|It's not so clear-cut at all [LONG]|
Message #7 Posted by John Smith on 24 Apr 2003, 7:18 a.m.,
in response to message #3 by Christof
"I *love* HPs, but sometimes I'm not entirely certain that they are, in fact, the best ever handheld computers all the way through Carlyborging. Though as scientific calculators, they are pretty much without equal all the way through."
I agree with you 100%. As a collector, I'm interested not
only in HP machines, but other brands as well, and own a
lot of both HP and SHARP handheld computers/calculators.
It may be the case that die-hard HP fans find what follows
outrageous if not downright insulting, but the fact is
that a neutral, dispassionate, feature-by-feature comparison makes it plainly clear that most classic, *vintage* SHARP machines are much better than most (vintage, I'm not talking about the newer models) HP ones in many respects, including those of ergonomy, durability, aesthetics, and of course programming capabilities, all at a fraction of the price.
They usually boast:
- Beautiful, shiny, fully metallic bodies, very solidly built, which are extremely durable. No HP model has such fully metallic body.
- Large alphanumeric LCD displays (from 1 to 4 lines and from 16 to 40 characters per line), usually dot-addressable for full graphic capabilities, up to 32x160. No vintage HP model has such large displays or graphic capabilities.
- Complete qwerty keyboard and numeric pad. No keycodes, prompted inputs and outputs. Only the very expensive (at the time) HP-71B had both keyboards, the HP-75 had no separate numeric keypad, and no other vintage machines had non-shifted, qwerty alpha keyboards, if at all.
- Serial port (even in the smallest models) for standard I/O, fully configurable with BASIC commands. Most vintage HP models had no I/O capability at all, and the ones which did used HP-IL, an expensive, proprietary standard, which required costly compatible HP-IL devices.
- Can connect to a printer (sometimes plotter) and cassette for mass storage of programs and data. Unlike HP, these were quite inexpensive and quite convenient.
- Non-volatile RAM, both built-in and in the form of RAM cards which keep programs and data even when removed from the machine (so no hurry to replace batteries, and you can
instantly bring your programs and data to another machine).
Compare that with the daunting task of replacing the batteries in an HP-28S without losing your RAM contents.
- Large amounts of RAM, 10 Kb being typical even in the very smallest models (smaller than even an HP-15C), up to 64 Kb or more. Compare that with the 0.4 Kb or 0.3 Kb available on the HP-15C and HP-32S/SII.
- Powerful, extended BASIC language, featuring 2-dimensional arrays, strings, long variable names, graphic and I/O commands, and plenty of built-in functions. Want to store 200 names and addresses in RAM, up to 80 characters in length ? Simply DIM MYDATA$(200,2)* 80 and you're all set. Compare that with the incredible contortions you're bound to make to fit anything complex in an HP-15C, 32S, 41CX, if it can be done at all ...
- Fast processing speeds, typically from 10 to 50 times the speed of an HP-15C, say. For instance, FOR I=1 TO 1000: NEXT I runs in 7 seconds in the smallest models, less than 1 second in the most advanced. Try the equivalent loop on your vintage HP.
- Can be programmed in machine code directly from the
keyboard, by using PEEK, POKE and CALL. The processor is usually Z80-like, thus its assembler is quite standard.
On the other hand, no vintage HP model is programmable in machine code, except for the costly HP-71B, and the HP-41C requires very expensive hardware to even try. Both have proprietary processor, using a very non-standard assembly language and CPU architecture.
- Full attention given to ergonomy. BASIC functions and algebraic expression can be used and evaluated directly from the keyboard, without programming, you can compute intermediate results in the same line, use the previous result in any part of a new expression, recall the complete expression to the display for editing and re-execution, with all its operators and data. Compare that with LAST X on HP models, which recalls only the last argument in X. Only the HP-71B had that capability. Also, you can assign arbitrary expressions or sequences of characters to keys, for instant execution. Again, only the HP-71B could do that.
- Like HP, SHARP also has specialized models with the same physical characteristics and compatible BASIC language, but including specialized functions such as financial, statistical, logical, matrix operations, and even double precision (20+ decimal digits), all of them fully integrated with BASIC and executing at 15-30 times the speed of equivalent functions in comparable vintage HP models.
So you can use all the power and speed of BASIC for your financial calculations, say, dealing with cash flows and IRR computations by using the built-in functions from your program, with the advantage of a large amount of RAM, from 4 Kb onwards. You can also save your financial data on cassette, send them to a PC or modem via the serial port, or print them on the attached printer. Compare that with the abysmal programming features of the HP-12C, the 0.099 Kb RAM you have for your program and data,
and then having to record everything (program, data, results) by hand.
In other words, next time you take your vintage HP model out of your pocket and try to impress some fellow by telling him these are the best handhelds in the world, think twice. If you are unlucky, he might produce a SHARP PC-1261 out of *his* pocket (10 Kb RAM, 40 Kb ROM, 8-bit CPU, 2x24 char
alphanumeric LCD display, full qwerty keyboard, extended BASIC language, serial I/O port), which is *smaller* and much faster than your HP, and make your bombastic claims sound utterly hollow. Specially if there are more people present, that could be very bad to your morale, and the resulting ridicule could shatter your HP faith for good.