The Museum of HP Calculators

HP Forum Archive 18

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Personal Meetings, NDAs, and HHC 2008
Message #1 Posted by Richard J. Nelson on 2 June 2008, 5:44 p.m.

An Open Letter to HP Museum Participants



My name is Richard Nelson and I have been actively involved with the HP Calculator User Community since the very early days of HP's Calculators. I started the HP-65 User's Club in 1974, which grew into PPC, and then CHHU, with the idea that as users we MUST be able to responsibly express ourselves in any way possible. I believe that most of the 34 years of my writings on this subject are readily available on the Internet, and that my position in the HP Calculator Community is well known.

I am not exactly sure I am clear on why some people are overly concerned about participating with HP in the exchange of ideas, but from what I have read on the referenced HP Museum thread it seems to be based on some sense of giving something up. I am a strong supporter of individuality when it comes to being able to express ones thoughts, and I have demonstrated that many times. In one of “those times” supporting those values personally cost me everything. Perhaps being able to think of the greater good is one of “life’s lessons” for which we have to pay a price.

I personally believe that it is very important to actually discuss, one on one, ideas on a topic that everybody participating on the Museum forum agrees with - the design, production, and application of the best personal computational tool possible.

Perhaps the greatest example – in terms of effort, time, and the unbelievable result – is the PPC ROM. The HP Calculator Community, at large, agreed to the values and purpose of the project and all decisions were based on answering the question, “How will this idea contribute to making the best possible collection of HP-41 routines?” This ability of focusing on the goal rather than our personal feelings at the moment is required for any substantial achievement, in business or in life.

Has HP done some very stupid things in the past? YES indeed. HP left the business - twice. Casio will slowly leave the business and the other major manufacturers will do so as soon as it is no longer possible to make a suitable profit on a relatively slow-growth product like calculators is becoming.

I am always amused at the chatter; intelligent and silly, made by people who talk about things they know little about. I often receive email links to such discussions from friends because I don’t have the time to “hang out” on the various forums. I don't know the exact position on this "anti personal sharing fear" so the reader should not take this personally.

Some correspondents have suggested that these people are actually hesitent to have others know them –they prefer to be a “fictious” name from cyberspace. Others suggest that those who won’t sign an NDA (actually it is a CDA, but everyone knows NDA so NDA is the term usually used) are concerned about legal repercussions. It has also been suggested that having signed an agreement that the signer will be restricted in some way. All of these concerns illustrate the complete misunderstanding of what a CDA is. A responsible adult should not loose any sleep or expend any energy worrying about such things. Just like it is with personal family affairs, you don’t discuss them in public.

As of early June the HHC 2008 Conference Committee has not decided the conference content so we do not know if it will be productive to agree to include a session wherein HP may ask attendees to sign a CDA. Anyone who is concerned or has questions should express these to any Committee member.

See the HHC 2008 website at:

The committee contact information is at:

What I have learned from over three decades of working WITH Hewlett-Packard, and thousands of members of the HP Calculator User community in many countries, is that you are taken more seriously (by everyone) if you criticize AND you provide knowledgeable ideas and suggestions. Anybody can get on an "Internet Soapbox" and say what they wish. Look, I am doing it now. For me, the purpose of doing so is to try to make the situation or product better, rather than making ME feel better. I agree with the people participating in the referenced forum that HP has offered some very BAD products. Many examples may be seen on the last two pages of the HHC 2007 Calendar of HP Personal Calculators. I have probably experienced as much as anyone on this subject simply because I have been there up close and personal.

I made one decision in June 1974 that I have been challenged on many times, but I have seldom regretted. Should a User's Group work with the manufacturer? I have given papers on this topic at Computer Conferences. The alternative is that the User's Group be completely independent of the manufacturer. Which is more productive? The "experiment" continues, but after 34 years of working with HP, to a mutual extent, has proven far more productive.

I have been "imprisoned" by HP in the sense that I was INTENSELY interrogated during a visit on how I came by information that I had published. During this one incident I was reminded (felt) of police departments and phone books. I have been the cause of witch hunts at HP because some employee must have been a traitor in giving me unannounced product information. In one incident Bill Hewlett himself was involved. I have had many "talks" with HP lawyers. I could write a book on how HP Calculator management has worked internally. My relationship with HP has been a sort of "love-hate" relationship because I insist on being independent.

The goal, however, is as I mentioned above - let us try to understand how it may be done and how to make a better product.

This requires that we work hard to understand the constraints and limitations of the industry (not just the technology) and that is best done by a personal interaction WITH Hewlett-Packard. That can not be as effectively done in a Blog, an email exchange, Skype exchange, or website posting. These days time is evermore critical and HP people just do not have the time to read, study, and respond to Internet postings. It is quite unusual that anyone from HP Calculators does respond.

People do things for people. HP is made up of people. Person to person contact at an HHC is an experience that is very much different than that of reading the “chatter” on the Internet. Your opinion is far more effective when you become a real person to the people at HP.

I normally don't have time to "hang out" at sites such as the HP Museum so I apologize for getting on MY soap box. I may be wrong, but after 33 Conferences since 1979 I do have some experience in how effective and powerful a personal exchange is. HP may be slow to respond, but they frequently do.

Spending personal funds on the travel and hotel to attend an HHC is a BIG deal. The Conference Committee really makes the cost of attending a prime directive for HHCs. IF you are really serious about advancing the art of HP Calculator applications you just can't beat the one-on-one experience of attending at least one HHC. Most people do not come every year, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction of those who eventually did attend and made their feelings known.

Who knows how long the hand held calculator will be a viable product? This year may be the last year that we will have, in one room, the greatest number of accomplished HP contributors to HP calculators.

I really hope that you will be able to attend this year, and I am very sure that you will not be disappointed.

X < > Y,


Richard J. Nelson Email:

Edited: 3 June 2008, 1:58 p.m. after one or more responses were posted

Re: Personal Meetings, NDAs, and HHC 2008
Message #2 Posted by Namir on 3 June 2008, 7:54 a.m.,
in response to message #1 by Richard J. Nelson


I am very moved to see you taking the time to write about some of the recent discussions related to attending the HHC conferences and signing the NDA/CDA agreements.

Back in the mid seventies, programmable calculators were the closest thing to computers that people could privately own. As personal computers hit the streets they became a formidable replacement to programmable calculators. Small LCD displays, limited memory, and small keyboards were no match to big screens, easy to edit text, nice keyboards, high capacity mass storage, and so on. The migration from calculators to PCs was a given. Calculators have ever recovered from its competition with PCs. I see a future in programmable calculators if they are well connected (SD cards, wireless connection, and so on) to PCs and have firmware that implement variants of applications like Matlab, Maple, and so on.

As for the issue of signing CDA, I have to say that in my case (and I consider myself a regular Joe) that I never experienced any regret or disadvantage from signing a CDA. So for me, CDA pose no problems.

Attending the HHC for me is a celebration of the fellowship of how personal technology has improved and helped our problem solving. The fellowship of PPC, CHHU, and the HHC conferences is unique and I cherish each meeting. I am attending HHC2008, especially since it is held in Corvallis. I hope to see as many folks there as possible.


Edited: 3 June 2008, 7:54 a.m.

Re: Personal Meetings, NDAs, and HHC 2008
Message #3 Posted by Howard Owen on 5 June 2008, 9:10 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Richard J. Nelson

I agree that the Confidential Disclosure Agreement isn't a problem for Namir. :)

Nor is it for me, as a matter of fact. I have signed two of the HHC CDAs so far. I view them as nothing more than a quid pro quo for getting insight into HP's near and mid-term plans for calculators. However I can understand if someone doesn't want to sign, through animus to HP or something like that. It's a free choice.

For me, both disclosures have been spectacularly worthwhile. Not in economic terms, because my livelihood doesn't depend on what direction HP takes with calculators, but in terms of sheer excitement over what they have in the works. In 2006, we saw a drawing of what became the 35S, one of several possible configurations, all of which featured the large enter key. And we heard Sam Kim talk about restoring HP's commitment to quality, inside the constraints of a business that long since stopped leading the company in revenue. Sam had credibility, not only in view of his credentials as a former PPC member and confirmed calculator "geek," but because of his evident good will and business sense. Sam and Cyrille delivered on the promises made under that CDA, much to my delight and most others I know.

2007 featured a sneak peek at several future developments, the main points of which I fully expect to see realized. It's fun to have that knowledge. I'm in the calculator collecting and enthusiast game because of the fun. Based on that, I'll gladly sign the next CDA that's offered to me by the calculator division.

It's wonderful to see you post here, Richard. I'd love to see your acerbic style and deep knowledge of calculators past and present added to the mix of opinion and fact on this forum. I can understand if you don't have time, but that doesn't stop me from wishing it would happen.

Regards, Howard

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