The Museum of HP Calculators

HP Forum Archive 19

[ Return to Index | Top of Index ]

Which scientific calculator?
Message #1 Posted by M Manning on 1 Apr 2009, 8:35 a.m.

Hello everyone - this is my first posting to the forum.

Like a large proportion of the UK population in the 1980's I went through my school and University (BSc Chemistry) education armed with a Casio FX82 calculator having never heard of the joys of RPN. An allergy to lab solvents (not practical to be an organic chemist if you're sneezing constantly!) meant I left formal science for a career in finance and an introduction to RPN via the HP12C.

I planning to start an Open University maths degree later in the year and wondered what recommendations you may have re RPN calculators as I don't really want to go back to the FX82. Do I try and source an 11C or 15C to match the 12C or is a new 35S a better route.

Many thanks.

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #2 Posted by Michael de Estrada on 1 Apr 2009, 9:25 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

I'm an old RPNer, who began with an HP-35, and progressed through an HP-15C and many other HP RPN scientific calculators to the present with a HP-35S and HP-50g. While I certainly feel that the HP-15C was the best all-around calculator HP ever made, from a practical standpoint, I think the most cost-effective solution would be an HP-35S. The quality seems to be reasonably good, the keys work well and it has a wealth of built-in functions. The problem with sourcing a HP-15C in good condition and including the manual is that it will cost you a fortune, since they are currently very much in vogue. One thing for sure, avoid the HP-33S, which has a horrible display and keyboard.

Good luck in your studies.

Michael

            
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #3 Posted by Nigel J Dowrick on 1 Apr 2009, 1:49 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Michael de Estrada

My 33S has a lovely display and keyboard! I don't think it's just a matter of taste: I believe that the HP-33S was indeed of poor quality to start with, but this certainly isn't true of more recent models. See the wikipedia page on the HP-33S for more details.

Even though the HP-33S is no longer manufactured it can still be picked up new here and there. It does have some advantages over the HP-35S, such as: more of the important functions available unshifted; more useable base-N support; the exponent part of an answer always fits on the display. The HP-35S of course has many features that the HP-33S lacks, and these may be important to you.

The HP-42S is far better than both! (but much more expensive)

Nigel

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #4 Posted by designnut on 1 Apr 2009, 2:17 p.m.,
in response to message #3 by Nigel J Dowrick

I was startled to read thee 33s is no longer being made, so I looked at /www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/can.do?landing=calculator&category=Scientific&catLevel=1&storeName=storefronts and it is indeed listed for sale at $34. It has no learning curve and RPN programming. I think it's a great practical calc easy to use as a simple calc, has a great equation solver, I buy them on ebay as gifts. Sam 80

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #5 Posted by Michael de Estrada on 1 Apr 2009, 2:39 p.m.,
in response to message #3 by Nigel J Dowrick

Nigel,

Being from the UK, I assume that you use the comma (,) as the fractional separator. As a American, I use the period (.), and on the HP-33s display, it is almost invisible when certain numbers are entered. Try using . as the separator with 222222.222 entered. See my point (pardon the pun)?

Greetings from the other side of the pond, Michael

                        
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #6 Posted by designnut on 1 Apr 2009, 5:02 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by Michael de Estrada

The problem with the invisible decimal on the 33S is so bad I suggest they abandon the simple period dot and use a more visible symbol, a short vertical dash or semicolon. For my use I switch to the EU method of using the comma as a bit easier to see. Sam

                        
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #7 Posted by Nigel J Dowrick on 1 Apr 2009, 5:17 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by Michael de Estrada

In the UK we still use decimal points (.) for decimals and commas for thousands separators, just as in the US, although as a teacher I try to encourage my students to use spaces as separators to avoid confusion with the rest of Europe! Yes, I do see your point: however, it is only between pairs of 2's that I find the decimal hard to see. I had never noticed this before! With other pairs of digits the point is much more visible, at least to my (spectacle-enhanced) eyes. I assume that the HP-35s is superior in this regard.

Nigel

                              
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #8 Posted by Michael de Estrada on 1 Apr 2009, 6:01 p.m.,
in response to message #7 by Nigel J Dowrick

Yes, the HP-35s is very superior to the HP-33s in this regard. Interestingly, the decimal point is the same size, however, the individual numbers are narrower, such that there is a greater separation between the base of the number and the decimal point. It is still not very good, mind you, but at least you don't need a magnifying glass to find it. If you want to see what a really good clear and legible display looks like, fire up any Voyager (HP-11c, HP-12c, HP-15c etc). Also, the HP-50g is very good in this regard, as it allocates a full space between adjacent numbers for a decimal point or comma.

                                    
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #9 Posted by Chuck Sommer on 1 Apr 2009, 6:06 p.m.,
in response to message #8 by Michael de Estrada

I believe that sometime during the hp33s product cycle they changed the display (about 1-2 years before the release of the hp35s). The hp35s was build with this new display. So if you get an hp35s you are guaranteed to get the better display, but you only have a 50-50 chance with the hp33s, unless you are knowledgeable about serial numbers.

Chuck

                                          
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #10 Posted by Michael de Estrada on 1 Apr 2009, 6:28 p.m.,
in response to message #9 by Chuck Sommer

I wonder if it also got the funky uncentered mantissa minus sign to go with the uncentered exponent minus sign. I've never been able to get used to that.

BTW The serial numbers for my HP-33s and HP-35s are CNA 430xxxxx and CNA 726xxxxx, which place their respective dates of manufacture at 30th week for 2004 and 26th week of 2007. I bought the HP-35s very shortly after it was first released.

Michael

Edited: 1 Apr 2009, 7:37 p.m.

                                                
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #11 Posted by Nigel J Dowrick on 2 Apr 2009, 5:56 a.m.,
in response to message #10 by Michael de Estrada

My HP-33s has a serial number starting CNA 702xxxxx, so it dates from the second week of 2007. I've looked at a few pictures of the HP-35s and its display looks very similar to that of my HP-33s, so perhaps there is no longer such a problem.

FYI, my HP-33s has a centred mantissa minus sign, but the exponent sign is level with the top of the "E"! So much variety.

Nigel

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #12 Posted by Dave on 1 Apr 2009, 9:28 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

35s is fine for everyday number crunching, but the 50g would be much more useful to a math major like you.

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #13 Posted by Mike Morrow on 1 Apr 2009, 10:28 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

Having used the HP-15C (I've got two) for more than 24 years, I am of the opinion that it is the most overrated and over-praised calculator that HP has ever made. It truely has a "cult" following, in every sense of the word. The facts are that it is very slow, it lacks the precision of later models, it is *very* awkward to use while holding in the hand (absolutely insane for a "hand-held" calculator!), it has very limited memory, it is non-intuitive to use without referral to the manual when dealing with advanced built-in functions (especially matrices), it has very limited display, it has no alphanumeric display, etc. etc. etc. ALL of these deficiencies are corrected in the later HP42S, with many many additional features added as well.

I carry one of my HP-15C units when there is some chance that harm could come to the calculator I'm carrying. It wouldn't hurt much to lose it, compared to one of my HP42S units.

Unfortunately, should one choose either an HP-15C or an HP42S, one will likely pay several hundred dollars for it. But there's excellent relief! Get a low-cost, modern, fast, fantastically-featured HP50g. But also obtain a printout of the 653 page HP49g+ Advanced User Reference (Yes...HP49g+, not HP50g). The manual that comes with the HP50g has little useful detail.

IMHO, the HP50g is the only calculator that competes in favor with the HP42S (though they are very different machines).

            
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #14 Posted by Michael de Estrada on 1 Apr 2009, 11:11 a.m.,
in response to message #13 by Mike Morrow

Quote:
Having used the HP-15C (I've got two) for more than 24 years, I am of the opinion that it is the most overrated and over-praised calculator that HP has ever made.

I carry one of my HP-15C units when there is some chance that harm could come to the calculator I'm carrying. It wouldn't hurt much to lose it...


WOW! I've never heard such outright hatred for a product that literally saved HP's hide in the aftermath of the disastrous Spice series calcs. This product was extremely high quality and durable, which is why your 2 HP-15c's are still working today after apparently rough use. Of course it was slow and had limited capacity when compared to the modern calcs like the HP-50g; it was introduced almost 30 years ago! At that time, pre-PC microcomputers had a maximum of 64K RAM and were less than a thousandth the speed of current PCs. It may not have been good as a hand-held device, but was very shirt-pocketable and wonderful as a mini-desktop with its horizontal keyboard layout. And its key action was as good as any; certainly better than the HP-50g.

Yes, I agree that it makes more sense for the initial poster to buy a new modern calculator, be it the HP-35s or HP-50g (see my above reply), however, I think one should not vilify the HP-15c, which at the time was quite revolutionary with its capabilities and kept HP in the high-end RPN calculator business.

Michael

Edited: 1 Apr 2009, 11:34 a.m.

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #15 Posted by Mike Morrow on 1 Apr 2009, 10:32 p.m.,
in response to message #14 by Michael de Estrada

Hatred? Hardly. I have no emotional attachment to nor revulsion for things inanimate.

With respect to the HP-15C, there are a number of archived messages on this forum in which I'm on record stating that the HP-15C is the second best RPN calculator ever made. But the 27-year old HP-15C is a *very* distant second best, compared to the first place 21-year-old HP42S. There is simply NO rational justification for any preference for the HP-15C over the vastly superior, very negligibly larger, very much more capable yet easy to use HP42S. One only dreams what possibilities exist with modern technology today in the same size package.

So, no, I don't want to see a re-issue of a Chinese copy of the HP-15C. The commonly expressed desires for such are, IMHO, uninformed by knowledge of what was available in the HP42S six short years after the HP-15C first appeared, more than two decades before today. The unchanged HP42S would be a far better candidate for re-issue. Even better would be a modern version...like Walter's hypothetical HP43S.

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #16 Posted by Mike Morrow on 1 Apr 2009, 11:10 p.m.,
in response to message #14 by Michael de Estrada

I'll offer my opinion of the importance of the HP-15C in "saving" HP's calculator business: It's nonsense.

At the time that the HP-15C was announced, the HP-41-series was the very successful premier calculator in HP's line. The LED-display Spice series was by then inconsequential and obsolete (although I am rather fond of my HP-34C, over my 1977 HP-67).

The Voyager series (HP-10C, 11C, 12C, and later the 15C and 16C) was directed at those who couldn't afford (in cost or size) the HP-41 system. The HP-15C especially was remarkable in its design capable of complex math, matrix math, a solver, and an integrator, all in a simple and small package (but more awkward due to the style-over-substance "cute" landscape keyboard design), all of which required ad hoc programming in the HP-41. I purchased an HP-15C just because of all it offered that my HP-41CX didn't without programming or the "Advantage" module.

I'd say that while the Voyager series helped HP's calculator business, it was the HP-41 series that was the real star all through the years that the Voyagers were being made.

                        
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #17 Posted by Michael de Estrada on 2 Apr 2009, 12:00 a.m.,
in response to message #16 by Mike Morrow

I think you are waffling on this. First you say "I have no emotional attachment to nor revulsion for things inanimate" Now you say "I am rather fond of my HP-34C"

Anyway, I owned one of them crappy junky HP-34C things that fell apart after little more than a year, and the HP-15c was pretty much a functional equivalent for it. It cost about the same, did everything I needed from it and was bulletproof. Sure, the HP-41C was a lot more sexy, but it cost 3 times as much, and by the time you equipped it with modules and periferals, the cost skyrocketted. I propose that a lot more Voyagers were sold than HP-41C's to ordinary practical engineers like myself, who didn't need anything real fancy and just wanted a very simple and affordable device with all the functions directly accessible from the keyboard. For example, I used hyperbolics a lot and on the HP-15c you just hit f or g shift HYP and the function. On the HP-41C, you have to first buy a Math module, and then either type in the function name after XEQ or assign it to a key. Quite a tedius and expensive way to do something simple. So trying to compare the Voyagers to the HP-41C is meaningless. I still say that HP saved the day in the basic calculator business after the bad taste that the Spice calcs left with their replacement by the Voyagers.

                        
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #18 Posted by Howard Owen on 2 Apr 2009, 12:17 a.m.,
in response to message #16 by Mike Morrow

Quote:
.. the "cute" landscape keyboard design..

That "cute" design seems to have really caught on with finance types. I even know some engineers that prefer it, though it's certainly arguable either way.

Quote:
it was the HP-41 series that was the real star all through the years that the Voyagers were being made.

I agree with this, except that HP never stopped making Voyagers. (Arguments that latter day 12Cs aren't "real" Voyagers will be summarily dismissed. :)



Regards,
Howard

            
Re: Which scientific calculator? (HP-15C)
Message #19 Posted by Karl Schneider on 2 Apr 2009, 5:56 a.m.,
in response to message #13 by Mike Morrow

Quote:
The facts are that it is very slow, it lacks the precision of later models,

The 1982 HP-15C has the same processor as the 1979 HP-41 (albeit "declocked"). The faster Saturn processor, programmed for 12-digit results, did not appear in RPN models until 1988. Six years was a long time to wait for an affordable RPN alternative to reserving time on the mainframe or buying an expensive, primitive early PC.

Quote:
it is *very* awkward to use while holding in the hand (absolutely insane for a "hand-held" calculator!),

But it's superb for desktop use, with the user's hand moving in a natural side-to-side motion, instead of back-and-forth. The display is moved closer to the user with the calc near the edge of the desk -- as with students, and engineers before they had PC's with pulled-out keyboard tray on their desks...

Quote:
it has very limited memory,

More than the base HP-41C (and more than the successor HP-32S/SII)...

The 64 allocatable and 3 non-allocatable registers (two used for matrix indices) made it possible to invert an 8x8 real-valued matrix.

Quote:
it is non-intuitive to use without referral to the manual when dealing with advanced built-in functions (especially matrices),

I disagree vehemently with that -- espcially when one compares usage of SOLVE and INTEG with that of the HP-42S. Linear algebra on the HP-15C requires the user to perform more manual steps, but these are methodical and logical. It is important that the HP-15C user understand linear algebra.

I rarely if ever need to consult the HP-15C's excellent manual. One exception would be inversion of a 4x4 complex matrix -- better to use an HP-42S or RPL-based model for that. But it can be done on an HP-15C...

Quote:
it has very limited display, it has no alphanumeric display,

It is what it is, but the display is easy to read...


Needless to say, this topic has come up before:

http://www.hpmuseum.org/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/hpmuseum/archv014.cgi?read=61702#61702

-- KS

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator? (HP-15C)
Message #20 Posted by Walter B on 2 Apr 2009, 6:15 a.m.,
in response to message #19 by Karl Schneider

Oh yes, this is one of the permanent topics here ;-) I will not quote nor repeat my earlier contributions, since previous discussions are found easily.

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator? (HP-15C)
Message #21 Posted by Mike Morrow on 2 Apr 2009, 9:24 a.m.,
in response to message #19 by Karl Schneider

The HP-15C is a quality-made device, especially after the early models (which have all that bizarre black ESD and moisture intrusion plastic wrap and multi-piece PCB construction inside) were replaced by the simple single open PCB versions. The Voyager-series LCD clarity, keyboard feel, and overall appearance are among HP's best ever.

Many of the comparisions that are being made refer to advantages of the HP-15C compared to earlier or contemporary HP models. I agree with those comparisons...there wasn't IMHO an overall better RPN calculator being made than the HP-15C *before* the HP42S. My comparisons have always been of the HP-15C to this later HP42S, in which one would naturally, logically, and correctly assume that the earlier HP-15C would suffer. But to monitor this and other related discussions, the uninitiated would be led to believe that the older unit not only performs as well, but is actually preferable in most respects. HP-15C fanatics seem to be affronted by any assertion that anything better ever replaced it. That outlook simply does not reflect reality.

FWIW, here are a couple of additional features which HP-15C fans don't often point out. Have you ever wanted to record the output? The HP42S IR printer output makes this easy. Have you ever run a program that required user input during the run? It would be nice if a beep or other sound could be generated when the program halts for input. That's no problem with HP42S. The Voyagers provide neither I/O feature.

I contest the HP32S/SII being suggested as the successor to the HP-15C. It very definitely was not, as anyone who had used the HP-15C would quickly discern (with great disappointment, as I did) after buying a 32SII as a replacement. The 32S/SII was much more a replacement for the HP-11C.

Only the HP42S was the worthy non-RPL successor to the HP-15C. This was true in 1988, and it is still true today, more than two decades later.

                        
Re: Which scientific calculator? (HP-15C)
Message #22 Posted by Randy on 2 Apr 2009, 9:36 a.m.,
in response to message #21 by Mike Morrow

Quote:
which have all that bizarre black ESD and moisture intrusion plastic wrap and multi-piece PCB construction inside

FWIW, it was strictly for ESD protection. Within the calculator engineering group it was affectionately referred to as "the black diaper".

Edited: 2 Apr 2009, 9:36 a.m.

                        
Re: Which scientific calculator? (HP-15C)
Message #23 Posted by Michael de Estrada on 2 Apr 2009, 10:07 a.m.,
in response to message #21 by Mike Morrow

Quote:
I contest the HP32S/SII being suggested as the successor to the HP-15C. It very definitely was not, as anyone who had used the HP-15C would quickly discern (with great disappointment, as I did) after buying a 32SII as a replacement. The 32S/SII was much more a replacement for the HP-11C.

Yes. Finally, something we can agree on. The HP 32SII lacked matrix math, which the HP 15C first introduced. I never bought an HP 32SII, however, a non-RPN colleague gave me one the company had given to him, and he never used. The only thing I ever used it for was to perform fractional arithmetic. By that time, I had bought an HP-48SX, which I used for all my heavy lifting, while I still used my HP-15C for simple non-programming tasks.

Edited: 2 Apr 2009, 10:57 a.m.

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator? (HP-15C)
Message #24 Posted by Egan Ford on 2 Apr 2009, 5:10 p.m.,
in response to message #19 by Karl Schneider

I'll also add that the 15C was/is better built. I'm on my 2nd 42S and it has problems (resets itself when pressure applied to upper corner).

Another 15C plus is seeing all the functions right on the front. And anything missing is on the back, printed on metal. Although, I like the 42/48... menus as well, but, I do wish the 42S had that 3rd function/key.

Lastly, I'll just express my opinion. The Voyager series is with out a doubt the most visually appealing of any calculator (with the exception of the 71B which as we all know is just a Voyager++ :-). The layout of the Voyager is stunning, the metal, the lines, the medallion, the use of gold on the 12C, the metal legend on the back, the recessed keyboard, the high contrast clear labels, the slanted keys. The Voyager is a work of fine functional art. And, if only business types buy it (12C) today, well then, they just have good taste.

P.S. I've posted this before. When my daughter painted her interpretation of a calculator she was secretly draw to the Voyager for inspiration:

Edited: 2 Apr 2009, 5:18 p.m.

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #25 Posted by Walter B on 1 Apr 2009, 10:48 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

I second Mike's opinion. In the set of RPN calculators, the 42S is by far the best you can get. Please note the 50G is RPL, i.e. something different (see earlier discussions in this forum).

If you need a quality calculator for number crunching, the 42S is the one IMHO. If you want faster results, and some way to backup your programs, get Thomas Okken's Free42 on your PDA. If you look for more math, get the 50G or a nice application for your notebook.

HTH

Walter

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #26 Posted by Matti ÷vermark on 1 Apr 2009, 1:29 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

Having used the 15C since 1983 and the 49G+/50G for some years, I would definetly recommend the 15C. Not only for the size and cult status, but more for the reason that you most probably will not be allowed to use the 50G on a written exam... You can get the work done on a 15C, just need to learn a bit more math yourself (and not to rely on the awesome math-machine). However if you may use it, then bear in mind that there is a tremendeous power in the 50G, but it takes the hours (looong and many, many :-) to get the full potential out of it.

Cheers, Matti (Sweden)

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #27 Posted by Martin Pinckney on 1 Apr 2009, 2:28 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

Well, never say this forum is lacking for diverse opinion!

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #28 Posted by Paul Dale on 1 Apr 2009, 4:56 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

I doubt it matters which you choose. I barely used a calculator during my mathematics degree & PhD.

I think I had a Casio fx-602p as my working calculator at the time but like I said it hardly got used.

- Pauli

      
Which scientific calculator?
Message #29 Posted by Hal Bitton in Boise on 1 Apr 2009, 5:51 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

Since you will be pursuing a math degree, I would recommend a 50g, since a graphing calc may well be required for some classes. Last year I took two refresher college math classes where that was indeed the case. My 50G served me very well, and it was fun to (sometimes) trump the Ti89's that dominated the rest of the class.
Best regards, Hal

            
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #30 Posted by hpnut on 1 Apr 2009, 9:06 p.m.,
in response to message #29 by Hal Bitton in Boise

Quote:
Since you will be pursuing a math degree, I would recommend a 50g, since a graphing calc may well be required for some classes. Last year I took two refresher college math classes where that was indeed the case. My 50G served me very well, and it was fun to (sometimes) trump the Ti89's that dominated the rest of the class.
Best regards, Hal


I agree. Thiel College has a Maths faculty that uses the HP 50G with RPN as the OS of choice. http://www.thiel.edu/Mathproject/CalculatorLessons/Default.htm

It's true that the 50g has a steep learning curve, but I have persevered and sought out as many non-HP resources on the calculator to reinforce my understanding of the calculator.

hpnut in Malaysia

      
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #31 Posted by Howard Owen on 1 Apr 2009, 10:43 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by M Manning

This topic was bound to set off a cascade of strong opinions here. :) It's actually one of the forum's perennial topics, though I always love reading new variations on the old theme. This time around I even see a detractor of the HP15C. That's definitely heresy, and I find it refreshing and interesting, even though I love my 15Cs.

You say you are transitioning from a career in finance. That may mean you could afford a 35S and a 50G. They both have strengths and weaknesses that have been noted here already. And if you get really crazy, you could start buying up some of the classic models, and become an HP calculator addict like most of us here. :)

Regards,
Howard

            
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #32 Posted by Hans-Erik Lehndal on 2 Apr 2009, 2:42 a.m.,
in response to message #31 by Howard Owen

I might add that a math degree on Open University has its own requirements. If you start from scratch (you probably wonít, with your background) with MU120 & MST121 they expect you to use a TI-83. In MST121 MathCad is included and from there on my guess is that you donít need a calculator (there are several software packs used in the courses, but they are included in the course fee) and that a calculator like 50g might not be allowed on exams.

I suggest that you contact the University, they will be able to advice you. When that is straightened out, go ahead and but a HP RPN anyway, I have a 34C, a 35S and a 49g+ - and I am an OU addict.

                  
Re: Which scientific calculator?
Message #33 Posted by M Manning on 2 Apr 2009, 10:24 a.m.,
in response to message #32 by Hans-Erik Lehndal

Thanks all for your many (and varied) suggestions!


[ Return to Index | Top of Index ]

Go back to the main exhibit hall