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Anybody read a good manual lately?
03-01-2014, 10:37 PM (This post was last modified: 03-01-2014 10:39 PM by Matt Agajanian.)
Post: #1
Anybody read a good manual lately?
Hi all.

If you're like me, you get a thrill going through a new calculator manual with your new toy.

I miss the days of spial-bound, HP-34C/HP-29C proportioned manuals. Although the last manual of that design was the HP-33S (even though it wasn't spiral-bound). Much to my chagrin, the HP-35S came without a standout manual. But, thanks to Eric Reichlin (my apologies for spelling error), I was able to order a magnificent 35S spiral-bound book!

It just doesn't feel the same going through a 20-page leaflet styled manual.

Why are scientific calculator manuals like this nowadays?
Any thoughts?
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03-02-2014, 12:48 AM
Post: #2
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
For many years I thought I was the only person on earth who really, really liked reading manuals Smile I used to be the one at home that read the user manual on some new appliance or electronic gizmo when no one else wanted to. That being said, when I bought my HP-25 I discovered that HP calculator manuals were the gold-platinum standard in manuals. I was hooked. I must have read my HP-25 Owner's Handbook cover-to-cover a hundred times over the years. From that point on I would look in thrift stores for HP calculator manuals, finding a few. In the 80's I discovered Educalc and would occasionally order HP manuals and books from them even if I didn't own the calculator model itself.

I think the most challenging HP manual I read was the HP-28C manual set. It was such a departure from the more traditional RPN 30/20/10 series models (not counting the HP-41, which I completely missed out on) and the two volume set was huge. It took weeks reading in my spare time to get though them. Even reading the HP-48SX manuals and William C Wickes HP-28/48 Insights series was not as challenging as the HP-28C manuals. Needless to say the HP Museum site, Museum DVD Set and "The Internet" have been like Crack to my HP Calculator Manual addiction Smile

Lately I have been reading through the PDF version of the HP35s manual since I bought one recently. I was dismayed to find out that, contrary to what the HP35s Quick Start Guide said, HP no longer prints the full HP35s paper manual anymoreSad

The worst calculator manuals I have come across are the "one giant page", tiny print manuals that come with some Casio and Sharp scientific models.

Why are manuals like this nowadays? Cost, plain and simple.
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03-02-2014, 02:50 AM
Post: #3
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Steve,

The 35S originally came out with a printed manual and a zippered clamshell case. When I bought mine, they had reduced the package to the quick start guide, the disc with the PDF, and the slip case. But mine had a note in the quick start (or somewhere) with information to contact HP and they would send a printed manual free. I did and they did. Shortly after that, they stopped the practice.

Since then, I bought a manual and a clamshell case on eBuy. So I have a couple copies.

But, I wholeheartedly agree: the manuals just aren't the same as the excellent full-color manual that came with the HP-25 that I got for my 18th birthday. Plus the application programs manual that didn't just give the keystroke listings, but EXPLAINED what the programs did and how. Plus forms to copy for your own programs. The HP-25 manual was an easy read, especially sitting with the calculator and following along with the examples. The stack lift/drop images are fried into my synapses forever. Especially cool how they showed the display with a bright red font that looked exactly like the LED display.

I try to write good manuals for the software I write at work -- or at least provide quality text for the tech writers to start from, good screenshots, etc. It is quite difficult to do a really good, easy-to-follow manual. I have the utmost respect for the folks who did the ones for the early HP calcs.

If you use RPN, get a copy of the "Solving Problems with Your HP Calculator" book that came with the 31E ... 38C (spice) series. Small and applicable to all RPN scientific calculators. I'm working on my own RPN calculator project (off and on, mostly off --- think WP31S with a four-line text LCD in a landscape package with QWERTY keyboard capability and separate arrow keys -- maybe a 10C+?), and this book is my bible and test spec for my early runs of firmware.

Dale
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03-02-2014, 02:53 AM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2014 03:01 AM by Bill (Smithville NJ).)
Post: #4
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
I used to read all the HP Manuals - older calcs. and still use them for reference today. Well written and complete.

Most devices I buy today do not even come with a manual - they may have a fold out in 20 languages that details the basic setup. When's the last time you got a good manual for a computer, laptop, mobile phone, etc. These devises have tons of features, many hidden, yet no manual on how to use them.

Look at all the "apps" you can download for your phone or tablet. They come with no manual. They may have a short description on the web site. But it's up to the user to figure out all the hidden features. Most features probably don't get used because the average user doesn't even know they exist.

I believe it was Steve Jobs (please correct me if I'm wrong) who said if a device is designed correctly, then no manual is needed since all it's features will be intuitive. While that may well be true to the developer, it's not always true for the user.

On the other hand, 500 page manuals will usually discourage me from a product. If I need to study that hard to use the product, then I probably don't really need the product that bad. As I get older I get more lazy. I have installed many programs, and then determined they were just too complicated for my needs. They may have had excellent manuals, but.... I just don't have the time and energy to suffer through them any more.

The worst manuals are the little thumb nail booklets. I remember one that was over 100 pages, each pace was about two inch square. Totally useless.

A few more comments on early HP calculators. I think the mindset was that since pocket calculator as a device is such a new concept, HP went out of their way with their manuals to educate users. And educate they did. As has already been mentioned, coding sheets were provided. Organization to accept and distribute user written programs. Plenty of library books of programs.

As calculators matured, then the attitude is that everyone already knows how to use a calculator. So manuals are no longer required. We can see the same attitude on a lot of consumer products today.



Bill
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03-02-2014, 04:51 AM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2014 04:53 AM by Matt Agajanian.)
Post: #5
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Dale (and the rest of HP Forum), as a proud owner of an HP-32E and 34C, I adhere by, love and practically advocate that 'Solving Problems With Your HP Calclator' is the de facto bible on RPN.
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03-02-2014, 08:08 AM
Post: #6
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Dale,

I agree 100% with everything you wrote. I have written many Installation, Maintenance, Configuration and Operations Manuals for the equipment sold by the small company I work for and I have tried to draw inspiration from the HP calculator manuals I loved so well. Unfortunately it takes me a great deal of time to write these and I can't help but feel they pale in comparison to the HP manuals of old.

I was lucky enough to obtain a copy of "Solving Problems with Your HP Calculator" a few years ago. I like the whimsical figures of Charlie Chaplin used throughout it to help explain RPN. This copy was included with a number of miscellaneous HP-41C and CV manuals I bought on eBay. This was many, many years after finding a copy of the "HP-33E/33C Owner's Handbook and Programming Guide" at a thrift store. A long and winding road to be reunitedSmile

The RPN calculator project you are working on sounds very fascinating! I (and many others here) really like the horizontal format used in the Voyager models and an expanded display would really be unique for this format. Please keep me (and all of us) updated as its status changes. I had a lot of fun following the WP34S along its development path and the one I have is one of my favorite calculators. I am really excited about the RPN DIY calculator projects that have come up in the last few years.

Steve
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03-02-2014, 08:14 AM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2014 08:17 AM by HP67.)
Post: #7
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
(03-01-2014 10:37 PM)Matt Agajanian Wrote:  Why are scientific calculator manuals like this nowadays? Any thoughts?

Because everything has been dumbed-down and the ASSumption seems to be nobody is interested in understanding anything. All they want is results.
Alternatively, people used to be willing to pay for the best and now most people just want "cheap." Printing manuals is expensive and so is shipping them. The manufacturers can cut corners by shipping a new device with a 20 page Quick Start Guide and give you a CD or links to the real doc. Most people won't complain, even if we do.

Personally I've been going over all the HP 48 and HP 50g doc I can find. Several thousand pages, so it's not a one-day project.

It ain't OVER 'till it's 2 PICK
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03-02-2014, 06:50 PM
Post: #8
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Matt; As many wrote, and I'm sure you know; it's because of time and money. When things would cost five times more there was more room for "extras" such as instructions on how to use it. Also, IMHO, I don't think many manufacturers care any more. The wp34s team's approach is an example that should be copied more by people in technology.

Steve: You might find interesting, or comforting, something that Ted Kirber once told me. He said that he and his wife Phyllis spent more time writing the manuals for their D'zign Software surveying programs than they did in writing the programs. That was expensive too as many of their packages came out before the era of home computers and easy self publishing. They used spiral bindings too.

Bill: You said "As calculators matured, then the attitude is that everyone already knows how to use a calculator. So manuals are no longer required. We can see the same attitude on a lot of consumer products today." You hit the nail on the head. That's why 35 years ago the 41, for instance, had a "pocket guide", a "basic operations" book and an "operation in detail" manual, but now calculators ship with little or none. The 34s has lots of documentation, That is now one big basic guide, bigger than most full manuals.

As Steve mentioned: The Museum DVD set has reams of indispensable information on use and programming, and it'll save several lifetimes of thrift shop and used book store searching.
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03-02-2014, 07:36 PM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2014 07:39 PM by Matt Agajanian.)
Post: #9
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Thank you all for a very thorough and quite investigative perspective on the Hows & Whys from both the consumer and manufacturer sides of the picture.

While yes, I too am disappointed and saddened that calculators aren't revered and utilised with as much respect, fondness and honour as we did back in the days of the 35, 67, 41 and so forth.

I feel the 32S-II and 42S were the tail end of a wonderful era.
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03-02-2014, 11:32 PM
Post: #10
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Matt; My hope is that this will soon read:
"The 42S looked like the tail end of a wonderful era"

---until the 43s came out!
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03-05-2014, 05:11 AM
Post: #11
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
(03-02-2014 11:32 PM)Den Belillo (Martinez Ca.) Wrote:  Matt; My hope is that this will soon read:
"The 42S looked like the tail end of a wonderful era"

---until the 43s came out!

Agreed!
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03-09-2014, 11:44 PM
Post: #12
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
(03-02-2014 08:08 AM)Steve Simpkin Wrote:  Dale,
<snip>
The RPN calculator project you are working on sounds very fascinating! I (and many others here) really like the horizontal format used in the Voyager models and an expanded display would really be unique for this format. Please keep me (and all of us) updated as its status changes. I had a lot of fun following the WP34S along its development path and the one I have is one of my favorite calculators. I am really excited about the RPN DIY calculator projects that have come up in the last few years.

Steve

Steve,

Many thanks for your very kind words and encouragement. You too, Matt and everyone on this thread.

Attached are photos of my "first development prototype" used to prove out some keyboard scanning and display stuff.

       

This first try is with a Freescale MCF51JM128, which is a 32-bit microcontroller (pin compatible with a similar 8-bit machine) with USB, etc., etc. But I plan on using a SiLabs SiM3U1xx series chip -- lower power, more memory, etc. I've also drawn up preliminary schematics for LiIon battery charge control, USB interface, IR LED for printing, SDCard socket, RTC chip and FRAM for program storage. So I need to remove the DEMOJM board and hook this up to my SiLabs board. The display is an EA DIP204J-4NLW -- it costs more than most folks would pay for a calculator, but I like it a lot. The driver on it talks 4 or 8 wire parallel (like most), plus SPI, which is handy. Nice black text and white LED backlight.

In later versions, the display will be on the left (as I am a right-handed user), and the four "arrow" keys in the diamond will be on the right. As Walter and I discussed many moons ago, that lets me use the first six keys on the upper row as ABCDEF for hex number entry (16C style). And they'll be smaller, all surface-mount except the display.

The keyboard layout lends itself to QWERTY operation -- the centered ENTER^ key (upward arrow mandatory, like my HP-25!) doubling as a spacebar. The chip has UARTs on it, so if this were ten years ago, I'd add one or two RS-232 ports -- but likely not worth the effort now...

My goals for the firmware are a bit different from what I see on the 43S / 34S. I see those more as "full-function" machines, with lots of stats, distributions, probabilities, high-end math stuff. I see this as more of a cross between 16C and 29C. I doubt I'll develop much more than basic log, trig, math and line fit for functions. The emphasis will be on programming, and the data type model will be much like the industrial controllers I use at work: various sizes of unsigned and signed integers and IEEE floats, and bools. Lots of tools for type conversion, comparisons, boolean logic, etc.

Hope this helps you understand where I'm going.
Dale

p.s.: This actually HAS 43 buttons.....What's the 41 / 43S have --- 39 if you count the four at the top for power, etc.?
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03-10-2014, 08:11 AM
Post: #13
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Dale,

long time no read. Nice to see you again. Smile Please let me know when you need keyboard layouting support.

(03-09-2014 11:44 PM)Dale Reed Wrote:  What's the 41 / 43S have --- 39 if you count the four at the top for power, etc.?

The 43S has 43 keys as well. Smile The 41C*, OTOH, well ... just a crippled 43S anyway Wink

d:-)
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03-11-2014, 12:51 AM
Post: #14
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
(03-10-2014 08:11 AM)walter b Wrote:  Dale,

long time no read. Nice to see you again. Smile Please let me know when you need keyboard layouting support.

Thanks for your fine offer, Walter. So far, I think I have a handle on 1-9, +, -, X, / and Enter, plus the four directional arrows. After that, it depends on what I decide it should do. I've moved away from the huge number of functions I had previously shown you.

I have a trick up my sleeve that I'm not at liberty to discuss pending certain patent applications.... ;-)
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03-11-2014, 03:48 AM
Post: #15
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Dale,

That is extremely cool!

"...that lets me use the first six keys on the upper row as ABCDEF for hex number entry"
I see that change may also allow you to create soft menus too (wink,wink,nudge,nudge).

"But I plan on using a SiLabs SiM3U1xx series chip..."
I am using a couple of Silicon Labs telephone interface products (SLICs and Voice DAA parts) in a telephone gateway product I am designing at work. I was not familiar with their MCU devices until you mentioned them. They have a nice feature set.

"I have a trick up my sleeve that I'm not at liberty to discuss pending certain patent applications.... ;-)"
Well that has me really intrigued......

I am looking forward to see this project progressSmile
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03-11-2014, 09:15 AM
Post: #16
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
(03-11-2014 12:51 AM)Dale Reed Wrote:  I have a trick up my sleeve that I'm not at liberty to discuss pending certain patent applications.... ;-)

Enjoy the communication with the patent office. Wink Looking forward to the project progressing.

d:-)
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03-16-2014, 06:17 AM
Post: #17
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?

Enjoy
Thomas
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03-16-2014, 05:49 PM
Post: #18
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
Bought myself a nice copy printed copy of the WP-34S as it's the first decent manual(for ANYTHING!) that I've seen in years.

Mostly, IF you're LUCKY, you get a little fold out sheet printed in microscopic characters in a zillion and one languages of useless information which takes maybe 10% of a languages space with the following space of CYA legal liabilities, limitations, and warranty information.

Also you may or may not get a cd with a pdf "manual" that may or may not(more likely) contain more useful info.

Even games come with crappy useless little manuals today, not like the old SSI manuals or the Fallout (1 & 2) manuals(these even had recipes...)... (OTOH I used to just install and start playing games and read the manual later for clarification if at all as half the fun for me was figuring out the game itself just from playing...)
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03-16-2014, 06:26 PM
Post: #19
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
(03-16-2014 06:17 AM)Thomas Klemm Wrote:  
Enjoy
Thomas

Thanks for sharing these Thomas. These are beautiful, and very handy!

--Bob Prosperi
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03-17-2014, 01:39 PM
Post: #20
RE: Anybody read a good manual lately?
(03-01-2014 10:37 PM)Matt Agajanian Wrote:  Hi all.

If you're like me, you get a thrill going through a new calculator manual with your new toy.

I miss the days of spial-bound, HP-34C/HP-29C proportioned manuals. Although the last manual of that design was the HP-33S (even though it wasn't spiral-bound). Much to my chagrin, the HP-35S came without a standout manual. But, thanks to Eric Reichlin (my apologies for spelling error), I was able to order a magnificent 35S spiral-bound book!

It just doesn't feel the same going through a 20-page leaflet styled manual.

Why are scientific calculator manuals like this nowadays?
Any thoughts?

I usually read parts of the manual pertaining to whatever I am doing. The last manual I read fully was the HP 32SII.
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