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HP Forum Archive 14

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Why NOT??? Shoot this idea down
Message #1 Posted by Ron Ross on 21 May 2004, 2:35 p.m.

Of course none of us get to make these decisions, but....

Why doesn't Hp just recode an Hp17Bii+ for the Hp42s, keep the clock and add an USB port and a crude transfer program. Keep the price about the same as the present Hp17B's price and release.

Cost of development would be small, production line is basically there (USB port being the only addition, and I suspect the 17Bii could also incorporate and also sell).

Cost to Hp is basically nothing and Kinpo has another widget to put on the market.

Any reasons why this could NOT BE EASILY DONE?

I would like more, but that would still be a great pocket calc.

      
I want one of those, Ron (nt)
Message #2 Posted by Raul Lion on 21 May 2004, 3:09 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Ron Ross

            
Me, too! (N.T.)
Message #3 Posted by Vieira, Luiz C. (Brazil) on 21 May 2004, 7:36 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Raul Lion

      
Re: Why NOT??? Shoot this idea down
Message #4 Posted by Bill Wiese on 21 May 2004, 4:35 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Ron Ross

I'd love it too.... but you're thinking like an engineer, and not someone who wants to turn a profit.

...the cost of marketing and packaging (meaning box, manuals, warranty card, etc.) and promotion likely exceed the cost of electronics/hardware in the calc!

Let's take an HP33S. Betcha that calc's 65C02-based microcontroller is $0.35-$0.60. LCD's prob $2.20. PCB maybe $0.45. Batteries + terminals another $0.75. Keys+casing prob a buck or so. So maybe we're somewhere around the $5 league. For HP to get this on the shelf, blister pack it, arrange for distribution, returns, warranty support, etc., and make money for expected volumes for this type of calc, they've gotta add *at least* another $15-$20 for a calc, as this is not a normal 'consumer' channel but more of a special (reduced) interest item. Add markup for distributor and retailer and that's how you end up with a $50 calc.

These days it's cheap & easy to do ANY calculator for hardware & firmware, although one-time costs (keytops, case die setups, custom LCD screening, etc.) are big NRE up-front costs. But would HP sell enough to recover costs for these individual flavors of calc? Hmmm, wish it were true but probably not: the 33S was a pretty good composite for we RPN 'traditionalists' other than keyboard arrangement...

Regards,
Bill Wiese
San Jose CA

            
BWAAAAHHH!!! Sobb, sniffle... (NT)
Message #5 Posted by Ron Ross on 21 May 2004, 4:43 p.m.,
in response to message #4 by Bill Wiese

.

      
Re: Why NOT??? Shoot this idea down
Message #6 Posted by Norris on 21 May 2004, 5:29 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Ron Ross

We can safely assume that that HP/Kinpo could recycle the 42S design if they wanted to. After all, they've recycled the 32SII (as the 33S), the 48GX (as the 48GXII and the 49G+), the 17BII (as the 17BII+), and the 12C (as the 12CP). From a technical standpoint, they are surely capable of recycling the 42S as well.

But from a marketing standpoint, it may not be worthwhile to do so. The 42S was discontinued in 1995, presumably because of poor sales. If the 42S had sold well, HP surely would've kept it on the market -- just as they did with the 12C.

Are current market conditions favorable for reintroduction of the 42S? No, they have only deteriorated since 1995. The education market has been conquered by graphing calcs. PCs have become cheaper, and have claimed the central position on every professional desktop. PDAs have become more powerful and more portable than calculators. The 42S has even been banned from NCEES exams.

So who (other than rabid collectors) would be the target market for a revived 42S for $80-90 ? Well, it could be of interest to people who:

(1) Want a powerful, flexible, portable number cruncher, and

(2) Find current graphing calculators too bulky, and who would sacrifice a large display, large keyboard, and other bells and whistles for greater portability, and

(3) Don't like to crunch numbers on Palms or other PDAs, due to lack of a real keyboard

Such people might actually exist (in fact, I could be one myself). Unfortunately, there probably aren't very many of them. From HP's standpoint, a small market niche like this may not be worth pursuing.

      
Re: Why NOT??? Shoot this idea down
Message #7 Posted by OpenRPN on 21 May 2004, 7:31 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Ron Ross

I completely agree. With enough arm twisting HP *might* think about a reissue of some classics (42s, 15c, etc.) It would be a brilliant marketing move as the only development costs would be for silkscreening and perhaps a mold or two. At under $100 science professionals will stockpile them gladly ( I know I would ).

            
Re: Why NOT??? Shoot this idea down
Message #8 Posted by Naim on 21 May 2004, 7:39 p.m.,
in response to message #7 by OpenRPN

You know I have often heard that the 42S never sold well. But I beg to differ. In 1994/95 a GX sold for $200+. A 42S went for $120. I could tell you of a whole lot of surveyors that used the 42S and never thought about a GX until the 42S was unavailable. So my point is that I honestly believe [ until I could see some actual figures ] that the 42S was a really affecting sales of the 48 series.

                  
Re: Why NOT??? Shoot this idea down
Message #9 Posted by Norris on 21 May 2004, 8:01 p.m.,
in response to message #8 by Naim

We will probably never see any figures. However, I doubt that HP would discontinue a successful model, even if it was cannibalizing sales of others. Notice that HP has kept the classic 12C on the market since 1981, even though this undoubtedly hurts the sales of HP's more recent financial models. In fact, the old 12C apparently outsells the new 12C platinum even today.

      
Shrinking markets - or - where did all the calculators go?
Message #10 Posted by Randy Sloyer on 21 May 2004, 10:55 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Ron Ross

I have read here many times that all HP has to do is come up with some silk-screens and some different keytops to re-issue some of the old classics. Yes, okay, so I overstate and oversimplify. Yes, there have been some good, detailed and thought provoking treatments here. I'm not taking issue with good, clear and IMO sometimes wishful thinking.

But, consider this when thinking it would be easy to re-issue your [insert favorite model here] calculator:

** The Source Code ** aka ** Microcode ** aka ** Thousands of man years of software engineering **.

From all reports, it's gone, as in dropped into the dumpsters in Corvalis and ACO.

How to you re-issue a classic when you have to start over with the only reference being an operators manual? That's how Kinpo did the 33S. Ask yourself this question: If they had it, why does the 12CP behave so differently from it's ancestor? And the 33S? It's not a port, it's a re-write from scratch, not a Saturn emulation running the original 32Sii code. After all, it took almost two years from the time HP started saying the 32Sii replacement was on the way to the time it arrived. That was sure more effort than new artwork and keytops.

Before we all start drooling over the prospects of a 43S and a 15CP, lets remember there more to it than just tweaking some hardware. I'm not trying to be Chicken Little but if it were that easy, I think they would have done it by now, no matter how few they thought they might sell.

Just my 0.02 worth on another topic:

The theory the 42S was killed off because it cannibalized the more profitable 48 sales: I used to think it was the case, anymore, I'm not so sure. In the early nineties, connectivity was becoming an issue. Computers were everywhere. Spreadsheets were doing a lot of number crunching. If I had been in the market for a new machine in 1992, would I have picked the 48G over a 42S? Probably. It was the gadget of the day. The newest, the bestest. The 42S didn't have input ability and there was no room for serial i/o from a hardware standpoint. If I had lost my 42S back then, what would I have done? I can't honestly answer the question because I didn't need another calculator. My pile of HP's at the time was a daily use 42S, a 25C that always seemed to have dead batteries and a 16C to balance the checkbook at home. We'll never know what the sales figures were, but with the 32Sii selling well at the bottom end and the 48GX covering the top end, why maintain so many models? That same 42S is still on my desk. Would I buy a 43S if it came out tomorrow? Probably not. It's not that I'm assuming it would be uglier than the 33S - it's just that I don't need it. For most, it's a tool. Once you have a good lawn mower (assumes you have a lawn), do you need another? You can only use one at a time. Where do the new unit sales come from? Certainly not the 7th grade algebra students out there.

Here's a statistic I'd like to see:

In the total population of HP RPN scientific calculator users out there today, how many know that that they cannot go out and buy an exact model replacement for the machine they use everyday? Assume it is an LCD model after the 41 series.

I'll bet it's less than 25% of the users. That's 3 out of 4 owners living blissfully in the lack of knowledge that their favorite number juggler is long ago out of production. Until they break or loose what they currently own, why would they buy something new?

Until there is a new generation out there that want RPN handhelds, where is the market? Replacements for exsisting users? That's a contracting, not expanding market.

So maybe the MBA types are right after all...

            
Re: Shrinking markets - or - where did all the calculators go?
Message #11 Posted by Chris Woodhouse on 21 May 2004, 11:30 p.m.,
in response to message #10 by Randy Sloyer

Quote:
** The Source Code ** aka ** Microcode ** aka ** Thousands of man years of software engineering **.

From all reports, it's gone, as in dropped into the dumpsters in Corvalis and ACO.


Even if this is true, are you sure there is no way to extract this information from one of the many calculators that are still in use?

Chris W

                  
Source code
Message #12 Posted by Bill P on 22 May 2004, 1:11 a.m.,
in response to message #11 by Chris Woodhouse

Have you ever tried to read the output from a disassembler? It looks like total garbage.

Without the original source code, all we have is the raw machine code instructions, which are designed to be read by machines.

We don't have the original formatting of the code, the macros that were used in the assembler, or, most importantly, the comments on the code that tell us exactly what the pieces of code actually were supposed to do.

It might be possible to work directly from the machine code on an older, simpler model like the 11c, but the 42s? Not likely.

Just my $.02

Take care

                        
Re: Source code
Message #13 Posted by Bill Wiese on 22 May 2004, 9:18 p.m.,
in response to message #12 by Bill P

I've done a lot of disassy/reverse-engineering of 8/16-bit microcontroller code.

For me, it's harder to read the output of *compiled* code (i.e, from C or other HLL) than from code written in assembly (with or without macros, constructs, etc.) - just easier to crawl in the other programmer's head with out the disintermediating influence of a compiler...

Bill Wiese San Jose CA

            
Re: Shrinking markets - or - where did all the calculators go?
Message #14 Posted by Garth Wilson on 22 May 2004, 1:20 a.m.,
in response to message #10 by Randy Sloyer

> How to you re-issue a classic when you have to start over with the only reference being an operators manual?

Some HP-41 and -71 users have the complete internal design specifications, including complete source code. Granted, I don't think HP made the source code available on _all_ modules, but there are thousands of pages of documentation in the hands of a few who paid for them, and others who got copies later.

            
Voyagers are doable
Message #15 Posted by Cameron on 22 May 2004, 2:23 a.m.,
in response to message #10 by Randy Sloyer

Quote:
How to you re-issue a classic when you have to start over with the only reference being an operators manual?
According to my diary I've spent about 900 hours (just don't tell my wife ;-) building the 16C simulator. My diary doesn't give me the split between the time spent on the calculator engine and the UI (they're completely decoupled). Let's assume that interfacing the logic to the hardware is as complex as writing a windows UI (I seriously doubt that it would be). Let's bog it up a bit to a nice round 1000 hours. That's about 6 months for one SE.

The important point is that I only had the user manual as a "specification" and a working model as a reference.

I reckon you could usefully employ 3 SEs on the task, which probably cuts elapsed development time to 400 hours (3 x 400 = 1200 == 200 hours talking and documenting--the necessary overhead of multi-person projects). I'm sure most of you have observed products from inception to market so you can extrapolate to the additional resources that would be required. It certainly seems doable inside a year at a human resource cost of less than $500K.

Bill (Wiese) reckons (above) that the on-the-shelf cost for the hardware would be about $50/unit. Others have suggested that $50 is a "sweet spot" for price so we can't afford to push it too high. If we add $10 for the software, you'd have to sell 50,000 units to recoup the development cost.

I'm not convinced that there is a market for that many units. I enjoyed working through the analysis though.

Cameron

HP-16C simulator

                  
Re: Voyagers are doable
Message #16 Posted by Randy Sloyer on 22 May 2004, 3:18 p.m.,
in response to message #15 by Cameron

I agree but it's not a trivial task to get it right . Take your 16C base and add complex numbers, integration, solver, matrix functions, trigonometrics and inverses for a start.

Certainly I'm not suggesting it can't be done, it's just a crime that the code base that represented incredible amounts of time from some very talented and creative people ended up in dumpsters.

                        
Is the dumpsters story true?
Message #17 Posted by marais on 23 May 2004, 5:23 a.m.,
in response to message #16 by Randy Sloyer

I've read it several times here and elsewhere and can't believe it. Could somebody reveal the truth about the dumped firmware myth? Is is something you just guessed that happened, or is the information confirmed, and if they really did dump it, for what reason? I just don't get it.

Andreas

                              
Re: Is the dumpsters story true?
Message #18 Posted by Joe Edwards on 23 May 2004, 11:49 a.m.,
in response to message #17 by marais

I also would like to see the evidence that the code and information regarding this calcs was just thrown away. How can there now be an electronic copy on some computer at HP? It just doesn't make sense.

Joe

                                    
Re: Is the dumpsters story true?
Message #19 Posted by DavidY on 23 May 2004, 1:06 p.m.,
in response to message #18 by Joe Edwards

Would HP dump? True story about another BIG computer company. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent!)

Back in the early 1970's a friend of mine start work after college with a/the BIG computer company in the Northeast U.S. His group was a mixed unit--hardware and software engineers. He and his office mate were in charge of writing I/O microcode for a new processor; the rest of the group was doing chip design and other microcode. Other company groups in the South and West were also working on chip designs. Fast foward 30 months: the 3 groups meet in New York to present designs to upper management. After several days of presentations management call all 3 groups in and basicly says: "Thanks for all the work. You guys are really sharp--great designs. But, we know this hardware company with a completed cpu chip that we can license. So you guys are going to be re-assigned and we don't need your designs any more."

And, Poof!, the work was gone. My friend was so frustrated he took a leave of absence for a while to teach.

The moral: Management has its own ideas on what to do and never ever expect those ideas to be common sense.

                                          
Re: Is the dumpsters story true?
Message #20 Posted by Chris Woodhouse on 23 May 2004, 1:43 p.m.,
in response to message #19 by DavidY

Quote:
The moral: Management has its own ideas on what to do and never ever expect those ideas to be common sense.

While I don't dispute that, I would be willing to be more than one of the engineers at HP that worked on the voyagers have a copy somewhere. I know if I were to work on a project like that I would keep multiple copies in case one got lost or damaged.

Chris W

                                                
Re: Is the dumpsters story true?
Message #21 Posted by Ron Ross on 24 May 2004, 8:36 a.m.,
in response to message #20 by Chris Woodhouse

While a former Engineer may well indeed have this, he/she would be breaking laws to divulge it! Why? Because it is not his/hers to release. It is Hp intellectual property. Worse, Hp prided itself (the OLD HP) on its and its employees integraty. Therefore, these former engineers (Former is definitely MOST LIKELY) are honor bound to not divulge this information. AND THEY WON'T!!! This bunch isn't filled with Carly lacky's, but people who abide by their signatures on Non-disclosure agreements.

Sadly the great organization they used to belong to is gone, but most of these engineers will still honor their agreements and we are the less fortunate because of it.

One or two may break ranks, but don't hold your breath.

                                                      
Re: Is the dumpsters story true?
Message #22 Posted by Chris Woodhouse on 24 May 2004, 9:04 a.m.,
in response to message #21 by Ron Ross

Quote:
While a former Engineer may well indeed have this, he/she would be breaking laws to divulge it!

I am advocating that HP make the 15C again.

Bring Back the

So how on earth could they be breaking any laws to provide the new team at HP that will bring back the 15C with the specs on the original 15C? That was a rhetorical question by the way.

Chris W


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