|Re: When will HP make a good calculator again|
Message #12 Posted by Bernhard on 16 Aug 2005, 5:09 p.m.,
in response to message #11 by Mark Crispin
I think the HP35 is a very fine calc, but it misses the engineering display format. And some simple form of programmability, just to
allow for quick evaluation of functions, with maybe some simple conditional jumps, but nothing for which I'd need a manual, such as the ISG or DSG, or fancy indirect addressing. I don't need this on a calc, and if needed, I'd use a notebook computer and a real compiler instead. And it should have a good LCD display and good keyboard and need no battery (use solar cells). EEPROM technology would allow to keep programs stored even in darkness.
I think it even might be possible to achieve this with some of the larger japanese 4-bit microcontrollers they use in watches. If using a watch chip is not possible, and lowest possible power consumption is desired, a full custom chip needs to be done, but for an old and simple architecture like Classic or Woodstock this may use up only a man-year or so, if the designers do know all the secret tricks of the micropower guild. All this may be well within the reach of a smaller enterprise - and if they really want to do it, I think they still could find the brains who are able to it.
But somehow it did not happen yet - most likely, they don't see a profitable market. Otherwise, we could buy such calculators already.
Probably they did not forget the lesson from the 1970s when making calculators turned from a cash cow into a cutthroat business. The long and winding road of calculator history is littered with bankrupt and defunct companies that made them. I do always wonder how HP's calculator divison did survive these rough waters. There must have been some magic in their calcs. We all pretend to know that feeling - else we would not collect those calcs - but do we really know what it was ? Are we able to distill the essence of the special HP calculator feeling from our memories and calculator collections and will there be some daring entrepreneur who succeeds to put this essence, this soul into a new machine, so as to bring the feeling back ?
Then we would take such a new calc, admire its finish and quality manufacture, press some keys - aha - and if the magic is there, we will happily open our wallets and buy them. But if the magic is not there, and the feeling is missing, the project will be a certain failure. No good news for our daring entrepreneur - he might lose all the money he invested.
And we will wait forever for a good calculator.
Maybe the more viable road would be to set up a non-profit foundation which collects donations but guarantees nothing except that when enough money has been collected, a truly professional attempt will be done to design and build a few prototypes. Then, if this succeeds, and the prototypes happen to have that magic, starts to take prepaid orders and when a reasonable minimum lot size is together, have them manufactured and distributed.
Much like a lottery in which the player might win a damn good calculator, unavailable on the open market. What a thrill !
And also the acid test for the real - world feasibility of the business model - do those who now pretend to want good calculators back really dare to risk some $50 or $100 on such a venture ? If not, we could not reasonably expect some daring entrepreneur stand up and put his own money at risk.
Which is the current situation !