|Re: hp 41 or hp 49?|
Message #5 Posted by Howard Owen on 21 Jan 2006, 2:21 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by e. young
From a casual perusal of comp.sys.hp48, it appears to me that the latest 49G+ ROMs, combined with tweaking of parameters (dealing with keyboard debounce, it seems,) look like they have addressed keyboard issues with recent vintage 49G+ machines.
Otherwise, the two machines truly are like apples and oranges. Both have learning curves, but the 41C is a much simpler machine. This can be an advantage or not depending on whether you need some bell or whistle available on the 49G+ that's not there on the 41. Since the feature list of the 49 is so long, I can't suggest what that might be, except to note that the screen graphing capabilities and symbolic manipulations are missing on the 41. Many people here think those are overkill on a calculator anyway, given that PCs do them so much faster and better, and that numeric calculation is the proper domain of a handheld calculating machine.
Here are some other differences I can think of.
Item HP41C HP49G+ HP48GX PC
Speed Slow Faster Intermediate Fastest
Ease(Programming) High Very Low Very Low+ Varies
Ease (Use) Medium Low Low Varies
Software Lots Lots Lots Lots!
Ease of loading Hard Easy Intermediate Too easy. 8)
"Power" Low Medium Medium-Low High
The 49G+ is a 75Mhz ARM that emulates the Saturn CPU found in earlier 48 series machines. So some of its functions are reasonably fast, but others poke along due to the emulation. the 49G and 48G+ both ran a 4Mhz Saturn. In terms of speed, they were OK for their day, but have been eclipsed by 68K TI machines and the ARM based HP models. The 41C CPU ran at 750 Hz, but it was optimized for BCD math, and so performed a bit better than you would expect at that speed. Whether it's too slow for you depends on what exactly you need to calculate, and in what timeframe. If speed is really important, no calculator can beat a modern PC, running any recent processor I know about.
Ease of programming is somewhat subjective. A couple of months ago we engaged in extensive discussion about the relative nerits of RPN keystroke programming, which the 41C implements, and RPL, which is what the 48 and 49 series use. The RPL afficianados claimed that RPN seemed counter-intuitive and difficult for them, whereas most of the RPN enthusiasts said the same about RPL. Obviously, familiarity with one or the other plays a role in perceptions of this quality. But I don't think anyone would seriously argue that RPL wasn't a lot more complicated - and more powerful - than RPN. Having just completed implementing a game on the 48GX, 49G and 49G+, I can say that there was light at the other side of the first inflection point on the learning curve for me. I'm now pretty comfortable with User RPL, but it took a good six months of occasional effort to get there. By way of contrast, it took me something like a month to learn to program the 41C at fairly high proficiency back in the 80s, and that was the first time I'd programmed anything!
Ease of use depends on how easy it is to get to common functions, and how easy it is to get them to work together. Both the 49G+ and the 41C had a lot of though devoted to their respective user interfaces. So the ensemble works pretty well in both cases. However, there are fewer functions on the 41, so there are fewer that you need to spell out in order to get to. The 49G+ has menus, but customizing those is more trouble than assigning a key on the 41C. I give both high points for trying to make themselves usable, but the 41C wins on simplicity, in my opinion.
There's lots of software available for both platforms. Some of it overlaps, but as you might expect, the 41C's lean heavily toward numeric calculation, whereas the 48 amd 49 series have a load of symbolic and graphical apps too. Mostly though, the software for the 41 is as good for what it does as anything available for the 49. And of course neither can hold a candle to the number of high quality apps available for PCs.
There's an issue regarding loading software onto the 41C. If you don't want to key in a program by hand, you need extra hardware. There are lots of choices for this, but they are complicated, and invole hardware as old as the 41C itself.
Partially balancing this is the fact that 41C programs can only get so large before they fill the limited memory on the machine. This, combined with the slow speed of the CPU is why I give the machine a "low" power rating. The 48GX has more memory and a faster CPU. Also, RPL is more complicated, but also more expressive than RPN. I think that the 49G+ is more powerful than the 48GX by virtue of its faster CPU and larger usable memory. But there's also the fact that an assembler and other developer tools are built in to the machine. Once again the PC wins by a long mile over any of these machines. Clusters of Intel (and AMD) architecture machines are among the fastest supercomputers on Earth at the moment. And even desktop PCs run rings around the fastest calc I'm aware of. Combine that with the better software choice, and it's easy to see why the calculator has been supplanted for many functions.
But even a laptop is more trouble to carry than a calculator. That's one other thing the 41C has going for it - portability. It has better battery life and a smaller form factor than the HP49G+. Plus it has a special place in my heart. I use my 41C for everything up to the point where I exceed its capacity, mainly due to this nostalgic love for the machine. What works for you may vary.
Edited: 21 Jan 2006, 2:23 p.m.