The Museum of HP Calculators

HP Forum Archive 13

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El-Cheapo Wally-World Four-Banger
Message #1 Posted by W. Bruce Maguire II on 20 Aug 2003, 7:01 p.m.

Hello all:

I just dropped by for a respite from work, and got to reading the Forum posts (as usual!). Much too much fun, and much too much temptation to join-in!

Anyway, I accompanied my wife and two kids to Wal-Mart the other day to buy some school supplies for our second-grader and fourth-grader. The school-supply list for my fourth-grade daughter included a calculator. I---being the good HP-of-old guy---said "nothing but old HP RPNs for my kids!" That is, until my wife talked some sense into me; these calculators would be *left* at school, and some things have been known to "disappear" (from a Catholic school, no less!). Well, I decided to give-in, and figured that I could always wait until later in their school "careers" to introduce them to RPN and the quality of the older HPs---what the heck, I didn't start using HPs until my HP-11C in 10th grade.

OK, to make a short story long, ;-) Wal-Mart had a huge selection of these "LeWORLD" calculators: four-bangers and basic scientifics. The basic four-bangers were $1.00 (and there were probably a half-dozen or more colors to choose from)! My daughter opted to shoot-the-moon, and wanted the translucent pink "Dual Power" solar four-banger. It was $2.00. The basic scientifics were $3.00!

Now, granted, these "El-Cheapos"---oops, I mean "LeWORLDs"---are blister-pack fare, but are they really any worse than the "Kinpos" over which HP is brimming with pride?

One dollar basic. Three dollars scientific. At least a dozen colors and styles. This is the market in which HP sees itself making money? I'm glad it's not me running that division!


Re: El-Cheapo Wally-World Four-Banger
Message #2 Posted by Mike Sebastian (Texas) on 20 Aug 2003, 8:05 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by W. Bruce Maguire II

...but are they really any worse than the "Kinpos" over which HP is brimming with pride?

You need buy one of those "El-Cheapo" LeWorld $3.00 scientific calculators to fully appreciate the Kinpos. I did. In comparison to the LeWorld, the Kinpo feels like a solid HP classic.

I like to buy calculators and take them apart to see how well they are built. Again, in comparison, the Kinpo is a masterpiece of engineering and workmanship. (IMHO, in the sub-twenty dollar category, Casio makes the best quality calculators. TI is a close second on quality. Sharp is about equal with the Kinpos.)

Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't feel cheated by the $3.00 LeWorld scientific. For three dollars, it is a tremendous bargain. I just wouldn't sent my kids to school with one.

Re: El-Cheapo Four-Bangers and RPN for Kids!
Message #3 Posted by Dwight L. Myers on 20 Aug 2003, 10:48 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by W. Bruce Maguire II

I also wanted to start out my kids on RPN, so when the HP32SII looked like being discontinued, I bought one for each of my daughters (6th grade and 12th grade this year), one for my wife, and one for me. We have liked them rather well. If they aren't quite the quality (physically) of the old HP34C/HP32E calculators, they are miles ahead of the older TIs of keyboard bounce fame. I have gotten used to their touch and like them pretty well.

I decided the investment was worth it, since they aren't too likely to be lost at school... one advantage of home schooling. (On second thought, we lose a lot of things around here!)

On the subject of the Le World calculators I was tempted to buy one for a spare for students who forget theirs on exam day. (I teach college chemistry.) I am interested to read Mike Sebastian's take on them. I suppose at $3.00 it's hard to go wrong for a spare for students, though.


Give them a slide rule
Message #4 Posted by bill platt on 20 Aug 2003, 11:58 p.m.,
in response to message #3 by Dwight L. Myers

Then if they make it through the test, you know they are worthy ;-0)

Re: el cheapos
Message #5 Posted by unspellable on 21 Aug 2003, 8:21 a.m.,
in response to message #4 by bill platt

On the subject of el cheapos, I think I paid the princely sume of $4.95 for a Tevion at Aldi's. This is fairly standard, fairly full featured scientific algebraic entry, but it has a neat feature in that above the entry line there is a smaller line that displays a complete running account of your entry formula, making it much easier to keep track of what you are doing. (After all, if it's algebraic entry instead of RPN, we need some help.)

Edited: 21 Aug 2003, 8:22 a.m.

Re: el cheapos
Message #6 Posted by christof (NoVA US) on 21 Aug 2003, 7:02 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by unspellable

But you can get the modern 6s for the same rough price range.

Not that I am a serious fan of modern HP calcs, but if there's a chance they will deliver with the 33S and 17Bii+ (which, aside fromt he case, looks REALLY good), then i'd rather support them.

if you want a serious deal, look at the 9G

if you want RPN of couse, life is a bit rougher.

Re: el cheapos
Message #7 Posted by unspellable on 22 Aug 2003, 7:57 a.m.,
in response to message #6 by christof (NoVA US)

But where do you buy the HP 6S? Sure I can mail order it, but that hardly counts for a low end calculator. I don't see them in Target, Kmart, Wally World, et al, and that's what counts for a low end calculator.

Re: Another el-cheapo
Message #8 Posted by Paul Brogger on 22 Aug 2003, 12:11 p.m.,
in response to message #4 by bill platt

I mentioned once before the Spectra SSC-200 that I got for $5-$8.00 at Target. It's a nice, small, two-line unit with rubber keys that feel halfway-decent, and 27 memories -- a feature I appreciate. (One memory is just not enough.)

Here again, my reaction to its features/price combo was, "How can HP make money in this market?"

you guys are wrong ... same as HP MBA bozo's
Message #9 Posted by Norm on 22 Aug 2003, 1:47 p.m.,
in response to message #8 by Paul Brogger


You guys are wrong because you keep saying that HP has to compete against the $2.00 calculators at Wal-Mart.

That simply is not true!! And by the way, when do we start calling them "Agilent calculators" as a matter of protest against HP MBA babboons still holding the HP calculator heritage, like holding a cluster of bananas hostage while they swing from the branch of a tree.

The calculator lineage and heritage belongs at AGILENT. The HP bozos are mentally retarded millionaires. They have long since deserved to be fired. They can be fired in effigy if we start calling them "Agilent Calculators".

ANYWAY, during the glory days of HP calculators, they did NOT compete against the cheap-junk that existed at that time also (TI-30 for example). The HP would have been a hundred dollars or more higher in price !! :o)

Is that to compete? Not hardly!!!

A superior product does not compete with cheap junk.

HP is idiots from top to bottom because they think they are competing against $3 calculators. And then they try to build $3 calculators.

THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BUILDING $100 - $300 calculators !!!!!!!!!!!

They pay MBA's 7 figures in order to come up with the idiotic idea that they need to satisfy the $3 calculator niche market..........

that's about as smart as HUMVEE paying an MBA 7 figures so that the MBA can spout off that the "REAL MARKET" that they must target is to supply the world with a cut-down Yugo with a pickup bed welded onto the back. And some fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror.

Yah right.

Re: 6s and 30s indicat that HP is trying . . .
Message #10 Posted by Paul Brogger on 22 Aug 2003, 3:21 p.m.,
in response to message #9 by Norm

We're not so far apart.

I don't think we're saying H-P should be competing on the low end. Quite the contrary, the evidence seems to indicate that there's LOTs of competition down there, with product prices at or below $5.00 .

Yet, H-P produces the 6s, 9s, and 30s, indicating that they do, in fact, want to compete for the entry-level market. Very confusing.

Perhaps if those models were RPN (or at least, RPN-selectable), they'd be differentiated somewhat, and would have a secondary market in the RPN-initiated. The latest announcements (12CP, 33S, 48GII and 49G+) seem more in line with H-P's traditional place in the calculator market (as so evocatively described above). Hopefully, their quality will place them somewhat above the competition as well.

Message #11 Posted by Norm on 23 Aug 2003, 12:33 a.m.,
in response to message #10 by Paul Brogger


Re: you guys are wrong ... same as HP MBA bozo's
Message #12 Posted by Mike Sebastian on 23 Aug 2003, 10:44 a.m.,
in response to message #9 by Norm

You guys are wrong because you keep saying that HP has to compete against the $2.00 calculators at Wal-Mart.

No, we are not saying that at all. Producing an absurdly cheap calculator, IMHO, only cheapens the reputation of that manufacturer. HP really cheapened their reputation when they put the 6S on sale. TI's functional equivalent at that time, the TI-34, cost twice as much.

After I first posted this response, it dawned on me that TI doesn't compete on price. TI competes on features. Although, they do target specific price points, and the price point to some degree does dictate the features that will be offered. In any category, I doubt you will find that TI has the cheapest calculators. HP and Casio each offer cheaper graphing calculators. Sharp seems to have the lowest price "name brand" scientifc calculators, but this price advantage comes with a cost - cheaper materials (e.g. phenolic PCBs) and shorter lifespan (e.g. higher failure rate of the heat seal - the ribbon-cable-like connector between the PCB and LCD).

I can see HP wanting to compete with TI in the lucrative educational market. The 38G was clearly designed for the educational market. The HP-30S was clearly an attempt to compete with the TI-30 series of low-end scientific calculators. The 39/40G and now the 9G are more recent educational offerings. But, HP still really isn't a viable competitor in the educational market. HP is now only offering "me too" scientific and graphing calculators. TI provides a lot of supporting materials for educators, which HP isn't doing. And now, teachers have built lesson plans around specific TI calculators (I've been told that is why the TI-82 is still in production), so it is going to take a product that is significantly better (e.g. something radical like the Xpander with lots of supporting educator materials) to get teachers to switch.

Meanwhile, HP still seems to be producing calulators for the MBAs, which is why the 12C is still in production and why HP still has a wide selection of high-priced financial calculators. (This suggests to me that HP could still produce high-priced calculators for technical professionals.)

Edited: 23 Aug 2003, 11:42 a.m.

Re: you guys are wrong ... same as HP MBA bozo's
Message #13 Posted by Les Bell [Sydney] on 24 Aug 2003, 3:26 a.m.,
in response to message #12 by Mike Sebastian

If HP was to do an RPN equivalent to the 6S, at twice the price, they'd be selling like hot-cakes.

I bought a 6S for my son, who was in elementary school at the time, thinking it couldn't be so bad. The build quality isn't so bad, to be honest, but it's the usual horribly inconsistent mess of prefix and postfix notation, coupled with weird memory syntax and strange use of prefix keys; in short, sickening.

That's why we worry that math classes with calculators could be wasting time teaching calculator usage rather than mathematics - those calculators are absolutely counter-intuitive and get in the way of learning the underlying concepts.

Besides, a low-level entry RPN calc could win HP a lot of loyal customers who would upgrade later.


--- Les []

Re: you guys are wrong ... same as HP MBA bozo's
Message #14 Posted by Brian on 24 Aug 2003, 11:32 a.m.,
in response to message #13 by Les Bell [Sydney]

A 6S with RPN and algebraic would be a killer product - everyone's happy - and HP are the only one's that do this in higher model calculators. TI don't have this option on any of their models (except for an rpn emulator done by someone external).

Les ...... 31E
Message #15 Posted by Norm on 24 Aug 2003, 12:51 p.m.,
in response to message #14 by Brian

Hi Les, I appreciate what you were saying.

I too have noticed that the typical $9.99 "Casio Scientific" is pretty much useless BECAUSE there is so much bullcrap on the front panel (weird notations, graphic symbols, 12 different kinds of parentheses, etc etc).

I am willing to declare it impossible to utilize with, or without, the owner's manual.

Sharp contrast to an HP-31E, a REAL scientific calculator for beginners. I suggest restoring an HP-31E for purposes of giving to a younger person (i.e. 10 - 15) so that they can actually learn the math that pertains to that calculator.

Re: Les ...... 31E
Message #16 Posted by Les Bell [Sydney] on 25 Aug 2003, 6:21 a.m.,
in response to message #15 by Norm

The "owner's manual"?

These things come with ONE SHEET most of the time!

Ironically, HP fell foul of the same disease with the 48 series. Have you ever tried to read the User's Guide for that sucker?

Give me a decent manual or give me . . .

. . . Mathematica? . . . a cheap substitute? . . . nothing - I'll make do by nursing my 41's along?


--- Les []

Re: Les ...... 31E
Message #17 Posted by Norm on 25 Aug 2003, 6:49 p.m.,
in response to message #16 by Les Bell [Sydney]

Hi Les, I thought my own personal disgust with the 48G+ etc was legendary on this chat board. Had quite a streak of chat noise going about 3 months ago...... I had bought a 48G+ and was thrashing it to pieces with the posts.

I said anybody who wanted one of these was crazy and in the asylum and I was going to get rid of it so it would not be adding to the PSI weight loading of my house foundation.

Immediately came a half-dozen inquiries (from crazy guys?) who wanted to buy it...... made a good deal and haven't seen it since.

So Les, we think the same........ 48G is not useable. That's why I mentioned 31E as an excellent example of a "real" beginner's scientific calculator. Yes it has an owner's manual, although its remarkably short and deficient IMHO but at least you dont really need one (for 31E).

Re: Les ...... 31E
Message #18 Posted by Les Bell [Melbourne] on 26 Aug 2003, 3:56 a.m.,
in response to message #17 by Norm

Actually, I have mixed feelings on the 48G. It's *possible* that I've been approaching it from the wrong direction.

Since I'm holed up in a hotel all this week, and there's nothing else to do at night in Melbourne <vbg> I've brought the 48GX and the User's Guide with me, with a view to investigating some things.

But even if I'm right about this, it still doesn't remove the fact that the 48G is just too much device, with too little manual, and requires too many keystrokes and too much thinking to complete simple tasks.

I'll write up my thoughts and results when I get a chance.


--- Les []

Re: Les ...... 31E
Message #19 Posted by bill platt on 26 Aug 2003, 12:45 p.m.,
in response to message #18 by Les Bell [Melbourne]

Hi Les and Norm,

I am, in the very near future, going to have the HP41 emulator running on my 48GX. I am curious to see if, with keyboard overlays on my 48, I can make a decent RPN tool out of the "monster".

But I have also found the 48 does do some very cool things in its native format--like the whole list processing thing, and also the matrix business.

But for straigtforward calculations, the loss of the simple "lastx" is a pain. So we'll see how it goes and I will report back as I develop an understanding.

Note that at least 4 persons who post here reasonably regularly, are experts on the 48 (certainly compared to me!). A few come to mind: R. Lion, Luiz, VPN, Raymond Del Tondo. In one case, I was very frustrated with an impasse I was having in translating a program from RPN to RPL, and these guys straightened me out quickly and gave me new insight---making the "monster" much more tame.



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