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How do you like the HP 34C?
09-24-2017, 06:44 PM
Post: #1
How do you like the HP 34C?
I am looking around for an antique HP scientific calculator, mostly for the fun of it, but I will actually use it for simple calculations and maybe a bit old-fashioned programming. I already have 42S, 32 SII, and 35S. All of these are very good, albeit I have seen HP calculators that looked more "solid" (more metal, less plastic, I suppose). Perhaps I'll go for the 41C (which seems to be very popular), but I also like the look of the 34C. I have heard relatively few opinions on the 34C; so I thought I should ask here. Any thoughts? How do you like the LED display and the keyboard? Thanks!
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09-25-2017, 04:26 AM
Post: #2
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-24-2017 06:44 PM)Trond Wrote:  I am looking around for an antique HP scientific calculator, mostly for the fun of it, but I will actually use it for simple calculations and maybe a bit old-fashioned programming. I already have 42S, 32 SII, and 35S. All of these are very good, albeit I have seen HP calculators that looked more "solid" (more metal, less plastic, I suppose). Perhaps I'll go for the 41C (which seems to be very popular), but I also like the look of the 34C. I have heard relatively few opinions on the 34C; so I thought I should ask here. Any thoughts? How do you like the LED display and the keyboard? Thanks!

The HP-34C was the very first HP I owned outright. Although I'd seen the 12C, I didn't have one. The HP-34C could concievably be considered top of the line for LED-based calculators, at least in my opinion. If you're able, I'd suggest getting one of the later ones that have the chips soldered to the board, rather than the clamped-together one I ended up with (which ended up dying, in the end). The key-feel is absolutely classic HP (somewhat hard click for someone used to fx-82), the inclusion of a root solver and integral functions made a nice addition (along with Gamma) to the rest of the already excellent calculators of the time. The LED display is rather hard to view in any decent light, and is completely obliterated during daylight hours if you're outdoors. Your kilometreage may vary indoors.

In fact, your chief limitation might actually be the limited amount of memory in comparison to the 42S, as the amount of memory is shared between program space and variables. The larger your program, the less variables you have left free to work with. The more variables you want to use, the less space you have for programming. It's an "interesting" balance for larger programs.

If you can find a HP-34C complete with manual set, and even a clean battery set, you'll be doing very well. You may have to be prepared to hunt for each. If I were to hunt for a classic HP (i.e. pre-48gx), the 34C would definitely qualify as one I'd want.

(Post 95)

Regards, BrickViking
HP-50g |Casio fx-9750G+ |Casio fx-9750GII (SH4a)
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09-25-2017, 05:37 AM
Post: #3
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-25-2017 04:26 AM)brickviking Wrote:  The HP-34C could concievably be considered top of the line for LED-based calculators, at least in my opinion.

I'd say that the HP-67 was the ultimate LED-based HP calculator. Compared to the 34C, it lacks the numerical root finder and integrator, gamma, and continuous memory, but it has a card reader, and more than twice the memory of the 34C (224 program steps and 26 registers).

Having said that, the ultimate old-school HP calculator is definitely the 41C. That machine is in a class of its own. (The 41CV and 41CX are even better.) If you're primarily interested in programming, and less concerned about built-in functionality, those calculators are very nice to work with.
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09-25-2017, 07:02 AM
Post: #4
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-25-2017 05:37 AM)Thomas Okken Wrote:  I'd say that the HP-67 was the ultimate LED-based HP calculator. Compared to the 34C, it lacks the numerical root finder and integrator, gamma, and continuous memory, but it has a card reader, and more than twice the memory of the 34C (224 program steps and 26 registers).

The 67 and 97 have almost twice the memory of the 34C. The latter offers 70 steps and 21 registers, i.e. 217 bytes while the 67/97 have 406. That's 1,87x the 34C memory. ;-)

Otherwise: yes, the 67 and 97 may be the ultimate HP LED calculators. But I'd also second the suggestion of a 41C/CV/CX. These definitely are in a class of their own. And much faster than both the 34C and the 67/97. But working with the limited ressources of the LED models can be fun as well. ;-)

As far as the 34C is concerned: This was my very first HP, bought exactly 37 years ago now. This was one of the "solderless" devices with clamped ICs. Back then I did not know about this and I never had any issues. Today the one or other display segment or digit may stay dark, and twisting the case a bit may fix it. Maybe the newer, soldered samples are better in this regard. The keyboard also does not feel like the one of the 41-series or the Woodstocks, the keys have to be pushed a bit harder. Compared with the 67/97 there is a more comprehensive function set, the really great Solve and Integrate functions, and continuous memory. This way you can keep your favourite programs in the calculator and they can always be used directly after turning the device on. That's something I'd definitely miss on a 67/97.

Dieter
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09-25-2017, 09:31 AM
Post: #5
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
As you already have LCD calculators, maybe a red led 7 segments display calculator is a differential acquisition to do. The only "numerical" display (although some letters can be showed with limitation) of the 34C reminds me of my first calculator (TI-2500 that no longer works) and the use of it gives me a feeling of nostalgia, back to my high school times. Since I think few people are purchasing such calculators to everyday use (smartphones are replacing all other devices, specially pocket calculators, with apps available for a large amount of models), a physical HP-34C is a pleasure for the owner, feeling real clicking typing the buttons and reading red lights in the display.

My calcs: HP12C, HP15C, HP17BII+, HP20S, HP20B, HP32SII, HP34C, HP35S, HP42S, HP48GX.
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09-25-2017, 02:06 PM
Post: #6
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
Hello!

(09-24-2017 06:44 PM)Trond Wrote:  ... (more metal, less plastic, I suppose). ...

As others have said, according to those criteria the 34C is not the calculator you are looking for. It (and the whole "third generation" series of HP calculators) are the most "plasticky" feeling and with the worst build quality of all classic calculators. In this forum, Texas Instruments is not regarded very highly, but they never made anything like those late 30-series HPs, at least not in the 70ies and early 80ies.

So unless you require it's special functions (mainly solve and integrate) go - as others have said - for the real quality: Either an HP67 or 65. They are the calculators which forged HP's outstanding reputation. Solid, reliable, wonderful in every respect. And you will find that a good HP67 will cost much less than one of the few surviving HP-34C's in working order!

Regards
Max

And to answer your question: I do not like the 34C at all, apart maybe from the display (because it can show commas together with decimal points).
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09-25-2017, 02:40 PM
Post: #7
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
Thanks for all the feedback folks! I did not know that the build quality of the 34C was shoddy. Maybe I'll reconsider and look for one of the other models.
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09-25-2017, 02:52 PM
Post: #8
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-25-2017 02:40 PM)Trond Wrote:  ... that the build quality of the 34C was shoddy. ...

The plastic is too thin and very brittle. I have all the models of this series in my collection (some more than once) but there is not a single one which does not have a crack somewhere in the casing. Most often around the battery door. And most of them have badly corroded battery contacts and also corroded or completely dissolved PCB traces. This is because there is nothing which prevents a leaking battery from contaminating the entire calculator. And again, most of them have developed battery leaks over time because the "constant memory" keeps drawing current from the battery until it will be deep-discharged. Something which does not happen with a 67 for example.
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09-26-2017, 01:31 PM
Post: #9
Jeff_Kearns
[/quote]
In this forum, Texas Instruments is not regarded very highly, but they never made anything like those late 30-series HPs, at least not in the 70ies and early 80ies.
[/quote]

While the Spice series is not as well constructed as some other models, I have to say that my HP-32E and HP-34C calculators function perfectly with no signs of weakness (except for a small hairline crack in the case of the 34C near the battery door). They have perfect key-bounce and are reliable machines. The Texas Instruments TI-30, however, does not come close to the construction quality of Spice calculators. It is by far the cheapest and most unreliable calculator I have in my collection. The keys bounce like crazy (if they register at all) and I wouldn't claim that TI never made poor quality devices in the 70s.
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09-26-2017, 03:13 PM
Post: #10
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
Spice??
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09-26-2017, 03:28 PM (This post was last modified: 09-26-2017 03:50 PM by Joe Horn.)
Post: #11
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-26-2017 03:13 PM)Trond Wrote:  Spice??

That's the name of this group of HP calculators (each followed by its code name):

31E - Ginger
32E - Thyme
33E - Sage
33C - Sage C
34C - Basil
37E - Parsley
38E - Chive
38C - Chive C

X<> c
-Joe-
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09-26-2017, 04:46 PM
Post: #12
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-26-2017 03:28 PM)Joe Horn Wrote:  
(09-26-2017 03:13 PM)Trond Wrote:  Spice??

That's the name of this group of HP calculators (each followed by its code name):

31E - Ginger
32E - Thyme
33E - Sage
33C - Sage C
34C - Basil
37E - Parsley
38E - Chive
38C - Chive C

And I seem to remember the name Spike because HP wanted to market this line as a fierce conpetition to TI and others.
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11-28-2017, 04:12 AM
Post: #13
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-25-2017 04:26 AM)brickviking Wrote:  The LED display is rather hard to view in any decent light, and is completely obliterated during daylight hours if you're outdoors. Your kilometreage may vary indoors.

Are there any differences between the LED calculators in this regard? I know they can be vague in some types of light (I had an electronic game with a similar red LED light as a kid), but are some screens brighter than others?

(for comparison, I think my 42S is great, but the LCD screen can be a bit hard to read compared to the 32SII)
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11-28-2017, 09:01 AM
Post: #14
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
My first and my favourite.


Pauli
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11-28-2017, 03:36 PM (This post was last modified: 11-28-2017 03:38 PM by BobVA.)
Post: #15
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(11-28-2017 04:12 AM)Trond Wrote:  Are there any differences between the LED calculators in this regard?

Perhaps it's just the examples I own, but my HP-67 seems to have the best display of all my LED HP's. It's certainly brighter / higher contrast compared to the rest of the Classics I have, and it has a wider viewing angle than the Woodstocks (HP-2x series LED's)

The 67 is extremely well built (but you'll probably need to replace the friction roller in the card reader) and can be handier for arbitrary quick calculations than the 41C since all the functions are accessible directly from the keys. It's also fun to program and supports some nice features like indirect addressing, reading/writing cards, etc.

The 41 has a lot more programming "depth" so, if you're interested in really wringing out a machine, between the factory functions and the extensions developed by the 41 community, it could keep you busy for years. It's also highly customizable, has a large assortment of native expansion devices and the ability to access the even larger set of HP-IL peripherals when equipped with the HP-IL interface module. I don't think I even scratched the surface of mine back in the 80's and certainly don't with the HP-41CL I own now.

I replaced my original 41 with a 15C for graduate school and found it a lot handier for general use, particularly the native ability to handle complex numbers and root-finding / integration from the keyboard. All that could have been handled with programming and keyboard customization on the 41, but I didn't have the gumption to sort that out at the time. Of the stock HP calculators the 15C is certainly my favorite.

The Woodstocks are very nice calculators, just bear in mine the cautions about not using the charger. My HP-29C with a "New ACT" chip from Panamatik is my favorite calculator for general use now (likely to be replaced by an LP version). It's handy to carry, has a nice keyboard and is very quick to use / program.

If you really like the 34C firmware, another option is to pick up an inexpensive Woodstock (21 or 25) and install Panamatik's ACT or upcoming LP options then load the 34C firmware (or the 67 firmware) in it and add an appropriate keyboard overlay.
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11-28-2017, 09:43 PM
Post: #16
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
I started with a 29C. When the the 34C came out I didn't see enough improvement to upgrade. On the other hand, when I heard about the 41C for the first time, I knew that I just had to have one. If you're considering a 34C vs. a 41C, I'd definitely go with the 41C. It's worth it just to be able to see program steps as alpha commands rather than numeric key codes.

Dave
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11-28-2017, 10:42 PM
Post: #17
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(09-26-2017 04:46 PM)Matt Agajanian Wrote:  
(09-26-2017 03:28 PM)Joe Horn Wrote:  That's the name of this group of HP calculators (each followed by its code name):

31E - Ginger
32E - Thyme
33E - Sage
33C - Sage C
34C - Basil
37E - Parsley
38E - Chive
38C - Chive C

And I seem to remember the name Spike because HP wanted to market this line as a fierce conpetition to TI and others.

The Spice group includes the E calculators (31E, 32E, 33E, 37E & 38E) while the Spike group includes the C calculators (33C, 34C & 38C).
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11-28-2017, 10:49 PM
Post: #18
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(11-28-2017 09:43 PM)David Hayden Wrote:  I started with a 29C. When the the 34C came out I didn't see enough improvement to upgrade. On the other hand, when I heard about the 41C for the first time, I knew that I just had to have one. If you're considering a 34C vs. a 41C, I'd definitely go with the 41C. It's worth it just to be able to see program steps as alpha commands rather than numeric key codes.

Dave
Same thing for me, except that I had the HP-33E before migrating to the HP-41. I did bought an HP-34C later on thought.
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11-29-2017, 07:00 PM
Post: #19
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
I echo the previous comments here re: the solidity, build quality and exceptionalness (is that a word) of the HP-67. Having started with an HP-65 in 1976, moving up to HP-67, then HP-41, i think I like the 67 the best for nostalgia reasons and usefulness.
Of course, for serious stuff the HP-41 variants cannot be beat. I've recently re-connected with my HP-42s and even bought another one. These are really great machines.
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11-29-2017, 07:20 PM
Post: #20
RE: How do you like the HP 34C?
(11-28-2017 10:42 PM)Sylvain Cote Wrote:  The Spice group includes the E calculators (31E, 32E, 33E, 37E & 38E) while the Spike group includes the C calculators (33C, 34C & 38C).

Interesting, neither MoHPC nor HP-Collection recognize the Spike series.

http://www.hpmuseum.org/collect.htm#series
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