The Museum of HP Calculators

HP-71B Technology and Packaging

The HP-71B packaging was based largely on the designs of the (second) series 10 and HP-75C/D. The format was horizontal with a numeric keypad on the right and a QWERTY keyboard on the left.

The Motherboard was connected to the keyboard by a flexible circuit which was soldered in place. Aluminum overlays in the case provided ground planes which shielded the CMOS circuitry against static discharge and interference.

The motherboard had to be very small because most of the space in the bottom of the HP-71B was used by the four ROM/RAM expansion ports, the battery compartment, HP-IL expansion port and the card reader port. The motherboard contained 20 IC chips which, due to the small area, required hybrid packaging. Sets of four ICs were chip-on-board mounted to hybrid circuit boards which were in turn stacked on the motherboard.

The four bit Saturn processor was also key to keeping the motherboard small. The processor required just eleven signal lines to the surrounding ICs. The same 11 signal lines were routed to the card reader port, HP-IL port and the 4 ROM/RAM ports. (Typical 8 bit processor designs of the time would have used 30 or more lines.)

The top circuit board was dominated by the key contacts which used a snap disc design. This board also contained a number of surface mounted components including four ICs as well as resistors for static discharge protection at the key contacts.

The plug-in ROM/RAM modules used the same hybrid assemblies used for the motherboard ROM/RAM. They were encased using ultrasonic welding and used beryllium-copper spring contacts for connecting to the motherboard.

The Card Reader/Writer

The optional card reader plugged inside the HP-71B. Like the HP-75C/D, it used hand-pulled cards that were preformatted with a timing track. This timing track removed the need for a motor to pull the card at constant speed. This made the HP-7x card readers smaller, lighter and more battery efficient, but much less fun than the previous motor-driven readers found in the HP-65, HP-67/97 and HP-41C. Each card had two tracks of 650 bytes. This was achieved by roughly doubling the bit density of the previous motor-driven cards and by increasing the length of the cards.

The entire card reader including magnetic head, connector, 20 discrete components and 2 hybrid ICs fit into a tiny package of under 2 cubic inches.

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