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I was just reading: https://sharppocketcomputers.com/1980-20...puters.pdf

In Part II, Mr. Saam states, "Pocket computers have a unique character - they were all battery powered, they were engineered as a complete computer system, a mainframe computer in miniature. They differed from “personal computers” and “programmable calculators” which came at the same time."

I agreed and then wondered what really differentiates a pocket computer from a programmable calculator? A QWERTY keyboard? Intended market? What makes a HP-41 a programmable calculator but an HP-71 a pocket computer?
(09-07-2022 07:15 PM)Jeff_Birt Wrote: [ -> ]I agreed and then wondered what really differentiates a pocket computer from a programmable calculator? A QWERTY keyboard? Intended market? What makes a HP-41 a programmable calculator but an HP-71 a pocket computer?

First, "pocket" refers to the size, not the method of carrying. Carrying one in a shirt pocket is inviting disaster when you bend down like to access a lower file-cabinet drawer and dump the expensive computer out onto the hard floor. Carrying one in a pants pocket puts it in danger of breaking it, something which happened to a friend of mine when he sat down hard. Fortunately it was a much cheaper model.

The 41cx manual calls it a computer, which seems reasonable since it has string-handling capability, a file system, and text editor, and with HP-IL it has the ability to interface to lots of things at once (not just consumer things like printer and mass storage, but lab instrumentation), and with other modules it has boolean functions, base conversions, an assembler, and a mile-long list of other things not found in mere programmable calculators.
(09-07-2022 07:45 PM)Garth Wilson Wrote: [ -> ]The 41cx manual calls it a computer, which seems reasonable since it has string-handling capability, a file system, and text editor, and with HP-IL it has the ability to interface to lots of things at once (not just consumer things like printer and mass storage, but lab instrumentation), and with other modules it has boolean functions, base conversions, an assembler, and a mile-long list of other things not found in mere programmable calculators.

So string handling, file system, interfacing, make it a computer? A TI-84 does most of these things too but most folks would not call it a computer. Perhaps it is all semantics? I do 'feel' there is a difference but it is not clear what delineates one from the other.

For example: A PC motherboard in a heavy steel box connected to a piece of machinery is an industrial controller. The same motherboard in a thin sheet metal box on your desk is a computer. Is it the intended use case?
I think there's no IEEE standard for distinction of pocket computers vs. programmable calculators. Wink
The HP41 left aside I'd suggest a programmable calculator in general is confined to key-stroke programs whereas the pocket computer is programmed in a language (e.g.Basic) although many have short cut keys, but that's only short cuts.

The HP41 (even more the RPL calculators) obviously fits in the family of pocket computers although in disguise of a calculator. You may write your programs entirely (?) without using any shortcut from the keyboard, except for the "XEQ" key, which can be seen as a key for programming mode.

From this Museum:
Quote: "The HP-41C represents a totally new concept in the design of Hewlett-Packard calculators. In fact, because of the advanced capabilities of the HP-41C, it can even be called a personal computing system. The HP-41C is the first Hewlett-Packard handheld calculator offering an exciting array of alphanumeric capabilities.

With so many different kinds of calculator uses and applications in the world, we at Hewlett-Packard decided we could provide a significant contribution by designing and building you a quality calculator with expandable and flexible capability. The alphanumeric HP-41C is just the calculator."

Günter
(09-07-2022 08:09 PM)Guenter Schink Wrote: [ -> ]I think there's no IEEE standard for distinction of pocket computers vs. programmable calculators. Wink
The HP41 left aside I'd suggest a programmable calculator in general is confined to key-stroke programs whereas the pocket computer is programmed in a language (e.g.Basic) although many have short cut keys, but that's only short cuts.

The 41 can be programmed in assembly language and in Forth, with the right modules, from its own keyboard. I myself have not gotten into assembly or Forth on the 41 (only lots of synthetic programming). I suspect Forth was done just to show that it could be, or to scratch an itch; because the 41 is not very conducive to Forth.
I tend to agree with Günter, it's more the language and style of use that differentiates, though both the 41 (with Forth and HP-IL) and the 71 (w/Calc Mode - shudder!) cross these lines and blur the distinctions (perhaps on purpose).

But it's this core difference that make the TI-95 a calculator, while the TI-74 is a pocket computer, despite looking about the same from 6 feet away.
I recall that when they started showing up in the early 1980's, the big reason we considered them "Pocket Computers" instead of programmable calculators is that they had QWERTY keyboards, and alphanumeric display and, most importantly, they were programmable in the BASIC computer language. These features together mimicked the main characteristics of the typical personal computer of the time.

Here is an interesting article that has a brief history of the "Pocket Computer".
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp....er=9040018
The Casio FX-702P (and some others) has most of these but the keyboard is laid out in alphabetic order so which is it? ;-)

(09-07-2022 10:04 PM)Steve Simpkin Wrote: [ -> ]I recall that when they started showing up in the early 1980's, the big reason we considered them "Pocket Computers" instead of programmable calculators is that they had QWERTY keyboards, and alphanumeric display and, most importantly, they were programmable in the BASIC computer language. These features together mimicked the main characteristics of the typical personal computer of the time.

Here is an interesting article that has a brief history of the "Pocket Computer".
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp....er=9040018
(09-08-2022 02:13 AM)dmh Wrote: [ -> ]The Casio FX-702P (and some others) has most of these but the keyboard is laid out in alphabetic order so which is it? ;-)

I doubt there is any agreed upon exact definition of what a "Pocket Computer" is but QWERTY keyboard or not, the FX-702P is programmed in the BASIC computer language so I personally would consider it a "Pocket Computer". Interestingly enough Casio calls it a Programmable Calculator.
The non-QWERTY Casio is an interesting case... I'm going to suggest that having the alphabet as the primary markings on the keys is significant. It's successful in categorising TI's 74 and 95!

And by this criterion HP's marketing materials for the 41 don't quite line up, but that's marketing materials for you.

So, entering text is primary on a pocket computer, whereas performing calculations is primary on a pocket calculator.

Line-based programming would for me be a big distinguishing factor.

But categorisation is an order we impose on the universe - things don't really sit in strict categories, so we need to do what's useful.
The difference between a pocket computer and a calculator is so tenuous that over time, I resolved myself, failing to find an absolute discriminating factor, my own rule.

So unfortunately, I have to inform you that you are all wrong! The difference is not a question of programming language, size, type of display, memory capacity, processor speed, networking, etc.

The really very true discriminating factor actually comes from the keyboard. Not that it is QWERTY, AZERTY or ABCDEF, but whether or not it only has neutral-use keys like on the keyboard of a typewriter.

A priori, the four essential keys of a calculator are the keys + - × and ÷ or for their equivalent on the keyboards of the typewriters + - * and /. If this is the only way to detect with certainty the four operations and the most rudimentary calculating machines; it is unfortunately four symbols also present on typewriters, teletypes and other telecommunications tools or computers. These four keys are therefore not usable to tell the difference on pocket's.

No, dear friends, the only real difference between pocket calculators and pocket computers is the presence of dedicated keys for trigonometric calculations of SIN COS and TAN as well as LN and EXP for logarithmic calculations. Authentic pocket calculators necessarily have at least one or other of these keys usually grouped together or aligned on their keyboards. These functions being obviously the primary function and the raison d'être of these keys; calculate sine, cosine or tangent with a single tap.

Authentic pocket computers have only a neutral keyboard generally approaching that of a typewriter while being generally very badly organized or rather mixed. The only dedicated keys state validation keys ENTER, RETURN, SEND, EXE, LINE FEED or other END LINE, etc.

There are obviously all the intermediate situations, there can be computers which try to pass themselves off as a calculator by having the function sin cos or tan and log, ln or exp as a secondary function. Usually, these functions are part of the keyboard overload.


So whatever you think of it, the HP-41C is indeed a calculator. It has the SIN COS TAN direct keys neatly lined up in that order on the second row, just below LOG and LN direct keys. Same layout for the CASIO fx-602p...
The same for the Ti-57 LCD or II...
The same goes for the HP Prime, the HP-48 or HP-50 which are all calculators. As well as the HP-10C HP-11C, HP-15C or the TI-92

On the other hand, the HP-12C is a pocket computer as well as the HP-28C/S, no keys dedicated to SIN COS or TAN.
Likewise, the Ti58 and Ti59 are indeed pocket computers; in fact, to use their historical designation, pocket programmable!.

Same discrimination between SHARP PC-1211, SHARP PC-1350 pocket computers and SHARP EL-5100, SHARP PC-1401 or SHARP PC-G850V pocket calculators.

The HP-75 is a real pocket computer, on the other hand the HP-71B is a pocket computer which tries to pretend to be a calculator; logarithmic and trigonometric functions are indicated as secondary functions and do not have a dedicated direct key.
It is the same with the CASIO fx-702p whose calculator functions are all secondary...

This is how my classification works.
For lack of having found a serious and reliable discriminating factor, I have been using this rule of thumb for years. And it is important to make the difference between a pocket calculator (feminine gender in French grammar) and a pocket computer (masculine gender in French); not knowing the difference between the two is like confusing boys and girls.

Obviously, the reality is much more complicated and certainly more ambiguous; all cases of figure are possible nowadays...
(09-08-2022 07:31 AM)C.Ret Wrote: [ -> ]<snip>
On the other hand, the HP-12C is a pocket computer as well as the HP-28C/S, no keys dedicated to SIN COS or TAN.
<snip>

The 28S has the "Trig" menu which has the dedicated top row function buttons and the 12C has dedicated financial function buttons. Both are similar to the 41C which has Trig functions "preprogrammed". So are the 12C/28S now defined as pocket calculators?

IMO the answer is no. The difference is in the application of device. They can be both. Smile

-Bill
(09-07-2022 07:15 PM)Jeff_Birt Wrote: [ -> ]I was just reading: https://sharppocketcomputers.com/1980-20...puters.pdf

In Part II, Mr. Saam states, "Pocket computers have a unique character - they were all battery powered, they were engineered as a complete computer system, a mainframe computer in miniature. They differed from “personal computers” and “programmable calculators” which came at the same time."

I agreed and then wondered what really differentiates a pocket computer from a programmable calculator? A QWERTY keyboard? Intended market? What makes a HP-41 a programmable calculator but an HP-71 a pocket computer?

A funny story about this (apocryphal?) is that when HP was producing the HP9100 they realized companies would resist buying equipment called computers through normal office supply channels but had no problem purchasing calculators. This led them to call the 9100 a calculator even though it was expandable with peripherals and could make logical decisions like a computer.
.
Hi,

(09-07-2022 10:04 PM)Steve Simpkin Wrote: [ -> ]Here is an interesting article that has a brief history of the "Pocket Computer".
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp....er=9040018

Hehe, I'm mentioned by my full name in that article (page 88 in the whole publication, page 2 of the PDF). Smile

If interested, my article mentioned there can be downloaded as a PDF from my site by clicking here.

C.Ret Wrote:On the other hand, the HP-12C is a pocket computer [...] no keys dedicated to SIN COS or TAN.

You should be joking.

The HP-12C has "no keys dedicated to SIN COS or TAN" simply because it's not a Scientific calculator but a Financial calculator, so it has keys dedicated to PV PMT or FV instead. That much should be obvious to anyone.

V.
(09-09-2022 01:11 AM)Valentin Albillo Wrote: [ -> ].
Hi,

(09-07-2022 10:04 PM)Steve Simpkin Wrote: [ -> ]Here is an interesting article that has a brief history of the "Pocket Computer".
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp....er=9040018

Hehe, I'm mentioned by my full name in that article (page 88 in the whole publication, page 2 of the PDF). Smile

If interested, my article mentioned there can be downloaded as a PDF from my site by clicking here.

Very nice Valentin and I have read this and many of your other articles beforeSmile I agree that the advantages of a pocket computer over a key-step programmable calculator are very clear for many (most) types of problems. I still prefer the programmable calculators and RPL machines for most of the calculations I did but I also never progressed much above assembly language in the field of programming. I do think the RPL machines with their ease of using algebraic equations and limited higher level program constructs did blur the line between pocket computers and programmable calculators (at least until you had to go back and try to understand how your RPL program works).

Of course graphing calculators effectively replaced both programmable calculators and pocket computers in the marketplace. Most of them use a form of BASIC for their primary programming language so I think the spirit of the pocket computer lives on in them.
.
Hi, Steve,

(09-10-2022 07:23 AM)Steve Simpkin Wrote: [ -> ]Very nice Valentin and I have read this and many of your other articles before Smile

Thank you very much for your appreciation, Steve.

Quote:I do think the RPL machines [...] did blur the line between pocket computers and programmable calculators (at least until you had to go back and try to understand how your RPL program works).

I don't think that's possible without lots of written comments/documentation Smile but then again, I've never ever used RPL, just looked at it in shock that anyone would consider using that unholy write-only cryptoprogramming style, which makes Obfuscated C look like Small BASIC in comparison.

Quote:Most of them use a form of BASIC for their primary programming language so I think the spirit of the pocket computer lives on in them.

Might be ... Anyway, the one truly "pocket computer" I still consider capable of being used even nowadays to solve complex modern problems with ease while on the go it's a virtual HP-71B running on a suitably powerful modern device (smartphone, tablet), extended with maximum RAM and a number of ROMs and LEX files (e.g., Math, JPC, HP-IL, FORTH/Assembler, etc.)

With it, you can solve complex problems easily and quickly while on the go, using just your handheld device and nothing else, not even a notepad to write your scratch code. Attempting to do that on the go using RPL or most other systems would get you stumbled head first, in the initial design phase. After a while you'll cry in despair, will put the thing aside and do something else instead (listening to music, playing games, ...), waiting till you get home.

Furthermore, the 71 code can be perfectly understood many months or years after the fact, I know because I've done it oftentimes. Just sayin' ... Smile

Best regards.
V.
(09-08-2022 03:37 AM)Steve Simpkin Wrote: [ -> ]I doubt there is any agreed upon exact definition of what a "Pocket Computer" is but QWERTY keyboard or not, the FX-702P is programmed in the BASIC computer language so I personally would consider it a "Pocket Computer".

It is interesting that the underappreciated HP-39GS/HP40GS includes a nice implementation of HP-BASIC, which if I recall correctly, is an offshoot of HP’s Rocky Mountain BASIC. So, applying the BASIC programming definition of a pocket computer, and overlooking its lack of a QWERTY keyboard and slow speed, the HP-39GS/HP40GS might be considered pocket computers.

Also, contrary to a sometimes repeated myth, programming the HP-39GS/HP40GS is not limited to modifying it’s built-in Apps, but can take full advantage of its fairly complete HP BASIC programming language.
Thanks for your input everyone. It is interesting how we all 'know' there is a difference between a pocket computer and pocket calculator even if our definitions of each differ a bit or if some products blue the lines a bit.
And just because they are shifted does not mean that the HP71 does not have dedicated Sin/Cos/Tan (et al) keys.
(09-08-2022 07:31 AM)C.Ret Wrote: [ -> ]No, dear friends, the only real difference between pocket calculators and pocket computers is the presence of dedicated keys for trigonometric calculations of SIN COS and TAN as well as LN and EXP for logarithmic calculations. Authentic pocket calculators necessarily have at least one or other of these keys usually grouped together or aligned on their keyboards.

That doesn't sound right. Take for example some similar form factor models that were sold as pocket computers: the Casio PB-100 (no dedicated trig keys, but you could type "SIN" etc. on the keyboard, and the similar Sharp models like the 1401 who had a set of "calculator keys" added. Both fall obviously in the same category, and I would call them pocket computers. Certauinly in those days, when they were more comparable with the "real" computers beng sold then.

Of course, modern phones with a touchscreen can have any (virtual) keys you like. And they definitely have more computing power than the homecomputers from the 1980's. So calling those pocket computers would be valid IMO.
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