|PPCCJ Editorial: HP-42 (1981)|
Message #1 Posted by Ernie Malaga on 11 Mar 2002, 1:13 a.m.
I read the following Editorial in the PPCCJ (V8N1P4, Jan/Feb 1981). Comments?
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by Richard Nelson (1)
From PPCCJ, V8N1P4 (Jan/Feb 1981)
The HP-41C was announced 19 months ago. Its power and capability caught TI without a competing product "on the shelf," and they are rushing a new TI-59 replacement to market as fast as they can. The introduction of a new top-of-the-line PPC from TI will cause users to focus on the future of PPCs. The HHC Sharp PC1211, soon to be available in the U.S., adds a new dimension to the PPC vs. HHC discussion. The PC 1211, even though it is slow and has too little memory to be a serious computer -- see box -- has the features of extended accuracy numerical functions that have been the mainstray of PPCs. If future machines follow this trend, the HHC will absorb the PPC. If this is indeed true, there will never be an HP-42. HP PPC history will be recorded as 65-67-41, two generations of products.
The question is, do we want, do we need, a product that continues along the design trends that the 65-67-41 have set? I, for one, believe that we need and want an HP-42. Here are a few thoughts on the 42 and its general features.
* The 42 should carry on the tradition of the PPC. It should have full alpha capability, but its design should emphasize the numerical processing of data. In computer terminology, it should be scientific rather than business.
* The 42 should retain a key-to-function keyboard operation. Prefix, shift, and fully assignable keys should be the guiding philosophy. A full keyboard is OK, typing for alpha is OK, but one- or two-key, machine functions, should be designed in. Typing SIN for sin is not acceptable. This convenience PPC users are accustomed to will require new keyboard designs. Keyboards have been static for 5 years, yet this is the primary man/machine input interface.
* The 42 should provide increased numeric handling capability. Full logic compares; data packing; full functions like quotient/remainder instead of MOD; characteristic/mantissa operations; digit rotate, invert; and Register Block operations such as exchange, increment, move, rotate, extremes, sum, statistics, sort, etc.
* The 42 should be micro-programmable in that the user may allocate memory stacks and registers as he wishes. Subroutine levels, argument ranges, program/data, etc. could be restructured by the user under program control. The basic machine would be structured and disciplined like the 41, but a lower-level capability would exist for the skilled programmer.
* The 42 should be a _programmer's_ machine. It will be up to the _programmer_ to make the machine a user's machine. The 41C is _not_ a programmer's machine; it is a compromise to appeal to the layman. The 42 should not be a raw microprocessor where every bit must be managed by the programmer. It should have a higher-level user calculator language, but not a computer language that manages everything for you.
* The 42 should be functionally built upon the 65-67-41 "logic," but should break free from the obsolete architecture of the HP-35. The 42 should be a mainframe that is capable of communicating with other peripherals as a system just like the 41.
* The 42 microprogramming capability should provide for a programmable clock rate so the user can trade off power consumption for speed if he desires. It _must_ be crystal controlled so time becomes a dimension for the programmer to manage if this is the optimum solution.
* The 42 must be hardware alterable. EPROM capability must be designed in the machine, and it should be hand held and operated. Perhaps an extended keyboard could be a peripheral for "full" microprogrammability.
* The 42 should be a shirt pocket machine in the PPC tradition.
The HP-41C was probably designed as a 5-year product. Its life is 1/3 over. The 42 should be well into the product definition stage. If it is not, perhaps we, the users, should "design our own" here, in the pages of the Journal. I know Bill Kolb believes in the 42. Perhaps a design team could be assembled to oversee various aspects of the design. A "42" column could be run each issue with the various group leaders coordinating readership input. Members could take charge of such aspects as math functions, data handling functions, keyboard layout, instruction syntax, etc., etc.
If we are to get an RPN-like machine in the future, we will have to make the manufacturers aware of our desires, otherwise we will have to live with BASIC, a desktop machine, and the inconvenience of spelling out the function instead of pressing a key.