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Best calculator for the working engineer
07-18-2016, 07:08 PM
Post: #79
RE: Best calculator for the working engineer
I've been putting a lot of thought into this subject recently and have been solidifying my own feelings based on research and trying things out.

A calculator fills a niche position for the working engineer. Most computations, complex or otherwise, are documented and reproduceable in things like programs (for me, that's MATLAB) or Excel. In this sense, a graphing calculator is of limited or no use.

Things are a little different in a school situation because you are specifically limited to NOT having a computer for exam situations. Even so, I graphed only a few functions to double-check myself. Nearly all of my classwork I could have done more efficiently with a good scientific calculator.

So particularly for the "working engineer", a graphing calculator is overkill and tries to do too much and ends up doing most of it very inefficiently. Plotting is mediocre. Matrices are mediocre. Conversions are mediocre. Even most calculations are mediocre because the keyboard is not built as a scientific calculator: for quick computations, it's built for everything you could possibly want to do. I've been playing around with the HP-50g and while I'm impressed, I can't see myself using it for much now. I'd much rather use something efficient for a quick calculation (HP-35s or other), or something more powerful (computer). The best menu system out there is still going to be inefficient on something like this. I'm sure the Prime remedies this in part.

A smartphone app can only be so good too. It's good because you always have it with you, but it's not very fast, and depending on what kind of a calculation, more error-prone than a physical calculator. Not the best solution either.

So that brings me to the scientific calculator. This seems to be the niche market for the working engineer (at least this one). Either you're going to use a computer, or you're going to pick up a scientific calculator for some quick number crunching. I've been using the HP 35s a good bit and have appreciated it for just that. The main advantages that my TI-89 had were symbolic integration and differentiation, the larger screen (with computation history), and being able to solve simultaneous equations in any form. None of which I really use on a daily basis.

The HP 35s isn't perfect by any means, particularly because it seems to be designed around a few exams, not necessarily for work. Nevertheless, it does most things efficiently and pretty well. I'm even starting to think that matrices aren't really necessary for the "working engineer" anymore. Most of that really ought to be done on a computer.

Naturally, everyone's needs are going to vary, but the HP 50g just doesn't fill that niche use for me. I might evaluate the 48G since someone said it seemed more useable.

Candidates now are the 35s, the 42s, the 32sii and maybe the 48G. I really like the concept of the 15c, it just takes a big hit in programming for me, and I prefer the two-line (+) screen.

If the DM42 has a 4-line screen, I may have found my perfect scientific calculator.
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RE: Best calculator for the working engineer - Logan - 07-18-2016 07:08 PM

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