-up seem tailored to the TI machines. No matter that the use of different model TI's will given different answers to the same problem, that some solutions may not be found with the calculators, or that students are no longer required to be able to solve certain types of problems without a calculator, this is the way Calculus is now being taught throughout the country.

The only thing worse are the "standards" for math education laid out by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. For example, they have advocated dropping logarithms from the curriculum for several years. "Don't need logs - you multiply & divide on a calculator." Now if they could just convince NATURE to stop using logs. . . Sigh.

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #10 Posted by Kevin FitzGerrell on 8 Aug 2000, 7:49 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael H.

I think the biggest problem marketing HP calculators to professionals is that most professionals may not change their calculator even once in a decade, while with students there is a whole new crop each year. There are also a lot more students than professionals. Finally, the same students who buy a calculator in Jr. High will buy a graphing calculator in high school and upgrade to a high end graphing calculator for college (whether they need it or not). That is many more sales than the professional market can deliver. Finally, all those students who used the calculators in college may be looking for what they are already familiar with when they (as professionals) finally decide to replace the calculator they used in college. TI has been pushing advanced calculators for the educational market for about 25 years now. I think what HP is up against now (and has been for some time) is a professional market where most of the new users have used TI calculators for so long they see no reason to buy an HP.

As for me, when my father worked at the Bureau of Standards, he had an HP calculator (29, and later 67 probably) that I thought was just amazing. I couldn't afford such a calculator, but for summer surveying I bought a TI-55. Programming was pretty limited (no program control) but I could set up simple surveying programs to eliminate a lot of the grunt work. When I got to college and saw the HP-41CV in the college bookstore I knew I had to have one, but there was no way I could afford it. I finally saved enough to buy a 41CX a year or two later.

At this time in college a calculator was very useful in labs, very important in doing homework problems, and not particularly useful in class. I didn't find calculators particularly useful in math tests, but very useful in physics and chemistry tests. I didn't really need an HP-41CX when I bought it, but that LCD screen and the module ports looked much more futuristic than my TI-55. The alpha keypad was a big deal. I promptly used the vast computing power at my fingertips to program "Lunar Lander" and "Hunt the Wumpus". I have to admit that if I could have used my calculator to listen to music, watch TV, follow Fidonet echos, beam messages around the classroom and other similarly non-calculator related stuff I would probably have bought it the first day I saw it and just done without food (or beer) for a semester or two.

Math in high schools may have changed in the last decade, although I doubt it. The way math is presented in school has certainly changed. Graphing calculators make it very easy to get across concepts that took much longer when plotting points manually. Ideally this would mean students get to the underlying concepts with less time spent on the mechanics of graphing and solving for points. What I see, however is that many classes have changed from math classes to "how to use your calculator on a variety of applications" classes. Many schools (Jr. High and High School) have standardized on a particular required calculator (usually a TI). My understanding of the logic here is that this way the teachers can incorporate the calculator into the curriculum more easily, as they can tell a whole classroom how to use the more complicated functions. It also means HP has to devote lots of resources to the educational market if they want any piece of it.

Math in college appears to be pretty similar to the way it was when I was in school, but the calculators can effectively solve problem at a much higher level today. My 48GX will solve stuff that I only vaguely remember from calculus and differential equations classes.

I do most of my work on a computer these days and I use an HP-11C as my main calculator (after my 42S broke). My 48GX is much more calculator than I need, although I think it would make an great brain and interface for a small wheeled robot -- the guys at ferretronics ( have sample HP48 code for their servo controller chip, and Norland Research has a calculator robot at that would look pretty nifty with a 48G on it.

In summary, I guess HP is targeting the educational market with most of their available resources because they would like to be able to continue to make money selling calculators. If they can really overcome TI's dominance in the educational market now they may have a market for quality professional engineering and scientific and calculators in a decade.

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #11 Posted by Viktor Toth on 8 Aug 2000, 9:21 p.m.,
in response to message #10 by Kevin FitzGerrell

Just thinking aloud here... if TI already has a grip on the educational market... if HP still has a reputation among professionals which was always their strongest market... wouldn't make it more sense for HP to continue cultivating the professional market instead of trying to break TI's grip on the educational one? True, students buy more calculators... but it's also true that engineers are willing to pay a heck of a lot more for a _good_ calculator than any student.

Viktor, who just bought two spare 42Ss for those lean years ahead :-)

Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #12 Posted by Kevin FitzGerrell on 9 Aug 2000, 6:49 p.m.,
in response to message #11 by Viktor Toth

I think the problem is that HP's reputation among professionals is disappearing. Most of the other professionals I work with, especially the ones recently out of college, don't know how to use an RPN calculator and wouldn't be interested in taking the time to learn. By and large, most of the calculators these folks are using are the ones that they used in college.

I believe that 20-30 years ago most high end calculator purchases were by corporations and governmental organizations (because high end calculators were very expensive), where HP was very successful in selling their products. To some degree this was because a programmable calculator would go through purchasing with minor effort, where a computer required an amazing amount of effort to get approved. Sharing time on departmental computers was typically time consuming and expensive. Today I see most calculators purchased by individuals, although some schools purchase them for use in their classes.

In the schools where I grew up, TI calculators are now required. The younger kids will all use a Mathmate. When they are a little older they will be required to have a TI-34. Somewhere around grade 8-9 they may be required to have a TI-80, depending on their classes. In grades 10-12 most will need a TI-83. Many students will upgrade to a TI-86 for use on college entrance exams (they are heavily promoted for such). On entering college, many will purchasing a TI-86 (if they didn't get one already) or TI-89 as those extend the features they are familiar with. I believe most of these calculators are purchased by parents rather than students. TI can reasonably expect to sell 4 to 6 calculators per student over a decade.

Most of those who go on to work as engineers or other professionals will not need to buy another calculator for many years. If 10% of all the students (from the school system above) go on to work as professionals who use calculators (10% seems pretty high) then HPs market is around 1/50th the size of TI's. I believe if HP waits to target those professionals who have used TI products for 10-15 years they will have a tough sell.

I believe HP needs to convince teachers and students to use HP calculators if they are to hold anything other than a niche market. I also believe that unless they manage to somehow deliver quality high end calculators (not just the 48/49) to engineering and scientific professionals they will loose the only part of the market they have that is loyal to the brand. I'm not sure HP is willing or able to expend the resources to accomplish these goals.

All of the above is opinion based on my own sometimes limited observations.


Is anyone at HP listening?
Message #13 Posted by Randy Smith on 10 Aug 2000, 1:33 a.m.,
in response to message #12 by Kevin FitzGerrell

I certainly wish the marketing gurus at HP would listen to what we are all saying here. It is apparent to me that there are many people who would gladly pay for a calculator with more capabilities than a TI. However, like has been said here HP has a long road ahead of them to get the younger user. I remember starting out with an HP 11c in high school. It only takes a few minutes to learn RPN logic then you are scarred for life! In a good way! Well, anyway, that's my 2 cent worth. Randy

Re: The market was lost to HP in 1978
Message #14 Posted by Steve on 10 Aug 2000, 8:08 p.m.,
in response to message #13 by Randy Smith

I can't vouch for other countries, but in my part of Australia the chance of HP getting into the market for calculators in schools effectively died in 1978.

A few years prior to that calculators of any sort were banned.

For a couple of years the Education Department had a list of calculators (Casio, TI, and others) that were permitted. They found this a difficult situation as all had slightly different functionality, and this caused problems in teaching.

In 1978 (possibly a year earlier) the TI25 was settled on. This was sold through schools. Schools did not sell anything else. It was a small LCD calculator with a few scientific functions and some stats capability. It sold for about $AUS25.

A few years later I bought an HP41CV for $320

There is a wide range of difference in price. OK, the school students didn't need a 41C, but they were BANNED from anything programmable, and that was the way HP were heading with ALL of their calculators at that time.

TI had the right calculator for the market at the right price, and stole the whole market.

Add to this that some of the students buying these calculators would have had extreme difficulty with RPN (some had difficulty counting on thir fingers) and you see why RPN was discouraged.

TI has just kept the ball rolling with the calculator that schools demand and there is no reason for them to swap to another manufacturer.

TI has so much market share that it can afford to be very aggressive in term of pricing and outlets (Our local supermarket sells TI8x calculators!!!!!).

I can't see how the market can be captured again by HP.

HP's original market came from purchasers at the high end. These days they all have their old TI's and they know how to use them. If they ever get near to coming to the limits of their TI they simply buy the same model as their teenage child and get their son/daughter to teach them how to use the additional feaures.

(and if you don't believe that, then how many of us are still using our old HP41's, HP42's, etc that are way behind the current crop of TI's in terms of speed, memory, and built in capabilities). Answer: LOTS

My son has to buy a TI83 for school. I half considered offering him my HP48, but it would be worse than useless. The teachers, the books, the questions, are ALL geared toward the TI range of calculators. I'm going to get him to teach ME how to use his calculator, and who knows, I might even buy one (gasp)

Re: The market was lost to HP in 1978
Message #15 Posted by Reinhard Hawel on 12 Aug 2000, 6:49 a.m.,
in response to message #14 by Steve

Seems, that a similar thing happened here (in Austria, not Australia) some years ago. I didn't have a look into the schools for a long time, but when I went to college (abt 15 yrs ago), there was a small group using HP-41s and two people (I was one of them) using the 71B.

There was no preference for any calculator there (all of them were allowed) and the math teacher offered to explain the HP calculators as well (including RPN).

I had an insight now into a school-book here (third year of a 5-year "college" (HTL)), there's an explanation how to use the TI-92 with any problem.

I tried to explain a pupil some math problems with his book and it was impossible. I even found no real theory behind calculus and Integration there. All I could see, was enter this program into your TI-92... The TI-92 solves this by ...

The whole book looks like a TI-92 introduction. In my opinion this is the worst school-book ever written. The pupil said, that the math teacher has no real clue how to use the calculator (yes, it's impressive how much functions).

At first they would have to learn calculus by hand, if I had a class.

I re-learned +, -, *, / after seeing, that I was getting worse and worse after using my calculator, and I don't even need a sheet of paper for most of the calculations I do. I'm very proud of that, because most people in my age (31) don't really can calculate simple calculations nor do they try to live without a calculator.

As a teacher, I'd take a "neutral" book for my class. (Teachers here have the right to decide the books used for their class).

I'd teach something about algorithms in a school teaching communications engineering (that's the school the guy is visiting), when they like to use calculators.

A class of young soon-to-be engineers should be interested in such things. At least some of them seem to do assembler programming (like I did in school).

Re: Is anyone at HP listening?
Message #16 Posted by Viktor Toth on 10 Aug 2000, 10:07 p.m.,
in response to message #13 by Randy Smith


I'm not sure if the issue is having a calculator with "more capabilities than a TI". Not sure if you had a chance to play with a TI-89; I had, and I was, and continue to be, impressed. It is a darn good calculator, one that'd have made Messrs. Hewlett & Packard proud had it been a product of their fine company. (It is faster, more capable, and has a better display than, the HP-48; its object model is not quite as good as RPL, but comes pretty close.)

But as many discussions here prove, what folks seek is not necessarily a calculator with supercomputer-like symbolic manipulation capabilities. While far from an exact definition, I'd say that the ideal engineering calculator would be a shirt-pocket device with plenty of functionality, but nothing that you couldn't use easily and intuitively even if the nearest manual was a hundred miles away. The HP-42S comes pretty close to that ideal... and the HP-42S has been discontinued years ago. Go figure.


Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #17 Posted by Viktor Toth on 10 Aug 2000, 10:10 p.m.,
in response to message #12 by Kevin FitzGerrell


In response to your last paragraph, continuing the HP-42S would have required little from HP in terms of resources spent. Were HP-42S sales really so miserable that it made no business sense continuing production of that model, even though models from the same product family are still being made and sold?


Re: New HP?? Xpander
Message #18 Posted by Kevin FitzGerrell on 11 Aug 2000, 11:32 a.m.,
in response to message #17 by Viktor Toth


My feeling is that there would have been very little cost to maintain production of the 42S. I really have no feeling on the sales volume of the 42S at the time it was retired. Because there was no real replacement for this product, I would have thought it in HP's best interest to do periodic production runs to maintain a moderate inventory of these, rather than to just let it die. It should be easier to maintain viable product lines in spite of low sales volume today than it was in 1995. This would be an ideal product to distribute primarily through the larger on-line merchants (including HP's on-line store), if HP didn't feel the sales volume justified encouraging their retailers to carry it.

I have also thought that it would take minimal effort to continue offering the still popular 11C and 15C, as 12C is still available in the same shell (I would think that maintaining production equipment for the shell and keyboard is more expensive than for the circuitboard).

I feel strongly that the availability of high end graphing calculators does not obviate the need for a high end shirt pocket size calculator, although lately I find myself carrying a PDA (with an RPN calculator on-screen) because of the other features available -- terminal program to communicate with field equipment, data logging capabilities, organizer stuff, time zone info, unit converter, and good games for the commute!


HP 42S production
Message #19 Posted by Dave Hicks on 11 Aug 2000, 1:09 p.m.,
in response to message #18 by Kevin FitzGerrell

I asked HP for a small 42S run that would be sold here. The issue was open for over a month but they eventually "tabled" the issue.

Re: HP 42S production
Message #20 Posted by Kevin Schoedel on 11 Aug 2000, 3:54 p.m.,
in response to message #19 by Dave Hicks

Wonder what happen(s|ed) to the stock of repair/replacement units when the repair period end(s|ed)?

Re: HP 42S production
Message #21 Posted by Dave Hicks on 11 Aug 2000, 5:54 p.m.,
in response to message #20 by Kevin Schoedel

I tried (and failed) to get some from the last warranty run.

I know that there are still some of these somewhere inside of HP but I haven't been able to get them.

Sadly, I've often run into a situation with large companies and government agencies where they consider it easier and more cost effective to destroy a small number of units than to make a special deal to sell them.

Re: HP 42S production
Message #22 Posted by Steve on 12 Aug 2000, 12:09 a.m.,
in response to message #21 by Dave Hicks

To whom do we write/email/call?

Re: HP 42S production
Message #23 Posted by Dave Hicks on 12 Aug 2000, 9:19 p.m.,
in response to message #22 by Steve

Unfortunately, not my contacts. None of them are in control of these decisions and I don't want to flood them with mail over something they don't control.

But keep working on any HP contacts you can as well as suggestion forms on web pages, posts here etc. (Some HP employees do lurk here.)

Hey HP ! I want one !
Message #24 Posted by Menno on 16 Aug 2000, 4:58 a.m.,
in response to message #23 by Dave Hicks

Dear Mr HP,

Could you just send me one of your surplus HP42S ?


Re: Hey HP ! I want one !
Message #25 Posted by Richard C. Anderson on 16 Aug 2000, 10:19 a.m.,
in response to message #24 by Menno

I wonder how many new 42s's it would take to make us fanatics happy? Probably a few dozen (for now) and HP must have that many tucked away. But what we still really want is a SLIGHTLY better machine: more memory, a little more stack, (maybe?) a three-line display (I use mine for surveying), some kind of input ability. A worker's machine, not a student's one...but I guess we're out of luck. The two-line display, the menu variable entry...they are just so easy and efficient for repetitive work...and keystroke was all just too easy!

Keep the RPN faith, Richard

Re: Hey HP ! I want one !
Message #26 Posted by Andrés C. Rodríguez on 16 Aug 2000, 10:58 p.m.,
in response to message #25 by Richard C. Anderson

Once more, here is my HP 43 wish kist:

4-level stack should be kept, please! (those adapted to an infinite stack may try the 48 series)

Bidirectional (serial) I/O

Directory function (to order programs in memory)

2-line display, with option to show only X with large characters.

Plotting, calendar functions and clock (time) embedded

Some units conversions

Better Alpha entry mode (than the 42S)

No rubber keys

Re: Hey HP ! I want one !
Message #27 Posted by Thibaut on 17 Aug 2000, 5:29 a.m.,
in response to message #26 by Andrés C. Rodríguez

Well, I know this it not the forum for that, but I have a brand new in the bow 42 for sale. Have a look in the ads.

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