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HP Forum Archive 06

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RPN and the future?
Message #1 Posted by R.J. Bied on 17 Aug 2001, 12:11 a.m.

Just wanted to get your thoughts regarding the future of RPN. It is obvious that there are many who understand the clear benefits of RPN, but we grew up using HP calculators. What does the future hold for this clearly superior system? Will it go the route of Beta? Why doesn't HP see the light?

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #2 Posted by Ernie Malaga on 17 Aug 2001, 1:10 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by R.J. Bied

In my opinion, the future of RPN is pretty bleak. The fact is that HP makes non-RPN calculators, and that most (if not all) current RPN calculators can also be used as algebraic. This seems to indicate that the public prefers algebraics and that Marketing at HP has decided that RPN calculators don't sell as well.

It's a crying shame, because RPN is so clearly superior. I've been using RPN calculators since 1976, when I bought an HP-25, and have always thought that RPN gave HPs an edge over the competition.

Maybe all this discussion is moot. Sometimes I think that the calculator, per se, is following the steps of the dinosaurs.


Re: RPN and the future?
Message #3 Posted by Vieira, Luiz C. on 17 Aug 2001, 6:38 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by R.J. Bied

Superior system? For sure it is, and RPN has been offered at the moment computers were about to become part of everybody’s life. Calculators came first and (as dinosaurs?) should they go first too? Don´t think so. Some pre-dino species still live, the ones that have the best solution. And RPN IS THE BEST SOLUTION, at least to those who understand and use it. And it does not mean public preferences indicate another way, they are right. RPN hasn’t changed, users have.

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #4 Posted by Randy Smith on 17 Aug 2001, 9:35 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by R.J. Bied

I remember getting my first HP in high school, an HP11c which I still have. Other kids though it was too tough to learn and stuck with thier TI30s and Casios and never asked to borrow my calculator! I could just breeze through any problem with ease. 16 years later, I still use HPs for all my calculating needs. And still, people I work with think it is too hard to use. They think you have to be a genius. If they only knew...

Current user of 15C, 41C, and 42S.


Re: RPN and the future?
Message #5 Posted by Doug Jackson on 20 Aug 2001, 12:58 a.m.,
in response to message #4 by Randy Smith

I totally agree.

I lived in large family that was always loosing calculators (into siblings rooms!)

The day I brought a 41, it was borrowed, and returned about 7 seconds later as being too hard to use. This was a bonus, as I always had my calc there and ready.

When I got married, my wife went to use one, and with a trivial amount of help, she was off and running. My 8 year old also has no troubles using it. I suspect that it all depends on your mindset at the time.

Rock on HP, keep with the RPN program. It does make engineering problems easier.

Re: RPN and the future? - Should we join efforts?
Message #6 Posted by Vieira, Luiz C. on 17 Aug 2001, 10:17 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by R.J. Bied

Why not? It seems to me some people (here we find many of them) are the ones that REALLY understand the meanning HP tried to give to RPN. Jan Lukasiewicz was the visionary that introduced the Polish Notation and, as a mathematician, did not realize how far would his system go. As Babage, Boole and many others, Lukasiewicz gave us RPN without knowing that.

We, HewPack users, should try keeping RPN alive, as we understand and like it. Is it just a commercial reaction Hewlett-Packard needs to keep RPN in its calculators? Should we stop buying the new models? (are we significant force?) What should we do? Ask Hewlett-Packard to keep one or other RPN model in production? If it sales good, maybe. Or maybe not?

Just a few thoughts...

Re: RPN and the future? - Should we join efforts?
Message #7 Posted by Ellis Easley on 18 Sept 2001, 5:46 a.m.,
in response to message #6 by Vieira, Luiz C.

For what its worth, HP has kept the 12C in production. I saw them being closed out at WalMart and bought one, made in China in 2000, and assumed the clearance meant they were going out of production. Then I read here that there is a new 12C with a single lithium cell and a new single chip design. This suggests HP intends to keep it in production (I have wondered how HP has kept it in production with the original chips - seems like most chips have to go through a "shrink" or become unavailable after a few years as production lines advance).

That's only one model, but it's not bad, probably kept its place because it is a business model (someone with a business mind might be able to spare a few more bucks for an HP than a high school sudent). Someone in this forum was singing its praises recently - RPN, programmable, HP quality. Said he kept it in his workshop.

I'm very fond of my first 12C. I had a 16C to use at work, so I knew about the quality. Then one day, election day 1988 as I recall, I was waiting for the bus after voting and noticed several button cells in the gutter. Next I saw the LCD bezel lying there. Then a few feet away, the bulk of the calculator. The plastic was crazed around the screw bosses, but not broken, and the battery cover was missing. The bus was parked several blocks away making up its schedule. I began scanning the pavement for the battery cover with no luck. Then I saw the bus start moving down the street toward me. Just as I was about to give up hope, a car drove past and I heard a tiny tinkle in the middle of the street - the car had thrown the battery cover into the air. On the bus, I put the batteries in and everything worked except one LCD segment. Later I separated the PCB to re-seat the LCD and then everything worked. I never permanently re-attached the PCB, I just made a filler by stacking layers of tape cut to size to fill the space between the back and the PCB. Kind of spongy, but it works fine, and at least it didn't just get washed into a storm drain.

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #8 Posted by Paul Brogger on 17 Aug 2001, 10:41 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by R.J. Bied

I think there are (at least) two or three aspects of Hewlett-Packard calculators that contribute to their relatively widespread and very devoted appreciation: certainly RPN operation, the quality construction manifested in the tactile superiority of their keyboards and cases, and perhaps overall utility and design of the non-RPN operational features.

Unfortunately, the economics of special-purpose hardware as opposed to software running on a general-purpose computer are making calculators' keyboards (and, in fact, their actual separate physical manifestations) obsolete.

Well-designed software running on PDAs should continue to satisfy the need for RPN and well-designed calculator utilities, with the benefits of ever-more-powerful hardware and greater connectivity. They just don't "feel" like an HP (and that's a tragic loss), but there's nothing preventing PDAs' continued delivery of RPN functionality.

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #9 Posted by John M. on 17 Aug 2001, 1:07 p.m.,
in response to message #8 by Paul Brogger

Come on. Let's face it!! Although I'm all in favor of RPN, and I would wish that ALL calculators had this feature: Still, I have come to the point of realization that any calculation can be performed just as well on an 'alternative' system calculator. (OK, with 'less elegance':-) Otherwise, this alternative wouldn't have survived. In fact, they seem to be taking over! Why? Most people, even professionals, are quite happy with them! I know one professor who doesn't want to introduce RPN to his students: "Why make their life more diffcult?"

There you are...

I repeat that, myself, I'm a die-hard RPN-and-HP fan and will continue to be so!! (I have an extra NIB HP calculator to 'save me' in case of a breakdown when no more new RPNs are available...)


Re: RPN and the future?
Message #10 Posted by Erwin on 19 Aug 2001, 5:33 a.m.,
in response to message #9 by John M.

I have 20 RPN calculators. Just in case :-0)

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #11 Posted by db(martinez,california) on 17 Aug 2001, 9:34 p.m.,
in response to message #8 by Paul Brogger

i think the only problem with thoes pda rpn's is that the screens i have seen are too small to give a good screen and keyboard.

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #12 Posted by Darwin Engwer on 21 Aug 2001, 1:22 a.m.,
in response to message #8 by Paul Brogger

Agreed. HP made a name for themselves in calculators by building a quality product, in *all* respects: package, keyboard, display and computational mode (i.e. RPN).

As for algebraic vs RPN I think that algebraic is better for expressing formulas, but RPN is better for computing results. The reason is that RPN parallels how one would compute the result by hand. While other people (the uninitiated) are wary and unwilling to learn RPN bcus of the "extra" effort involved, those who have done so recognize that doing so allows you to compute solutions in the *same* you always have, i.e. on paper, without a calculator. Computing in algebraic is a pain and if you do it carefully and step-by-step then you are effectively using RPN anyway. QED.

I am left to wonder if another factor [eting into the calculator business] in the last few years has been the introduction (and widespead use?) of combination algebraic tools that do both expression *and* computation very well, e.g. MathCAD and Mathematica.

20-30 years ago much engineering was done on calculators. Later Visicalc, Supercalc, Lotus 123 and Excel provided yet another tool - the spreadsheet. Today much of the serious math work of engineering is done either in Excel or MathCAD.

So, in part I suspect that HP (and others) are having trouble selling standalone hardware that does simple math. (Although there's a lot to be said for having a calculator in your back pocket.)

However, assuming that HP still has the expertise, I am confident that HP could build _software_ calculators that would surpass all others. And there's a good question: Why can't you buy a true-blue HP calculator for Windows, Palm, Pocket PC, ... ? Why should we be dependent on buying such software from third party firms and shareware vendors? (BTW, no degradation is intended, it's just that if I was faced with the choice I'd rather buy the HP version, wouldn't you?)

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #13 Posted by Paul Brogger on 21 Aug 2001, 3:22 p.m.,
in response to message #12 by Darwin Engwer

Agreed, AGREED. Why doesn't the HP Calculator Operation lose the hardware/firmware focus and realize that a substantial portion (probably MOST) of its development investment has been in quality, usable "application software"?

By offering quality, programmable calculator software for PDA's, etc. they could be leveraging their investment as a product line, instead of "throwing out the baby with the [obsolete] bathwater".

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #14 Posted by Rick Kaumeier on 21 Aug 2001, 11:32 p.m.,
in response to message #13 by Paul Brogger

I've used both MathU and RPN on my Palm III and while both are great apps, I still prefer my good ol' dedicated HPs.

My two most used calcs are an 11c and a 32SII, the latter being my work/travel calc as it is easily and inexpensively replaced. (For now, anyway.) The 11c remains my favorite and holds down the home front. Take the software from either, port it to the Palm, and HP would have one fantastic app. What they wouldn't have, IMO, is a calculator as functional as the dedicated hardware they have been building for the last three decades.

If a wonderful piece of software has a so-so interface, I usually move on in search of something more easily usable. A Palm calc will always have one strike against it from the start - a stylus interface. Even if the keys take up enough area on the screen to be easily manipulated with a fingertip, there is no tactile feedback. With a classic HP there is never any doubt that a key has been pressed. The positive click provides instant reassurance. I keep both MathU and RPN on my Palm in case I ever need them, but if an HP is around, I almost never do.

Admittedly, RPN is a wonderful app. Having the ability to drag numbers to and from the stack is useful, slick, and a good example of what can be done on a PDA. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I still prefer my calculators to be purpose-built pieces of hardware. When the 32SII goes out of production (and given HP's direction of late, I wouldn't be surprised if it were soon) I'm going to buy a couple spares. I'm betting that it will be the last pure RPN calc we see from HP.

Re: RPN and the future?
Message #15 Posted by Marx Pio on 17 Aug 2001, 9:00 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by R.J. Bied

We must remember that the Sony-beta standard is still the professional choice for broadcasting.

I hope the HP+RPN calculators will be for many centuries the choice of science and engineering professionals like us.

Nobody at my office wants to borrow my 41 or 48GX, isn't good? We feel unique, we feel different.

Marx Pio

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