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Hewlett Packard's Cult Calculator Turns 30

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the if-you-have-one-raise-your-hand-at-the-end dept.

Businesses 318

Hugh Pickens writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that Hewlett Packard's HP-12C financial calculator has remained outwardly unchanged since its introduction in 1981. 'Once you learned it on the 12C, there was no need to change,' says David Carter, chief investment officer of New York wealth-management firm Lenox Advisors, who has owned his 12C for 22 years and still keeps it on his desk. 'It's not like the math was changing.' The 12C, which costs $70 on HP's website, is HP's best-selling calculator of all time, though the company won't reveal how many units it has sold over the years. The 12C still uses an unconventional mathematical notation called 'Reverse Polish Notation,' which eschews parentheses and equal signs in an effort to run long calculations more efficiently."

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Unconventional? (5, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041672)

The 12C still uses an unconventional mathematical notation called 'Reverse Polish Notation,'

I still use the HP-41CV I bought new, made in Corvallis, Oregon ($400 or so at the time, with a card reader). Iâ(TM)ve never been able to do any significant math on a calculator that did not use RPN.

At least in the courses I took, most people preferred RPN.

Re:Unconventional? (1, Interesting)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041722)

If you have to write any embedded assembly, thinking in RPN is more conventional than not.

Re:Unconventional? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041966)

I thought those RPN folks were crazy until I had to write my own stack-based RPN calculator for a school assignment. There is nothing more awesome than being able to compute a quadratic formula without using grouping symbols.

Re:Unconventional? (2, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042252)

I would imagine FORTH coders and compiler writers would like it too

Re:Unconventional? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041838)

The unconventional [youtube.com]

Re:Unconventional? (2)

djl4570 (801529) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041946)

I used RPN in the first grade but we didn't call it that. I'd write down the first number, then write down the second number then add or subtract them. I have never understood why the vast throngs think RPN is unconventional. So called algebraic calculators are hybrid notation. If they were truly algebraic you would enter cos(n)= instead of n, cos which is postfix notation.

Re:Unconventional? (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041986)

TI graphing calculators do write cos(n). The TI-89, at least, does also have an RPN program available. Quite handy. RealCalc for android also supports RPN mode.

Re:Unconventional? (2)

treeves (963993) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042106)

As does Droid48, naturally, since it is emulating an HP48.

Re:Unconventional? (0)

severoon (536737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042116)

Yes, and this hybridized notation is responsible for the confusion around expressions like 6/2(1+2). Some people think the answer is 9, others say 1. If you bring to bear a fair amount of knowledge about precedence and associativity of the operators involved, you find the correct answer is 9. Unfortunately, some calculators don't handle operator associativity correctly and will actually give the wrong answer.

mod parent down as troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042424)

confusion around expressions like 6/2(1+2)
the correct answer is 9

This deliberately ambiguous, convention-mixing expression is being posted all over the place by trolls, with the real assholes insisting that one interpretation or the other is "correct".

Re:mod parent down as troll (1)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042898)

If this is supposed to be 6/2x(1+2) the answer is 9. If this is supposed to be 6/(2x(1+2)) the answer is 1. As written it is ambiguous.

If you want to illustrate precedence errors pick an example like 2+3x5. Proper precedence (multiply first then add) = 17. Not using precedence, evaluated left to right, (common error) = 25.

RPN won't prevent you from doing it wrong, but it does make it easier to do it right.

Re:Unconventional? (1)

wbean (222522) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042032)

Me too - except mine's a 41c. I used it to check a set of printed financial tables that we were publishing at the time, and to navigate a small boat across the Atlantic (pre GPS). It's still going strong after what must be at least 30 years. Sadly my HP-80 died. That must have gone back to about 1972.

Re:Unconventional? (1)

eric31415927 (861917) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042230)

With a 12C at work and a 48G at home, the only calculators I use (and I use them daily) use RPN.
Most of the people I work with don't even try to borrow my calculator(s) because they're afraid of a supposedly steep learning curve.

Please note: the learning curve is rather flat for anyone who even half-understands how calculators work.

Well, I feel old. (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041738)

My first real calculator was the HP11c, although I got it in '84 or '85, not '81.

Re:Well, I feel old. (1)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042040)

Still have my 11C, and still prefer RPN. Got it in the mid 80's as well.

Re:Well, I feel old. (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042100)

Same here -- bought it for an undergraduate quantum mechanics class a quarter century ago, and used it today. And when it gives up the ghost (if ever), hopefully there will be an iPhone version, like there is for the 12c.

Re:Well, I feel old. (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042154)

I never got used to RPN, but I do love the HPs; I have my trusty 20S in front of me now. I got it as a present when I went to college, and now, 23 years later I am still using it regularly, and it's only on its second set of batteries if you can believe that. I like it a lot because it is not overly complicated, it has more or less the same number of buttons as a regular scientific calculator of the era, except better precision... and a "backspace" button!

Re:Well, I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042148)

Mine was an HP35, which I still have, but sadly it no longer works. I got it for Christmas, 1972,
and it worked for a good 15-20 years after that. In fact, it was so new that it had to go back for a
"repair" to replace the original algorithms that didn't do sin(360 degrees) properly!

Unfortunately, I let it sit idle for much too long, and the battery wouldn't recharge. I bought a
replacement, but it still didn't work... Not clear to me it can be repaired :-(

So, I bought an HP-33s at Wal-Mart a few years ago, and it seems to do the job nicely;
I was always fond of RPN, and still prefer it to the other method(s).

Re:Well, I feel old. (1)

daremonai (859175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042588)

Yeah, well, mine was an HP-45, which I still have. The batteries are long since dead, but it still runs fine off of wall current.

Oh, and if you could see your way to getting off my lawn, I'd appreciate it.

HP11c (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041744)

I still have an HP11c, you can write games on it and do some very clever maths using this machine. The 11c and 12c look very similar... RPN is exactly the same as machine, but with BCD.

Re:HP11c (1)

careysub (976506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041818)

I still have an HP11c..

Ditto - and I still use it! It is now 30 years old!! I can only effectively use RPN calculators - it is how I think.

Re:HP11c (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042408)

I can only effectively use RPN calculators - it is how I think.

So, when you write a program, do you use forth, or do you recompile the expressions into a parenthesized tree form in your head before you type them in?

Re:HP11c (1)

careysub (976506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042702)

I can only effectively use RPN calculators - it is how I think.

So, when you write a program, do you use forth, or do you recompile the expressions into a parenthesized tree form in your head before you type them in?

I don't use a calculator to write programs - I use them to solve problems. I think about the terms in a problem exactly the way RPN handles them - do you think up parenthesis in your head when you are mentally calculating something?

Long Live the HP-48 (3, Insightful)

Tamran (1424955) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041746)

This is the scientific version of the same calculator, complete with RPN, a stack, plotting functions, matrix functions. I've had mine since 1991. It's a shame they tried to replace it with one that is crap.

Tamran

Re:Long Live the HP-48 (1)

lsolano (398432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041860)

Long Live!

I still own my HP-48GX, though I do not use it much anymore.

However for no reason I'd sell it. Not at all. It reminds me my days at University, fighting against engineering tests.

The HP-48G was not "my calculator". It was my shield and armor !

Re:Long Live the HP-48 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041924)

Get it on Android and relive the dream, https://market.android.com/details?id=org.ab.x48

Re:Long Live the HP-48 (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041936)

Mine still has notes and cheats in memory from a dozen years back. I use it every morning as an alarm now, with ocasional simple calculation.

Re:Long Live the HP-48 (2)

robi2106 (464558) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042102)

I managed to program two parts of Bach's Fugue in C minor using the "[FREQ in Hz] [ DURATION in sec] BEEP" command and could, if I borrowed another student's 48, transfer part 2 via IR and run both mostly in sync through out the entire piece. Two devices beeping in lovely counterpoint oblivious to the unintended awesomeness they accomplished.

Re:Long Live the HP-48 (3, Informative)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042108)

The 15C is the scientific version of the 12C. Same case, same button layout, same display. I cherish my 15C, but usually use my HP50g.

Re:Long Live the HP-48 (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042640)

My 15c is always on the desk within easy reach. After 26 glorious years it is still going strong, still flummoxes my wife, and remains dear to my heart.

you would think (4, Informative)

jbolden (176878) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041758)

You would think given that calculators still sell pretty well and this one is doing good for 30 full years that HP would maybe consider that they made a mistake in essentially killing off this line. Wouldn't it be wonderful it HP put out hand device for engineers as far advanced a the HPs were then?

Anyway the scientific version of the 12c is the 15c: http://www.hpmuseum.org/hp15.htm [hpmuseum.org]
And my love was the 28S. http://www.hpmuseum.org/hp28c.htm [hpmuseum.org]

Re:you would think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042180)

But they did not, and now I guess it is not HP doing improvements, but the people that write spreadsheet software and computer algebra systems.

Recently there has been quite much progress in making both more powerful and also the latter more easy to use. Decent competition starting earlier would surely have helped, but what already can be done should in large areas exceed most people's actual needs, anyways...

Re:you would think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042964)

They could try to sell those as novelty items. A HP gift shop would get some nice useful content. Perhaps a gold plated 12c for an accountant retirement present would be a nice idea?

Neat (2)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041760)

Now bring back one of the models the scientists/engineers will care about, like the 15C or 42S.

Re:Neat (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041856)

Now bring back one of the models the scientists/engineers will care about, like the 15C or 42S.

Actually, it makes more sense to do what they did - bring them back as smartphone apps [cnet.com] .

A single app for Scientific, Business and Hex (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042530)

Now bring back one of the models the scientists/engineers will care about, like the 15C or 42S.

Actually, it makes more sense to do what they did - bring them back as smartphone apps [cnet.com] .

I may be biased but I think it makes more sense to put the functionality of various traditional handheld calculators into a single app. Perpenso Calc for iPhone [perpenso.com] optionally supports RPN and offers scientific, statistics, business, hex and bill functionality. More importantly you have the option to use a modern worksheet format for the time value of money, cash flow, amortization, break even, and profit margin calculations; or use the traditional button based approach if you prefer.

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041870)

http://thomasokken.com/free42 on iPod touch or iPhone.

Use it all day, every day (and my real 42S and 11C stay in my desk).

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041898)

You'll pry my 15c (kept at home; using to teach my kid RPN) and 42s (my office calculator) from my cold, dead hands!

I remember back in HS people asking to borrow my calculator (an 11c) and then saying, "um, never mind" when they saw what I was using.

It's funny, but unless you are hopelessly unaware of order of operations and basic math, RPN always seemed easier than infix for what you actually use calculators for - calculating things. Not to mention the awesomeness like "Sigma+" (sorry, don't want to look up the unicode for the sigma right now) in your physics labs.

That's why the financial guys love the 12c - it may not be simple to use for a newcomer, but it does the kinds of math they need in an easy and incremental way.

great calculators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041774)

I own an HP-16C which can handle different number bases. I wish I had another one for work. I have an application on Linux that does the conversion but it isn't the same. Calculators still have utility even with almost unlimited CPU power at your fingertips.

I also own an HP-41C with a time module and it acts as my alarm clock as it has been for the past 30 years.

Re:great calculators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042676)

My 16c still works. It's lost a few rubber feet, the HP logo has come off, and it's got a ding or two. I was shocked when I scoped prices on Ebay. One was A$500. These things were rarely seen even when they was new. I think mine cost me A$350 bought in Hong Kong.

I use the iOS emulator version nowadays and keep Precious in the drawer at home. I just wish they'd iPad-up the apps.

A 15c re-release would be nice, but I've still got a perfect 32sII and the 35s they released a few years ago, so I doubt I'd indulge.

Moderns 12-Cs suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041776)

The older 12-C were well-made with excellent keys. The ones in the past six or so years are made in China, have poor keyboards that rattle when the calculator is lightly shaken and the keys will occasionally register a double press. Sorry, but I am keeping my 12-C (and 15-C) from the late 80's.

15c (2)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041782)

If you find one in the wild, and don't have a personal use for it, Ebay it. Those things are worth their weight in gold. Sold one for almost $200.

Re:15c (4, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041886)

If you find one in the wild, and don't have a personal use for it, Ebay it. Those things are worth their weight in gold. Sold one for almost $200.

You got ripped off - gold is around $1475/ounce, your 4 ounce calculator should be worth around $6000.

Re:15c (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042222)

he should have said it was worth its weight in silver

Re:15c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042648)

Sorry Sheldon.

Re:15c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042068)

Rumor has it HP will release a limited edition one this summer. So ebay sales may be off for a while.

Re:15c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042330)

Why do people cling to seriously outdated technology, that by today's standards is just a sorry joke of crappiness?

Sure, back then it may have been awesome.

But please, compare it to Qualculate! or even a full-blown suite like Mathematica on a small portable computer! Just do that.

If you seriously think, that those are even in the same ballpark as any of those old calculators, you are seriously delusional.

And don't even try the "But in schools, you can't use full-blown computers." pseudo-argument. Considering how in the civilized world, computers are a tool to help children become even better, the only conclusion is, that those schools are deliberately designed to mass-produce obedient retards. Probably the same ones that "teach" "intelligent design".

Always have a phone, maybe not computer (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042594)

Why do people cling to seriously outdated technology, that by today's standards is just a sorry joke of crappiness? Sure, back then it may have been awesome. But please, compare it to Qualculate! or even a full-blown suite like Mathematica on a small portable computer!

The problem is that like traditional handheld calculators, people do not always have their laptop/notebook with them. So applications like Perpenso Calc for iPhone [perpenso.com] are very useful because people will tend to always have their phone with them. With this single app you can make sure you always have the functionality of scientific, statistics, business and hex calculators with you.

Re:Always have a phone, maybe not computer (3, Informative)

careysub (976506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042760)

As someone who posted up-thread about still using his 30 year old HP scientific calculator, and who also has Mathematica installed on his small portable computer (a 13 inch TimelineX), I can address this. Each tool has its own area of ideal application. I can crunch through some rapid calculations with my little calculator much more easily than I can boot my laptop. load Mathematica, and enter the same series of numbers and operations in it, even if I havemy laptop with me. Pressing the sin button on my HP is faster than typing Sin[ ] on a keyboard.

Re:15c (1)

daffmeister (602502) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042656)

Can you put your small personal computer running Mathematica in your pocket? How long does it take to start up? How long before you need to recharge it?

Re:15c (2)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042984)

Can you put your small personal computer running Mathematica in your pocket?

My phone has Wolfram Alpha.

Re:15c (1)

synthespian (563437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042870)

Your comparison is stupidly arrogant (if such a thing exists...) Let me draw it for you: a chainsaw to a common saw. They are built for different things. You don't need Mathematica when you just want to simulate scenarios for a down payment in front of the salesman in the dealership.

That would be moronic. It would show instantly that you don't grok the 12C. That you live up in the clouds. That you can't cook. That you don't get pussy. That you don't have real money. It means you're an instant goner.

Also, you can't shove Mathematica in your pocket. It's portable, it's bug-free, and it delivers.

Re:15c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042426)

I have an HP15C, the manual and all the original packaging (including the foam wrapper for the calculator). The receipt is taped into the back of the manual - purchased October 12, 1982 at the University of Waterloo (Ontario) Book Store for $236.99 (including taxes). My guess is I could sell it for t least that figure, not that I would. It got me through the last 2 years of engineering, replacing my Texas Instrument SR-51A.

Post 1st (1)

Ricochet (16874) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041788)

:-)

I still have my 28c and I have a nice 48sx under Android and Linux. I love this calculator and it takes me so long to figure out the non-RPN calculator.

RPN (1)

flabbergast (620919) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041806)

"It runs on an unconventional operating system called "Reverse Polish Notation," which eschews parentheses and equal signs in an effort to run long calculations more efficiently."
I didn't know RPN was an operating system. Perhaps that's what they mean by unconventional.

RPN + stack = best calculator I still use (1)

Algae_94 (2017070) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041812)

Although I never had a 12C, I did get a 48G back in '91 or '92. RPN is only unconventional if you haven't used it. After mastering it and the stack on the 48G, its simple to store countless values right there in memory and do lots of number crunching must faster than traditional calcs.

It's too bad HP seemed to destroy all value in their calculator lines shortly after the mid 90s or so. Luckily these things are tanks that will last a very long time.

Re:RPN + stack = best calculator I still use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042450)

RPN is only unconventional if you haven't used it.

RPN is only unconventional if most people haven't used it. Most people haven't, so it's unconventional. Unconventional doesn't mean wrong or bad.

That takes me back (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041834)

My grandpa had an RPN calculator made by Novus. I don't remember which model but it came out in the mid-70s. I remember playing with it when I was a kid. CSB

Re:That takes me back (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041894)

I still have a slide rule that I used for my Maths "O" level in 1976, to check my answers. Now get off my lawn.

Re:That takes me back (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041942)

Slide rule? Luxury! We had to share an abacus for the whole class. It only had 3 beads.

Re:That takes me back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042014)

Yours had beads?

Re:That takes me back (1, Flamebait)

superwiz (655733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042022)

i don't trust anyone who claims to know any math and spells it "maths"

Re:That takes me back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042176)

You realise that "Math" is a mainly-US affectation, yes?

Re:That takes me back (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042816)

And now you've misspelled "realize" as well.

Re:That takes me back (1)

ooloogi (313154) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042212)

That probably means you're American. In other parts of the world "mathematics" is shortened to "maths".

Re:That takes me back (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042406)

You don't trust anyone who isn't American?

Actually that kinda makes sense now that I've said it out loud...

Inb4 hedge fund mentions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36041858)

Hedge fund managers are assholes and such calculators featuring on WSJ should be banned.
Realize that this is slashdot and mod this +5 Insighful. Thank you.

"in an effort to" appear clueless (1)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041938)

RPN is not a notation. It's a straightforward implementation of stack-based expression evaluation.

In RPN (restricted to binary operators) any sequence is valid where at each binop the number of preceding operands is greater than the number of operators.

R = v1 v2 binop1 v3 binop2 v4 binop3;
R = v1 v2 binop1 v3 v4 binop2 binop3; ...
R = v1 v2 v3 v4 binop1 binop2 binop3;

In linear notation, without parentheses, your ordering options are limited:

R = v1 binop1 v2 binop2 v3 binop3 v4;

Linear order implies structure from syntax. RPN implies structure from order. So does human language, in an effort to make communication more effective.

How many idioms in English have matched delimiters? None modulo common usage, n'est pas?

Re:"in an effort to" appear clueless (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36041988)

Since when is math English?

Math isn't even "the universal language".

Even among mathematicians.

Re:"in an effort to" appear clueless (2)

Libertarian001 (453712) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042008)

What does the "N" in "RPN" stand for?

Lighten up, Francis

Re:"in an effort to" appear clueless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042642)

pre-order: + 3 * + 4 5 + 6 7, or (+ 3 (* (+ 4 5) (+ 6 7)))
in-order: 3 + ((4 + 5) * (6 + 7)), or (3 + ((4 + 5) * (6 + 7)))
post-order (RPN): 3 4 5 + 6 7 + * +

Result: 120

LISP uses a pre-order evaluation of the expression tree; the parentheses don't affect the math, but LISP requires parentheses so it can support variadic functions.
Handwritten math is an in-order evaluation; this requires at least some parentheses to resolve order of evaluation issues.
RPN is a post-order evaluation.

All three forms can be parsed into an expression tree for "offline" (all at once) evaluation.

pre-order uses an operator stack and a data stack when evaluated online; correct evaluation relies on counting.
in-order also requires two stacks for online evaluation; "smart" in-order evaluators are the hardest to implement, but "dumb" versions that completely rely on parentheses are slightly easier than online pre-order evaluators.
post-order only uses a data stack; each operator immediately consumes a predefined number of elements and outputs a predefined number of elements.

Conclusion: Pre-order and post-order require less writing; post-order is the easiest to evaluate "online" (one symbol at a time).

rpn and trees (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042010)

the reason rpn gives the shortest way to write expressions is that there is a natural 1-1 mapping between a stack and a tree. and since people try to organize most knowledge into trees (until they run into insolvable groups), the most compact way of representing trees will win as a method of representing most operations.

CFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042030)

The 12c is one of only two calculators admitted to the popular CFA certification exams, which might explain some of its more recent success. Still, there's nothing better to just crunch a few numbers on the go.

48G (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042066)

My HP 48G died after about 10 years. It just eats batteries now, lasting maybe 30 minutes on a set. I grew to love RPN before the 48G died, though.

unconventional mathematical notation (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042092)

My foot it is. All depends on what career you are in if its 'unconventional' or not.

Strange thing is these cost as much as they did when i bought mine 20 + years ago.. They should be cheaper now, so what is up with that?

Re:unconventional mathematical notation (1)

markpg (59112) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042164)

I suspect the reason for that is because a lot of the ones bought 20 years ago are still in use today, so they don't have the sales volume.

Re:unconventional mathematical notation (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042850)

And technically if you take inflation into account it has gotten quite a bit cheaper.

Re:unconventional mathematical notation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042778)

Market forces at work.

1. Thirty years ago, a dollar bought 2.8x as much as it does today. Calculator prices have remained constant; therefore their prices have actually gone down relative to inflation.
2. There's a higher demand for "piece of shit" calculators, so more PoS calcs are made. Economy of scale reduces the per-unit cost of PoS calcs; positive feedback ensues and further increases the demand for PoS calcs relative to RPN calcs. Eventually demand for RPN calcs become so low that they're deemed "too expensive to produce", and they get canceled.

Only old finance guys use them (2)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042112)

Look at any business school class these days any you will not find very many HP-12Cs or TI BA-IIPlus calculators anywhere. Most serious number crunching is done on a spreadsheet so the only use for one is if you are in a meeting or need to do a very quick calculation when a computer isn't readily available. (happens now and then) The HP-12C is a fine piece of equipment but if you have a spreadsheet available it's kind of like using a slide rule. Sure it works but it probably isn't the best tool available most of the time.

I'm actually a certified accountant. I have one of the TI BA-IIPlus calculators and the only time I have used it in the last 8 years was to take a certification exam. (they only allow those two calculators in the test) Otherwise it sits in a drawer and gathers dust. Frankly I can't imagine I'm going to use it in the next 8 years either. For reasons I cannot fully grasp a lot of accountants still insist on using paper tape calculators to add up long strings of numbers even though they have a spreadsheet available on their computer. I can't begin to count the number of times I've seen accountants repeatedly type in long strings of numbers because of typos. Strange people who aren't willing to change with the times. I'm waiting for one to ask for the "4:30 autogyro to Siam [wikipedia.org] one of these days.

Re:Only old finance guys use them (1)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042486)

Well it sounds like they just need an HP-200LX then, since it comes with Lotus 123 release 2.4 built right in.

Re:Only old finance guys use them (2)

brainzach (2032950) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042772)

The HP-12C is superior to Excel when it comes to performing quick financial calculations. The RPN allows you to enter in formulas without worrying about matching parenthesis and formatting the cells, while it contains all the essential formulas you need with none of the bloat.

You can't hack numbers together as fast and efficient with any other calculator or computer program out there, which is why the HP-12C is still popular after all these years.

Good for science and engineering, too (1)

Vornzog (409419) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042136)

It may have been designed for financial calculations, but it holds its own for science and engineering tasks, too. A lot of problems in a lot of fields lend themselves very naturally to RPN workflows.

I learned to use these from my dad - he still has his, and I'm not sure there is any so-called feature that could ever make him give it up. Even when I was required to have a TI graphing calculator for classes, I found myself using it in RPN-style due to having learned to use the old HP (the last result is stored, allowing you to use the 'ans' key as a very short stack).

The 12C and friends are, in my opinion, nearly perfect as far as pure calculators go. They don't do anything your cell phone can't these days, but I've never met an app that felt as natural for handling pure computational tasks, and I have never needed to place a call from my calculator. Sometimes, purpose-built hardware is just better.

Re:Good for science and engineering, too (1)

multi io (640409) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042758)

I don't understand how engineers could still use calculators today, except maybe out in the field where laptops are completely unpractical. I entirely stopped using calculators 15 years ago or so. I also never understood how supposedly tech-savvy people use calculator programs for PCs (like calc.exe or more "advanced" equivalents -- a totally superfluous software category IMHO). These days you can just fire up Python or Ruby (or, if you really must, Mathematica) and perform all kinds of interactive calculations with much more ease, comfort and power than a pocket calculator could ever hope to achieve. And those environments can always scale up and adapt to your needs with virtually no limits.

Git off my lawn (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042200)

HP made great calcs before the 12C. I had a 32E, my oldest brother had a 45, and my other brother had a 21. Now git before I break out one of my slide rules (straight or circular)

I will never forgive Carly Fiorina (2)

Bloodwine77 (913355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042270)

She gutted HP calculator R&D. The HP49G was the last new calculator they designed, I believe, and that was approximately 10 years ago. I still have my trusty, old HP48GX. I don't have a chance to use it much these days, but it is resting at a place of honor in my home office. HP made excellent calculators over the decades and it is a shame that a short-sighted CEO ended that legacy.

Re:I will never forgive Carly Fiorina (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042914)

She gutted HP.

FTFY

Most people are not dealing with the stack (1)

ittybad (896498) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042292)

Solve the equation, using RPN:
2 x + 4 - = 3 x *
I don't even know if you can use the equal sign like this in RPN....or if you can even solve an equation with RPN. RPN is considered unconventional because 2 + x - 4 = 3x is more in line with what we want students to be able to solve. When they finally use some assembly to create a calculator, then they will appreciate RPN.

Re:Most people are not dealing with the stack (1)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042540)

2 + x - 4 = 3x

It's simple to solve for x using RPN:

2
4
-
3
1
-
/

Now perhaps your argument is that that required thought, but what else is the point of doing algebra problems without thinking about what precisely is being done?

Re:Most people are not dealing with the stack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042872)

There is no thought required for doing the operations in RPN. My contention is that "2 x + 4 - = 3 x * " does not lend itself to the order in which you did your operations for solving the variable. Perhaps it is my lack of exposure and being ingrained with a more "traditional" approach as learned in school, but the steps to solve "2 x + 4 - = 3 x *" do not jump out at me the way the solution to "2 + x - 4 = 3x" does. I feel that this is especially true if you are dealing with students who are new to solving equations. Then again, with more exposure, perhaps it would garner more understanding from students.

Back when HP actually used to "Invent" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36042334)

HP had a lot of cool useful durable products back in the day. Now they are just a crapware commodity product pusher with NO innovation.

Off the top of my head..
LaserJet 4/5
Calculators
Riloe server management
Tons of electronic calibration and measurement tools (RF testers, volt meters, signature analyzers etc)

re:HP (1)

JohnVanVliet (945577) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042394)

back in 1981 to 85 ( highschool) i used a 41 c
The first question was always " where is thew " = " button

i loved the thing . i still use a 11c and have a 11c on my suse desktop

How did you keep your 41 working? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042420)

My 41CV died a couple of years ago, and I packed in the hell box. Display bled out and was unreadable, and I didn;t bother to get it repaired.

And I have a bunch of modules for it, financials mostly. And the wand, card reader/writer, blank overlays by the pound, stacks of solution books. I worked for a dealer... I also had a 67, but traded it in for th 41CV. And I had use of a 97 in between, but I never got very good at using it.

But - using the 41CV for balancing my checkbook was a blast. Organize it correctly, and you hit ENTER and saw either a zero or your error(s). Made that chore actual fun, for a while.

What terrific devices.

Obligatory M-x calc (1)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042562)

Thankfully, those of us who use emacs just run M-x calc to get back to an RPN calculator which actually calculates numbers. (It's pretty much the main reason why my 48gx sits on my shelf waiting to be used.)

Like a screwdriver (3, Interesting)

synthespian (563437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042682)

This calculator is like a screwdriver: a perfect fit for the task.

The Platinum shipped with a bug. The 12C...well, there are no bugs.

RPN is great. Once you get used to it, you never look back. BTW, RPN is what the Forth programming language uses.

When doing financial calculations or shopping I always take it with me. Also to the bank. It creates an instant bonding between you and the manager (those initiated in HP 12C's RPN).

HP calculators, IIRC, were used to calculate the orbits in some early space program missions (YouTube). I think it's safe to say that the 12C is more numerically trustworthy than some Pentiums that came out....

The "C" suffix and programming memories (3, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042730)

The "C" suffix stood for "continuous memory", meaning that programs and data did not disappear when the calculator was shut off. Like what every calculator does today. Before then, however ...

My first HP was the HP-25, a glorious invention when it came out in 1975. It had 49 programming steps, and the program had to be re-entered from the keyboard, line-by-line, every time the calculator was turned off. My first real programming success came when a high school math teacher, trying to show how hard it was to determine whether a given number was prime or composite, asked my class to determine whether the number 300,000,007 was prime or not. (Thirty-five years later, I have not forgotten that number, and don't think I ever will.)

I was able to program a test for primality into the HP-25. It was brute-force, of course -- checked for an integer result when the argument was divided by two, and then every odd number from three up to the square root of the argument -- but it worked, and I was able to show that 300,000,007 was prime. The teacher was impressed, both with the calculator and with the fact that such a large number that she picked out of the air at random turned out to be prime. (I don't think she new or cared about programming.)

I love that calculator. The HP-25C came out the following year, and the HP-25 became an orphan, but I still have it -- along with an HP-48G+ purchased about 12 years ago. (Finding a new calculator with RPN turned out to be harder than I thought.)

Still miss my old 48SX (1)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042878)

I always thought RPN was a ridiculously complicated way to evaluate expressions. Looking back after having seen the light, I don't see how I would have made it through two engineering degrees without it.

There's a big problem with the "new" 12-C (3, Informative)

Flector (1702640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36042938)

The 9 key on the HP 12-C, Platinum edition is not reliable after being pressed a few thousand times. This has been reported by many finance types, and makes the platinum unusable.

HP are you listening (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36043016)

PLEASE bring back the HP-15C .... pocket size, scientific, RPN ... batteries last almost forever

while you are at it a modernized HP-200 sure would be nice - modern defined as easily readable LCD, battery life like the HP15C, and some type of removable storage - keep all of its existing features.

the 10 series were great calculators (1)

bigogre (315585) | more than 3 years ago | (#36043024)

I own a 16C and wish I had another one to take to work.

I also own an HP-41C that is still my alarm clock. Programmable alarms, and the ability to run programs is so useful.

Calculators still have a place and utility even when you have unlimited CPU capability at your fingertips. Sometimes a purpose built tool can still beat a GUI.

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