|Some Response to Reponses (long...)|
Message #18 Posted by David Yerka on 9 Apr 2004, 1:26 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by David Yerka
Thanks for commenting on my post, folks. It appears that some got the point and some didn't. So...
I wasn't arguing that we don't need calculators; I was arguing that the "market" (what ever that is) is blocking the production of new calculators. It's cost/benifit analysis. The profit just isn't there. Look at what is going on now: TI, HP, Casio aren't really developing NEW calculators they are just improving (!) older models. What is the HP49G+ after all, just a HP48/49 series running in emulation on off the shelf hardware.
And, yes, no amount of hardware will subsitute for brains, experience and common sense. My business is consulting on hardware and software for individuals and business. All to often I see people who are getting the wrong results from technology. Often the comment is, " well the software/hardware SHOULD do this!" rather than understanding what the technology in question really can do. If the person at the workstation cranking out the blueprints doesn't understand "real world situations" it is a HUMAN problem not a technological problem. Making the guy use a calculator isn't going to fix the problem. And your ability to "make it work" doesn't derive from your calculator. It comes from your brain; and if you had a laptop you'd get your answer there and if you didn't you'd use paper and pencil. The technology is a TOOL no matter how good, cool, etc. it is.
My sister and brother-in-law are teachers. He is a high school math teacher. My son is an amazingly bright 5th grader with a talent for math (yes, bragging, I know). Between tutoring my son (and several of his classmates) in math--they're at high school level at this point--and many discussion with my brother-in-law, I well know the needs for developing math skills. Again, the calculator is a tool here, using it can help but it's use doesn't guarantee understanding. Nor can some wonderful software available to teach and visualize math, geometry, trig, calculus. I had paper, pencil, slide rule, log tables, and references when I learned math. My son and classmates have computers, calculators, paper and pencils. But more importantly I had great math teachers, great mentors. My son had and has great teachers in school and an OK mentor in me. Most important of all is that my son (and classmates) think learning is fun and want to learn.
And yes this is a museum, and yes most of us are "playing" with obsolete devices. But that doesn't mean they aren't useful. I often write microcode and when I do my PDA with a HP16 emulator is right next to me on the desk along with pad and paper even though most of the time code goes directly into the workstation. In fact there are a couple of emulators running on the workstation. Tools, you see. There are many tools to solve problems but some remind us that the best tool is our brain. Inovative tools are like that and for a time HP calculators were defined by inovation and that is what grabs us.
Perhaps a new human friendly interface might make a better calculator but it isn't going sell more calculators in the long run. Does anyone think that Windows drove the personal computer boom? It put a friendly face on the C: prompt yes but Michael Dell (and others) put the under $1000 (now under $500) computer into the home. Inovation is nice but ultimately profit drives mature companies. And, what made the personal computer was versitility: it could be adapted to communications, calculation, data logging, control,etc. cheaply. Economies of scale again. Filling the nitch market is expensive and unfortunately if you're in the nitch you get screwed.
So, don't look to HP for inovative calculators; look at lean and hungry startups, the Kimpo's who can make a profit on a smaller margin, look here for people who consider the result greater than the cost in time.
Finally, I see some promise in the way calculators are going. The hardware is becoming more generalized and off-the-shelf; more adaptable. And after all, the soul of our tools is in the software, it's the code that does the math.