Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 26th Jun 2009 18:15 UTC
Geek stuff, sci-fi... I guess the tragic death of Michael Jackson put the internet on hold or something, as the amount of news we can find has come to a grinding halt. I did find something interesting, though: HP has made several of its classic calculator models available as iPhone applications or as Windows applications. I'm personally not particularly versed in the world of mathematics (other than statistics), but I do know the love many geeks have for their calculators.
Thread beginning with comment 370527
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
Modern Calculators
by whartung on Fri 26th Jun 2009 18:56 UTC
whartung
Member since:
2005-07-06

The HP-15C was a marvel of the day in terms of the balance of functionality and usability. It managed to combine its high end capabilities like matrix math and integration with a simple, single key access idiom.

Combining this utility with the particularly excellent ergonomics of the size, shape, and layout, and key quality is what makes the 15C a treasured tool even today. It is pocket handy, light, thing, and yet used easily with two hands.

This capability departs in the later, more powerful HP calculators where most of the functions were buried beneath large menu trees, or needing to be keyed in via the alpha keyboard, and the devices themselves revert back to the conventional, vertical layout the dominates calculator design.

If you go to an office store today, modern calculators are a marvel. They have immense capability, packing large functionality in to small spaces, that are dirt cheap (< $15). But what's most curious is that save for the higher end, expensive, "graphing" models, almost no modern calculators support programming.

The HP-15C was "keyboard programmable", which basically means that programming was a matter of capturing keystrokes. They were effectively elaborate macro systems. Most modern programmable calculators are programmed much like the old BASIC hand held computers in the past, using some higher level language. The keyboard can be used to some extent, in a sort of "watch me" mode, but most of the programming is done simply with the alpha numeric keyboard option, typing in control flow commands, etc.

This actually hinders use especially for casual users, as they must switch to a different "mode" of using the device when they program it compared to a more keyboard programmable macro capture mode.

So, what makes the HP-15C so endearing to old school users is the balance it provided in terms of functionality and utility.

The iPhone already has "perfect" HP-15C, among others, clones running. These versions are literally HP emulators running 15C ROMs. They look perfect, and are also bit perfect in their answers compared to the original (they're running the same code after all).

Personally, I run a http://free42.sourceforge.net/ iPhone version which you can buy from the app store or build yourself if you have the dev key. The 42 is pretty much the pinnacle of calculator progress, IMHO, still staying on this side of being a calculator and not a generic, handheld computer like many modern high end calcs (the latest HP-50 is an ARM computer emulating and HP-49, effectively). The Free42 version on the iPhone is simply excellent.

The keyboard has the right look, they "hide" the extra row of keys the original had with clever UI design, and you can upload and download 42s programs (as text) from the device, if you're interests take you that way.

The 42 is not as elegant as the 15C, since the 42 relies on the alpha keyboard to "punt" on hard compromises that were necessary for something like the 15C. But it's still an excellent tool, worth the $5 on the app store.

On that note, I still have my original HP-15C, purchased in 1982.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Modern Calculators
by Dryhte on Fri 26th Jun 2009 21:34 in reply to "Modern Calculators"
Dryhte Member since:
2008-02-05

I've also been using Free42 for years. I had a 42 in secondary school, programmed all sorts of stuff in it. Couldn't do it now but don't need to anymore, I just use it as an ordinary calculator for old times' sake ;)

Reply Parent Score: 1