The Museum of HP Calculators

HP Forum Archive 17

[ Return to Index | Top of Index ]

HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #1 Posted by Gerry Schultz on 5 Sept 2007, 4:42 p.m.

As I remember, both the 49g+ and the 50g use the Arm9 processor and emulate a Saturn processor in software that the calculator OS runs on. It's been several years and I was wondering why HP hasn't rewritten the OS to run natively on the Arm9? I originally thought that it was the fastest and easiest solution to get the 49 and 50 out quickly but I had thought that HP would release an OS update at a later time to run directly on the Arm9. But, that hasn't happened, why?

If HP were to release this kind of upgrade, imagine how much faster both calculators would be. Perhaps a new 51G is going to be released and it will have a new OS that runs directly on the Arm9 with firmware upgrades for the 49 and 50.

Does anyone have any other information or ideas on this?

Thanks,

Gerry

      
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #2 Posted by Jake Schwartz on 5 Sept 2007, 4:57 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Gerry Schultz

Quote:
As I remember, both the 49g+ and the 50g use the Arm9 processor and emulate a Saturn processor in software that the calculator OS runs on. It's been several years and I was wondering why HP hasn't rewritten the OS to run natively on the Arm9? I originally thought that it was the fastest and easiest solution to get the 49 and 50 out quickly but I had thought that HP would release an OS update at a later time to run directly on the Arm9. But, that hasn't happened, why?

If HP were to release this kind of upgrade, imagine how much faster both calculators would be. Perhaps a new 51G is going to be released and it will have a new OS that runs directly on the Arm9 with firmware upgrades for the 49 and 50.

Does anyone have any other information or ideas on this?

Thanks,

Gerry


Hi Gerry,

One reason is that this probably would take man years and the current R&D team (1) probably has other calculators to develop; and (2) does not have the number of people it would take to do this in any reasonable amount of time. Of course, if HP felt that this effort was important enough (i.e. would sell TONS of more calculators), they'd probably acquire the resources to get it done. Just my two cents....

Jake Schwarz

      
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #3 Posted by Egan Ford on 5 Sept 2007, 6:19 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Gerry Schultz

The 35s is evidence that rewriting the OS is not always the best idea. I'd take a 42S running on Saturn emulation any day.

On the other hand you sometimes have to take a few steps back to move further forward. But you need to learn from history along the way. The 42S is a good example of that. The 42S did not use the same processor technology that peaked with the 41CX and 15C. The 42S used the new Saturn processor with an internal RPL-based OS. Despite all of this it is arguably the best RPN machine ever. Lessoned learned were not forgotten.

New code is inevitable, just don't forget your history.

            
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #4 Posted by papakanush on 5 Sept 2007, 6:39 p.m.,
in response to message #3 by Egan Ford

Sorry,

But I don't worship the 42S as much as everyone else does. I had one back in the mid-90's, and used it for a few years but it did have a memory limitation. The metal cover wouldn't stayed adhered near the display. Then one day something fell on the display and cracked it. Bought a new 48G and loved it. I had to learn RPL programming instead of the much easier RPN programming. Once I figured a few things out, I'd never go back to the 42S. Now I have the 50g and and really happy with it. So I'm all for the continued development of the 50g and on, instead of trying to dumb-down the machine.

                  
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #5 Posted by Walter B on 5 Sept 2007, 7:10 p.m.,
in response to message #4 by papakanush

AFAIK the basic idea is to have the 50g (and 51g etc.) at the high end, the 35s at the low end of programmable calculator range, and some "43S" in between. This 43S shall be RPN and feature *at least* the complete function set of the 42S. Furthermore, it shall get a brisker and larger LCD reflecting the state of the art.

So, there's no intent to "dumb down the machine", but to reach (at least) the level of RPN again we had in 1988. Just a model the professionals will use :)

                        
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #6 Posted by Egan Ford on 5 Sept 2007, 7:43 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by Walter B

Quote:
This 43S shall be RPN and feature *at least* the complete function set of the 42S.
I like RPN because it is easy, simple, can be mastered in minutes. I like RPL because of the power. I'd like to see RPN evolve in the 43S. Extend the language a bit without losing its simple nature. I see some of this in the 35s, e.g. equations as a single statement.
                        
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #7 Posted by Eric Smith on 5 Sept 2007, 7:56 p.m.,
in response to message #5 by Walter B

Walter B wrote:

Quote:
the basic idea is to have the 50g (and 51g etc.) at the high end, the 35s at the low end of programmable calculator range, and some "43S" in between.

Whose basic idea is that? Did HP state such an idea while I was sleeping? Or is this just idle speculation?

                        
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #8 Posted by Hugh Evans on 7 Sept 2007, 1:09 a.m.,
in response to message #5 by Walter B

That concept sure sounds like an easy one for HP to pull off. Essentially, they could use the 50g with a smaller display and keyboard, retain the I/O, keep their saturn emulation, and load a slightly modified 42s ROM. Use keys from the 35s with new silkscreened legends.

I'd put the price point around $75 and bet on them using a less powerful ARM CPU to do the job.

                  
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #9 Posted by Egan Ford on 5 Sept 2007, 7:38 p.m.,
in response to message #4 by papakanush

Hardware-wise I'd have to agree. I think the build quality of my '85 15C, '93 GX, 50g, and 35s are superior to the 42S (I am still looking for a 42S hard case). But the software and the organization of the 42S is without equal for a midrange programmable.

Like you I 'upgraded' to the 50g and retired my still mint 48GX because the 50g is replaceable and the 50g is 100% compatible with all my 48GX code, it was an easy decision. Not so with the 15C/41CX/42S -> 35s.

I do not subscribe to the 'one tool to rule them all' philosophy. There is still a demand for a powerful shirt pocket calculator.

Edited: 5 Sept 2007, 7:45 p.m.

                        
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #10 Posted by Bill Wiese on 5 Sept 2007, 8:44 p.m.,
in response to message #9 by Egan Ford

One other reason that emulation is successful is that it generally introduces no other behavioral bugs when done successfully (and if no bugs are in the "I/O transition layer" for new hardware.

If there are errors in instruction emulation they are fundamental enough that reliability of the machine is likely impaired throughout multiple areas of its operational range. Emulation, though, of each instruction's function to 100% level is generally a readily achievable goal (with exception of timing-critical matters). If instruction fetch, instruction translation and I/O translation layers all work OK, then the emulation is successful, and the only bugs are timing-relationship ones (usu not an issue on such a design like a calculator) and the ones originally existing on the original nonemulated calculator firmware.

Contrast this with a complete rewrite on a new machine: likely the new coding would be a mix of C+ARM assembly and concepts transliterated from the Saturn HW+assembly world would not necessarily transfer overa with grace and ease in a rapid enough fashion to be cost-effective for a small team. Getting back to orig calculator functionality with same bug levels would indeed be a challenge.

Bill Wiese
San Jose CA USA

                              
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #11 Posted by Gerry Schultz on 5 Sept 2007, 10:22 p.m.,
in response to message #10 by Bill Wiese

Interesting points. As an electronics engineer, I am disturbed by the wasted processing power lost through emulation. Back when the 42 and 28C were released, their OSes were written for the Saturn processor to take advantage of the limited clock cycles and to maximize battery power to help differentiate their machines from the competition. I'm also thinking of the transition from the HP-65, to the 67/97, to the 41C to show what could be done with newer hardware.

Perhaps I'm too old fashioned, but I still think that with battery-powered hardware, HP would want the maximum bang-for-the-buck with processor power and battery life. I remember when I bought my 48GX, it's Saturn processor was twice as fast as the 48SX, so I decided to go with the 48GX even though it was brand new and I couldn't find any third-party books or other documentation other than HP's. At the time, my previous calculator was the 41C so it was a big technology jump for me. Side note: I recently found my copy of 41/48 Transitions book by William C. Wickes. I had forgotten completely that I had purchased it so long ago and I am stoked to re-read it.

In this day and age of 75 MHz processors (WOW!) and HP's apparent lack of interest in writing a native version for the Arm9, I question their commitment to building better calculators. The transition from RPN to RPL back in the 80's was such a big step and really showed HP pushing the technology envelope. I don't see that here with the 50g.

Does it cost a lot of money and manpower to rebuild an OS on new hardware? Of course it does, and I am thinking that with the success of the 41C, HP had the market-share and resources to build entirely new calculators based on the new Saturn processor like the 42 and 28. The 48GX was very successful but since then the 49, 49g+ and the 50g are extensions of the 48 series moved to new hardware (for the 49g+ and 50g). HP has not taken full advantage of this new hardware platform (other than I'm sure it's cheaper and the parts are readily available). I would like to see this new hardware platform scream as it should. To me, emulation adds complication to make it work.

I hope HP proves me totally wrong and comes out with a new high-end calculator that makes full use of the Arm9. With the faster speed, new functions can be added that were too slow on the older platforms. Hopefully, HP is taking a long, hard look at the Inspire to build the next great calculator. They had the Xpander but dropped it for what I would guess was economic reasons. In the past 6 years technology has advanced enough for HP to come out with a new version of Xpander that is cheaper to build and blow the Inspire out of the water. That's what I would like to see. HP exercising their considerable technology muscles and producing a high-end calculator that affordable and leads the way on what is possible to build. Damn the expense and full speed ahead! That's how I remember the HP-41C when it came out. What a GREAT machine! It's the best example of what I think about HP's calculators.

Gerry

                                    
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #12 Posted by DaveJ on 5 Sept 2007, 10:50 p.m.,
in response to message #11 by Gerry Schultz

Would you like it all programmed in raw assembler too, to maximise every last cycle?

A "better" calculator does not necessarily mean a faster calculator. I'd personally put speed more toward the bottom of the list, not including user interaction speed of course, which should be instant.

Dave.

                                          
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #13 Posted by Paul Dale on 5 Sept 2007, 11:02 p.m.,
in response to message #12 by DaveJ

I'd look to using the extra speed for other purposes. Guaranteed accuracy e.g.

- Pauli

                                                
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #14 Posted by DaveJ on 5 Sept 2007, 11:30 p.m.,
in response to message #13 by Paul Dale

Quote:
I'd look to using the extra speed for other purposes. Guaranteed accuracy e.g.

Yep, or extra battery life by being able to *drop* the processor speed because you have a more powerful processor.

Dave.

                                    
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #15 Posted by Hugh Evans on 6 Sept 2007, 5:15 p.m.,
in response to message #11 by Gerry Schultz

With HP's resources, open development of a new code base seems like a no-brainer. They write the specs, oversee the effort, run QC, and then provide end-product support. The algorithms have been around for decades, calculators are not the high-end of technology today, so there shouldn't be much (if anything) to lose in terms of trade secrets. I think HP is crazy for not making better use of the community they have.

                  
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #16 Posted by Egan Ford on 5 Sept 2007, 10:08 p.m.,
in response to message #4 by papakanush

Quote:
Bought a new 48G and loved it.
I should add that as far as calculators go the user experience and interface of the 48 IMHO is the best there ever was. This is not about RPN vs RPL, its just about the usability as a calculator.

The 48 has an overloaded keyboard (34C/15C), has hierarchical menus (42S), and if you choose (and I do) you can lock the alpha and enter whatever function you like (41C). Some team of engineers really thought it through and provided the best of the best in one package as far as user interfaces go. I also like the ability to do algebraic with out an ALG mode by using '', the space as a stack separator (2 2 + on a single line is very nice, would be very helpful on a 2 line display), the no limit stack, units, and symbolic constants and variables.

Shrink the 48 down to 2 lines, lose the graphics, replace RPL with RPN, put it in a 42S size can and call it the ultimate RPN.

                        
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #17 Posted by Allen on 5 Sept 2007, 10:26 p.m.,
in response to message #16 by Egan Ford

Egan, I could not agree more with your statements!!! Cheers, Al

                        
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #18 Posted by Pal G. on 5 Sept 2007, 10:54 p.m.,
in response to message #16 by Egan Ford

Quote:
Some team of engineers really thought it through and provided the best of the best in one package ...

You know those WWII documentaries on the History Channel where they have veterans describing how it was? Are there any ex-HP engineers who hang out on this message board who can describe what it was like back then while they were designing all that great hardware, and maybe tell us what HP is thinking now?

I love hearing people brag about how great the old HP calcs are. Does anyone think 20 years from now I'm going to be bragging to my grandkids about the hp 35s? Can we get someone to fix the thing before it disappears from the face of the earth? And please let us have an hp 15c anniversary, an hp 42s anniversary, and a big Enter key on a 51g that is not emulating Saturn.

Thanks, Pal

                              
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #19 Posted by Brad Davis on 5 Sept 2007, 11:40 p.m.,
in response to message #18 by Pal G.

Heck, all this talk makes me the caveman of the group.

I bought a 50g and like a lot of its features, but the keyboard feel is so bad (too hard with too much travel), in my opinion only, that it's now starting to collect dust. My fingers get physically tired after a page or two of basic engineering calcs and my error rate is multiples of what it was with my 48G and I've had it for at least 2 months now.

Doesn't matter to me if there's a GHz processor in there if the basics aren't to my liking. I don't know if others find the keyboard as objectionable as I do.

I finally had enough this evening and put it away. Unzipped my 48G pouch and now all is well, regardless of its processor.

Edited: 5 Sept 2007, 11:41 p.m.

                                    
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #20 Posted by Pal G. on 6 Sept 2007, 12:20 a.m.,
in response to message #19 by Brad Davis

Funny, my boss uses his 48GX daily at the office, and a 15c at the house for bills and other projects. I showed him my hp 50g and he hardly blinked. He has a Treo 700p, a tiny Sony Vaio, a brand new Honda Ridgeline with every option... but he doesn't need a new calculator as long as that brick is on his desk.

Maybe that is why HP is in no hurry to create a calculator better than the old 48s. As long as those old calculators keep working nicely there does not seem to be enough demand..

Cheers, Pal

                                          
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #21 Posted by Brad Davis on 6 Sept 2007, 12:55 a.m.,
in response to message #20 by Pal G.

Quote:
...Maybe that is why HP is in no hurry to create a calculator better than the old 48s. As long as those old calculators keep working nicely there does not seem to be enough demand.. ...
I hope they're spending their time trying to figure out how to NOT end up in the same boat at Apple vs Microsoft, having better technology but with little market share due to marketing.

I was in our university bookstore the other day and there is NOT ONE HP calculator for sale there. The wall is full of TIs. I asked my students last year to raise a hand if they used other than a TI, but not one did.

HP will figure out how to combat this kind of thing or they're going to be done for in a few years even if they come up with a GHz processor.

Edited: 6 Sept 2007, 12:56 a.m.

                                                
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #22 Posted by Egan Ford on 6 Sept 2007, 1:10 a.m.,
in response to message #21 by Brad Davis

Quote:
HP will figure out how to combat this kind of thing or they're going to be done for in a few years even if they come up with a GHz processor.
I'm sure the 12C will have something to say about that. :-)
                                                      
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #23 Posted by Howard Owen on 6 Sept 2007, 1:24 a.m.,
in response to message #22 by Egan Ford

Something I found surprising is that the 33s was a bestseller in its class. I'm sure HP is expecting the 35s to fill those rather large shoes.

Regards,
Howard

                                                            
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #24 Posted by Brad Davis on 6 Sept 2007, 1:41 a.m.,
in response to message #23 by Howard Owen

Quote:
Something I found surprising is that the 33s was a bestseller in its class. I'm sure HP is expecting the 35s to fill those rather large shoes.

Regards,
Howard


Yeah, but I'd guess that most of the buyers were older folks whose 11c, 15c, 32s, 42s, etc. had died and they didn't want a big 48 calculator. Also, I think a lot were 4-5 years out of school needing to take the PE test. I doubt many of those sales were at universities, but I'd be glad to find out I'm wrong.

Edited: 6 Sept 2007, 1:41 a.m.

                                          
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #25 Posted by Pal G. on 6 Sept 2007, 1:14 a.m.,
in response to message #20 by Pal G.

By the way, I meant "brick" in a good way, like indestructible, having presence, etc..

Definitely not a derogatory or haphazard remark..

Cheers.

                                    
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #26 Posted by papakanush on 6 Sept 2007, 1:20 p.m.,
in response to message #19 by Brad Davis

The 50g keys are stiffer and have more travel than the 48g, however, since I usually use my thumbs, the keys difference doesn't matter as much to me. The reason I use the 50g is the better communication with modern lap-tops and higher capacity.

                        
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #27 Posted by Howard Owen on 6 Sept 2007, 1:10 a.m.,
in response to message #16 by Egan Ford

Quote:

I should add that as far as calculators go the user experience and interface of the 48 IMHO is the best there ever was.


I actually prefer the 50g, with its user interface a lineal descendant of the 48's. But in general, I agree with you on this.

Quote:

Shrink the 48 down to 2 lines, lose the graphics, replace RPL with RPN, put it in a 42S size can and call it the ultimate RPN.


I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I love the 42s as much as you seem to. It's not perfect, but it's as close as an RPN calculator ever got. I'd love to see an incremental improvement on the 42s running on modern hardware.

But on the other hand, I have this nagging feeling that hewing to that line could make us miss something novel and truly useful. This feeling has solidified since I began playing with the TI nSpire. This calculator has a killer user interface for education. The interface is a document broken into "problems." This is a set of pages, easily navigable with intuitive keystrokes. There's a tabbed interface, or, with a simple combined keystroke, a thumbnail view of the document. The controls work like a PC's do. ESC gets you out of where you are. CTRL modifies a key for its second function. These semantics are second nature to school kids today. On any page, you can place one of four applications. The applications are a calculation work area, a very nice and flexible graphing slate, a combined matrix editor and spreadsheet and a note taker. Variables have problem scope, so a lesson can link results, graphs, equations and notes together. The result is highly functional for presenting, practicing and testing mathematical knowledge. The display is super sharp and very attractive. It's the best greyscale LCD I've ever seen. And TI has done some very good design work with typography and other graphical elements.

I'm not saying that's the ideal interface for a professional calculator. But it sure is an innovative and strikingly effective UI for education. Surely there's more that could be done with the time honored technical calculator interface? I'd like to see something that retained the stack, the postfix entry scheme, the keyboard look and, particularly, feel. But I want to see those elements applied to a revolutionary calculator design. TI has shown that such a thing is possible. I think the nSpire CAS is nothing short of brilliant for its target market. The field is clear to do some bold thinking with technical calculators. Please HP, surprise and amaze me!

Regards,
Howard

                              
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #28 Posted by DaveJ on 6 Sept 2007, 2:06 a.m.,
in response to message #27 by Howard Owen

Quote:
I'm not saying that's the ideal interface for a professional calculator. But it sure is an innovative and strikingly effective UI for education. Surely there's more that could be done with the time honored technical calculator interface? I'd like to see something that retained the stack, the postfix entry scheme, the keyboard look and, particularly, feel. But I want to see those elements applied to a revolutionary calculator design. TI has shown that such a thing is possible. I think the nSpire CAS is nothing short of brilliant for its target market. The field is clear to do some bold thinking with technical calculators. Please HP, surprise and amaze me!

What I would love is the ability to completely remap the primary keys, or at least the usual upper section of function keys. So I'd be able to have my ideal calculator key layout. I could get rid of those useless (to me) keys like HYP and put in the ones I want.

And by this I don't just mean a keypad overlay, I mean being able to easily swap the key themselves, so you get the molded keys in the positions you want them. They could supply a whole bag of keys with every calc, just pick and choose what you need. Now THAT would be innovation.

Dave.

                                    
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #29 Posted by Kevin Kitts on 6 Sept 2007, 12:32 p.m.,
in response to message #28 by DaveJ

I saw a rumor of a PC keyboard once where the actual keys were composed of OLEDs. In other words you could customize every key because each key was basically a mini display. Talk about flexibility... the cost was astronomical though - and I don't think it was ever really released

                                          
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #30 Posted by Alex L on 6 Sept 2007, 1:26 p.m.,
in response to message #29 by Kevin Kitts

Oh, it's more than a rumor. You can pre-order Art Lebedev's Optimus Maximus Keyboard today for just US$1564.37 ~ 1256.86.

If I win the lottery, I might get one.

                                                
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #31 Posted by Eric Smith on 6 Sept 2007, 6:26 p.m.,
in response to message #30 by Alex L

I don't understand why anyone wants such a thing. I never look at my keyboard. I'm more inclined to buy the Das Keyboard II, though I'd like it better if they'd get rid of the white "Das Keyboard" legend so the thing was totally black.

                                          
Re: HP 50g 75 Mhz Arm9 Processor
Message #32 Posted by DaveJ on 6 Sept 2007, 6:00 p.m.,
in response to message #29 by Kevin Kitts

Quote:
I saw a rumor of a PC keyboard once where the actual keys were composed of OLEDs. In other words you could customize every key because each key was basically a mini display. Talk about flexibility... the cost was astronomical though - and I don't think it was ever really released

That is about 15 years too late. I remember seeing a keyboard like that back in probably the early 90's with a tiny LCD on every keytop.

Dave.


[ Return to Index | Top of Index ]

Go back to the main exhibit hall