|Flawed calcs & consumer products vs. old HP's|
Message #20 Posted by Karl Schneider on 8 Nov 2009, 12:48 a.m.,
in response to message #19 by Bart (UK)
That's a fine "mini-essay" with some very good points.
Several explanations for bug-ridden, flawed, and poorly-designed calculators and other consumer gadgets have been discussed in this space:
- Relentless pace of advancing technology renders today's novelty tomorrow's obsolete relic. Why spend the money, time, and effort to make a first-class product that would be replaced in only a few years?
- Race-to-the-bottom price competition, enabled by low-cost microprocessors as well as the cheap labor of globalization, leaving little margin for quality engineering.
- Re-emphasis from "substance" (sensible, quality products) toward "style", gimmickry, and short-term profit.
- Today's cheap, expedient way to fix errors by releasing patches to software and firmware via the internet.
It didn't used to be that way:
Even by modern standards, there was nothing simple about the detailed functional specifications of the HP-15C and HP-42S in particular. Yet, these models are known for near-perfection in operation, and excellence of design. Both pioneered new territory in certain ways, but -- with only a few trivial exceptions -- every feature performs exactly as designed. The vast majority of their functional designs themselves are also excellent.
This could not have happened by accident: Not only was the functionality carefully thought through, but systematic, methodical procedures must have been employed to ensure that nothing would be overlooked. Rigorous and comprehensive testing ensured that the original product release did not require significant revision or re-design. I'm always astounded how well the HP-15C and HP-42S were executed in their basically-single incarnations.
I believe that certain methods and practices of the not-too-distant past have been forgotten or discontinued in the development of much of today's consumer technology.
(Minor editing to wordsmith)
Edited: 8 Nov 2009, 2:13 p.m. after one or more responses were posted