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TI-84+C-Silver Edition: That C Stands For Color

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the graphing-cool dept.

Math 198

skade88 writes "Do you remember those large TI-8X line of calculators with a BW display from when you were growing up and learning all about math? Yeah well, you can still get them because TI has yet to update or change their line of TI-8X calculators from their 96x64 display, processors designed in the 1980s with just a few kilobytes of user accessible memory. They still cost in the $100.00 to $150.00 range. That is all about to change now that the TI-8X line of calculators is 22 years old. Their new TI-84+C-Silver edition will come with a 320x240 16-bit color display, 3.5MB of flash ROM, and 21KB of RAM. Ars has a good preview of the device along with speculation on why it took so so so very long for TI to finally bring calculators up to a level of technology that could have been delivered a decade ago."Last month some photos and a few details of the new TI-84+C were leaked.

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Ti-84 (4, Interesting)

sheehaje (240093) | about 2 years ago | (#42345003)

Seen the ti-84 mentioned a lot lately... The only thing I remember was I could program it, and my professor let me for my Calculus 1 class. I still don't know a lot about Calculus, but I know more about programming... Makes me think if calculators are good for learning the subject, or for learning how to program the subject.

Re:Ti-84 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345097)

Exactly. These calculators are extremely complicated tools that are designed to prevent people from learning math. That is why they sell so well. They are a fancy way to cheat.

Teaching with calculators (4, Interesting)

sgunhouse (1050564) | about 2 years ago | (#42345517)

I was teaching when the original TI-83 came out - the earlier 81 and 85 came out while I was in college. At the university I taught at, we actually required students to have a graphing calculator for certain classes.

At the college level. it isn't hard for a good teacher (or textbook) to ask questions that actually test the student and not the calculator - at least, unless they have one of those algebraic calculators. Even then, things like word problems require them to identify the right formula and set it up properly (which is more important than actually being able to grind out the numerical answer from there).

Having said that, I'm not sure how some elementary school teacher is supposed to teach fractions when even fairly basic calculators can handle fractions these days (some even displaying the result as you'd write it on paper). Require students to have a specific level of calculator for each grade? I'm sure that would go over really well with parents ...

Of course, I already have one of the Casio CG-10 calculators.

Re:Teaching with calculators (3, Interesting)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 2 years ago | (#42346363)

My college Calculus and Pre-Calculus courses prohibited calculators of any form. You really didn't need them as the courses were geared towards problem solving and not pure arithmetic.

Re:Ti-84 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42346303)

Why learn math?
http://cheezburger.com/6891071232

"Programming" (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | about 2 years ago | (#42345113)

There was never any requirement that saved programs actually compile, of course, which means the calculator has a nifty spot to keep your crib sheet.

Re:"Programming" (1)

Boltronics (180064) | about 2 years ago | (#42345889)

At my school, our TI-38 calculators had to be handed in prior to the examination for a factory reset.

Re:Ti-84 (1)

chronokitsune3233 (2170390) | about 2 years ago | (#42345985)

Programming the subject? Of course! My teacher actually spent half of the class time on a couple of occasions just showing programs to add by hand for the midpoint/rectangle rule, the trapezoidal rule and Simpson's rule for computing the area under a curve on our TI-83+/TI-84+ graphing calculators. I already had these done, so while everybody was asking "Where's the For?" and "Why is this not working?" I was playing PuzzPack [detachedsolutions.com] , which is still fun of course.

Re:Ti-84 (2)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#42346439)

>The only thing I remember was I could program it, and my professor let me for my Calculus 1 class. I still don't know a lot about Calculus, but I know more about programming...

Actually, you know more about calculus than you think you do. In order to write a program, you must understand what the algorithm does that you're using.

That is if you wrote the program from scratch instead of simply plugging things in from a cookbook.

--
BMO

Re:Ti-84 (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42346577)

Actually, you know more about calculus than you think you do. In order to write a program, you must understand what the algorithm does that you're using.

Unfortunately, the algorithms I used on my TI-81 were more like, "crude text adventure parser" (stereotypical DnD dungeon) "parametric equation of a side view of a boob" (boys will be boys) and in later years when I had a HP-48 I wrote a pretty decent 68hc11 simulator using an array as memory and variables as the registers. Welcome to state machines! The '48 had pretty good hex math capabilities and I never implemented the whole instruction set, but I certainly had the basic load, store, add, branch type stuff and a crude debugger UI that could show contents of registers and memory and single step etc. My microcontroller instuctor was somewhat impressed. Also in high school I did learn a fair amount of trig on my own as I finally got a working 3d cube render-er which was a pretty stereotypical 80s home computer BASIC challenge. Basically you store the 3-d cube as an array of the corners coordinates and then plot them ignoring the Z coord, then execute a transform on all the points (there are several ways to implement this), replot, run the transform, replot, you end up with a little controllable rotating cube. Without double (triple?) buffering the flashing as it redraws is almost unbearable and you have to have a strategy to depend with floating point rounding (like not rotating the existing cube by 1 degree each time, you rotate a unit cube by a continuously varying angle (like 41 degrees X rotation this time, 42 the next etc). Its quite slow on a TI-81 but watchable and interesting from a demo-scene perspective.

I learned calc in my senior year of HS anyway, but it was much more despite having a graphing calc than because I had a graphing calc.

So this is what kids do with their "valuable educational math tools" instead of whatever curriculum the PR firm releases. Its more or less the college prep kids equivalent of when the shop kids make bongs in class instead of birdfeeders.

When I was growing up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345041)

Electronic calculators [wikipedia.org] arrived which had monochrome red LED digits, and cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $400. Or you could get a slide rule.

Now get off my lawn.

Re:When I was growing up (1)

sheehaje (240093) | about 2 years ago | (#42345107)

I bet there is an algorithm out there that will calculate what the density is of the blades of grass, how many feet you need to step, and somewhere throw in velocity, and you have the perfect get of your lawn app for the TI-84....

Forgetting something? (3, Insightful)

diamondmagic (877411) | about 2 years ago | (#42345077)

"Educators simply weren’t asking for them until recently... We don’t want to create technology for technology’s sake"

Translation: "We haven't the slightest clue what the word innovation means or why it's important."

Re:Forgetting something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345147)

How would it be "innovative" to make calculators have a color display just because everything else does?

Re:Forgetting something? (3, Insightful)

Gamer_2k4 (1030634) | about 2 years ago | (#42345171)

"Educators simply weren’t asking for them until recently... We don’t want to create technology for technology’s sake"

Translation: "We haven't the slightest clue what the word innovation means or why it's important."

Innovation is the devil when it comes to this sort of thing. The article made the excellent point that TI calculators are approved for standardized testing due to their readily-known constraints. What's the point of releasing a new model every year when students won't be able to use them on the important things?

Re:Forgetting something? (4, Insightful)

diamondmagic (877411) | about 2 years ago | (#42345225)

Don't get me wrong, I love my TI-89.

But the very-dark-green-on-dark-green is damned impossible to read in anything except exceptionally well lit rooms, and entering functions isn't even half as quick as it could be. Its whole directory/namespace system is uninspired, and reading input/output from functions is bizarre. There's no easy way to get the argument list of a function without consulting the catalog, which forces you to scroll through all its hundreds of functions or so, and even then it's not very informative (the TI-84 is way better at this even). And so on.

Yes, you can have innovation. The whole point of innovation is to make people's lives easier in ways they couldn't have otherwise anticipated.

Re:Forgetting something? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345669)

the TI-84 is way better at this even

Much better. Much.

Can we please stop distorting the language through laziness?

People are compilers, they tokenize and parse what they hear. Each time you distort the input they have to do a little more processing.

Re:Forgetting something? (1)

Trilkin (2042026) | about 2 years ago | (#42346027)

Your totes being a grammer nazi right now.

Re:Forgetting something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42346089)

What's wrong with way better? It's informal usage.

Is much better miles better than way better?

Re:Forgetting something? (2)

tangelogee (1486597) | about 2 years ago | (#42346541)

What's wrong with way better? It's informal usage.

Is much better miles better than way better?

greatly so.

Re:Forgetting something? (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about 2 years ago | (#42346049)

You didn't have to scroll through the whole thing, just put in the letter it started with. I think. It has been a while but one of my TIs provided a way to skip to a particular part of the catalogue.

Re:Forgetting something? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#42345975)

Also what is the point most students are carrieing cellphones that are much faster, and has a better display.
My (old) iPhone is more powerful than the PC's that I used in college with Maple and MatLab on them, we used that software because the calculator just couldn't do it.

Re:Forgetting something? (2)

tangelogee (1486597) | about 2 years ago | (#42346557)

because you cannot easily prevent a student from cheating with a phone that has outside access to the internet, messaging, etc. The calculators could not talk to each other (without a blatantly obvious cable).

Specs, still (5, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#42345079)

A couple years ago I bought an LG Thrive on a prepaid plan - so undiscounted - for about $150 I believe. The phone was not great, but it had 256 megs of useable RAM, a 320x480 color screen, and a 600MHz processor... not to mention the hardware one expects from any smartphone (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, low-end camera).

So how can TI get away with charging almost that much today for a single-purpose device that doesn't even compare favorably with a low-end smartphone from two years ago? Does it serve as an espresso machine too, or maybe as an electric razor?

Re:Specs, still (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345095)

A couple years ago I bought an LG Thrive on a prepaid plan - so undiscounted - for about $150 I believe. The phone was not great, but it had 256 megs of useable RAM, a 320x480 color screen, and a 600MHz processor... not to mention the hardware one expects from any smartphone (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, low-end camera).

So how can TI get away with charging almost that much today for a single-purpose device that doesn't even compare favorably with a low-end smartphone from two years ago? Does it serve as an espresso machine too, or maybe as an electric razor?

Nostalgia. Old lonely geeks with no people skills and who haven't updated their machine skills that pine for their youth.

Re:Specs, still (5, Insightful)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 2 years ago | (#42345125)

So how can TI get away with charging almost that much today for a single-purpose device that doesn't even compare favorably with a low-end smartphone from two years ago?

Because designed to be brought into closed-book examinations can't be Internet-enabled general-purpose computers. And they cost so much because they're single-use devices.

Re:Specs, still (2)

Firehed (942385) | about 2 years ago | (#42345569)

They cost so much because they're devices that are the only accepted model for school use. If someone made an equivalent and sold it for $50, TI wouldn't drop the price because the equivalent hadn't been certified as acceptable for test-taking.

Of course the whole thing is absurd. Algebraic solvers aside, being able to plug numbers into a calculator is all you'll be doing with one outside of very specific fields. Memorizing formulae is totally unnecessary, although knowing which one to use is important - and a calculator isn't going to solve that (Wikipedia or Google, on the other hand...)

I'm more surprised that there aren't decent graphic calculator apps for smartphones. I get the whole thing with physical buttons (and agree), but the last time I had to actually graph an equation I think I had to use excel or some janky web app because that's not in my day-to-day work so I don't have my old TI-83+ sitting around from high school.

Re:Specs, still (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | about 2 years ago | (#42345793)

For Android, the Xylthe Calculator is pretty neat. Or you can use a copy of the rom from your TI-83+ in Andie Graph. As you said, the physical buttons make a difference, but it's handy to have that sort of thing whenever you want it.

Re:Specs, still (3, Insightful)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 2 years ago | (#42346537)

The best math professor I had in college let us take a page of notes to an exam. He stated that its more important for us to understand the steps to solving a problem rather than memorizing a formula that can be easily looked up. And he was absolutely right because that was the first math class that I received an A+; 96%+ on every exam. And I came out with an excellent understanding of the material. Someone may think "hey, that's cheating!" But think about it for a moment, how is jotting down formulas and some notes on how to apply them cheating? If you don't understand the material how do you know which notes to make or how to apply the formulas? You wouldn't. And you would fail the exam.

More kids would benefit if teachers stopped with the bull shit rote learning of formulas and instead taught the kids how to use them. Its easy to bomb a test because you forgot its -b +- and not b +- or b^2-4ac and not b^2 + 4ac in the quadratic formula. Or that sine is opposite over hypotenuse and not adjacent over hyp. Basic trig and algebra are what usually scare kids away from math because of stupid shit like that. And its a shame because they form the foundation for advanced fields such as engineering and physics.

Re:Specs, still (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#42345163)

So how can TI get away with charging almost that much today for a single-purpose device that doesn't even compare favorably with a low-end smartphone from two years ago?

A. Calculators are built to be abused by students and a ruggedized cell phones is pricey
B. TI can charge whatever they want because they're a defacto monopoly. The text books are literally written with how-to sections for TI calculators.

There's the Nspire lineup which has more features and whatnot, but it's still woefully underpowered and underfeatured compared to a smart phone from 5 years ago.

Re:Specs, still (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345223)

A. Calculators are built to be abused by students and a ruggedized cell phones is pricey

Horseshit. The calculators may not have a screen made of thin glass but they are every bit as crappy and fragile as any other $10 consumable piece of plastic with a circuit board in them.

Re:Specs, still (3, Interesting)

Firehed (942385) | about 2 years ago | (#42345581)

I've never managed to kill a calculator (graphing or otherwise) and it was definitely put through some abuse during high school. I wasn't exactly throwing it against walls, but I wasn't terribly careful about throwing it in a backpack containing thirty pounds of textbooks either. There were a thousand or more of them at the school as every student had one, and I can't once remember overhearing someone complaining about a cracked or otherwise damaged calculator. Yet at least a third of the iPhones I see are cracked in some way (oddly, this doesn't seem to be the case with many Androids, but I see far fewer of them so that might just be selection bias)

Re:Specs, still (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#42345699)

While I agree with your anecdote, the AC has a point. There's nothing in them to break. The buttons are standard keyboard style PCB traces with a rubberised bit of conductive material floating above them, the screen is a stock standard LCD, and the microcontroller is a little epoxy blob. But calling them ruggedized is disingenuous. You may as well call every old bit of electronics ruggedized.

There is nothing in them that's ruggedized and that can not remotely justify the price you pay for them. And on that note there is absolutely no reason why your cellphone can't be "ruggedized" in exactly the same way. Those calculator screens wouldn't stand to even the slightest impact if it weren't for that fold back clip down abs plastic case that gets put over them.

No one is suggesting you have to build the damn thing out of glass in a way that you can't attach a protective cover ala iPhone 4. But how about a higher resolution (not even bigger) screen with some colour and a damn processor that's worth something? Rip off the binary blob and put a decent processor in them, and sell it for what it's really worth ($40 not taking into account economies of scale, and $35 of those is the screen in hobby electronics prices).

Re:Specs, still (4, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42345241)

So how can TI get away with charging almost that much today for a single-purpose device that doesn't even compare favorably with a low-end smartphone from two years ago?

Because these calculators are allowed to be used during the test at schools. Their lack of functionality is a benefit. If you bring your phone in, you could use it to find other answers. These devices don't even compare favorably to the Palm Pilot1000 from 1996, although those cost $200 more.

In the testing centers at a lot of universities, the proctors know how to erase the ti-85 before you enter the testing center. Or they can loan you one to use for the test.

Re:Specs, still (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345263)

It's also the case that while some cell phones have better hardware, nothing compares to a TI calculator for its given purpose. Don't get me wrong, they aren't great, but if you need to make some calculations even using a computer with nice software is often more cumbersome. Why there aren't cheaper alternatives that do the same thing is a good question that I don't know the answer to.

Re:Specs, still (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42345323)

It's also the case that while some cell phones have better hardware, nothing compares to a TI calculator for its given purpose

There are a number of different graphing calculators that do better than the TI series.

And Google or Wolfram Alpha are about as good as any of them for basic calculations.....You're not going to see this on a TI-85 [google.com] .

Re:Specs, still (1)

Iskender (1040286) | about 2 years ago | (#42345533)

Typing in something like that on a smartphone would be a huge pain though. No one would want to do it. So while it needs a more advanced platform it doesn't really mean smartphones are superior because of it.

A laptop would do better but then you're using a laptop instead of a small device which still has a purpose-built interface.

Re:Specs, still (1)

nschubach (922175) | about 2 years ago | (#42346289)

The link must have cut something off?

Your search - sqrt(cos(3*x))*cos(100*y)+1.5*sqrt(abs(x)) + 0.8 x is from -1 to 1, y is from -1 to 1, z is from 0 ... - did not match any documents.

Re:Specs, still (1)

whois (27479) | about 2 years ago | (#42345673)

So build a full featured smart pad that has the same wipe capability and wipe them before tests. Possibly automatically through the local network the devices are all required to talk to if they're allowed in the classroom. (With the ability to restore from a network save of course, so the student doesn't loose whatever he saved on it)

Deliberately gimping a product this badly just means the student won't learn valuable skills with it. I've forgotten everything I ever learned about programming TI calculators because once I was out of school I never used one again... but when you think about it, computers are almost universally available and all of that functionality is just a nicely designed web-interface away from everyone. You could even restrict it in a student environment. That would mean that the skills you learned in school carried over to a real world practical use.

All of that is important because in the LONG run, if you're capable of exploiting a computer to get A's in calculus you probably understood the material anyway. The only time this isn't the case is sharing answers, which should still be detectable.

In anything beyond basic math (outside of school) it's assumed you will either estimate* or you'll use a computer to verify your accuracy.

It bothers me to see things not changing with the times just because. I do welcome mostly staying conservative with child education because it's hard to determine if it's safe to change things that can influence a child's growth, but not staying in touch with current technology seems like a miss-step even if it is ultra-conservative.

* I don't think estimation is taught very well in schools. Sure, you get a brief discussion of how it works and a day or two of homework on it, but it's not made clear when it's useful and when it's acceptable to use it. You don't really find out until college that it's okay to ballpark things with rounded numbers as long as you get the formulas right, and that's an important skill for Grocery shopping, Astronomy, most Engineering disciplines and probably lots of other things.

Re:Specs, still (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 2 years ago | (#42346271)

In the testing centers at a lot of universities, the proctors know how to erase the ti-85 before you enter the testing center. Or they can loan you one to use for the test.

If you need a calculator at university. You are doing it wrong!

Re:Specs, still (3, Insightful)

runeghost (2509522) | about 2 years ago | (#42345273)

RPN. Also, speaking for myself, I far prefer actual buttons to poking at a touchscreen.

Re:Specs, still (1)

floodo1 (246910) | about 2 years ago | (#42345431)

the buttons were at least half the reason why hp48g was the one!

Re:Specs, still (3, Insightful)

saihung (19097) | about 2 years ago | (#42346347)

Amen. My HP 48GX made the TI look like a toy.

Re:Specs, still (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about 2 years ago | (#42345879)

Ah so its the buttons which cost 80% of the entire device.

Re:Specs, still (2)

Iskender (1040286) | about 2 years ago | (#42345667)

So how can TI get away with charging almost that much today for a single-purpose device that doesn't even compare favorably with a low-end smartphone from two years ago? Does it serve as an espresso machine too, or maybe as an electric razor?

The TI doesn't need to and shouldn't get into a feature or spec sheet race. It's a mobile calculator and that's what it should do well. It compares very favourably with a smartphone if we actually consider what it's for.

I haven't had a serious use for my TI since upper secondary school, yet I still prefer it to any option. In more than a decade of owning it I've changed the batteries something like twice. Some smartphones on the other hand need charging twice a week even for standby.

I still have the interface in muscle memory after all these years. A smartphone would have died within this timespan, likely forcing an interface change. You cannot do touchtyping on a smartphone like you can on a TI. There's no way you'll have 30-40 always available hotkeys either.

Basically as long as it's within the budget the TI is superior for these tasks. That's why smartphones won't replace it. But it IS indeed overpriced - as someone else said, it's not known why there isn't competition pulling prices down (I write this assuming similar calculators from other manufacturers have roughly similar prices).

But until the prices fall you need to pay this to get a good device. The options will either be bulky (laptop), or run out of batteries and have worse interfaces. A low cost integrated camera won't get the job done.

TI? (1, Flamebait)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 2 years ago | (#42345093)

I haven't paid any attention to the calculator market recently, but TI is still around? When I was in high school the TI-30 came out, and almost everyone had one, because it was $2 cheaper than a National Semiconductor equivalent and $20 cheaper than an HP. So that's what everybody's mom bought them. They were/are such crap that I have seen more than one of them thrown across the room into a cinder block wall because the keys didn't register correctly, either missing keystrokes or repeating keys. A guy at work had one - a new one that looked like it was made by Fisher-Price, I tried using it the other day, and it *still* frequently missed keystrokes and repeating. He had another, bigger one that may have been some model of the TI-84, and it did the same damn thing. And it's still fucking algebraic, for God's sake, you have to write out equations like you are still in elementary school.

        Just get an HP like a grown-up and move on with your life.

     

Re:TI? (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 2 years ago | (#42345127)

Yes, TI is still around. And yes, they still make some of the best op-amps around.

Re:TI? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#42345219)

TI is still quite around. national semi, well, not so much.

(in the bay area, the NS logos were torn down the very day that TI bought them. sigh.)

and you mean burr-brown, not TI. they still mark the OA's burr-brown (BB) don't they? I think they do.

Re:TI? (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | about 2 years ago | (#42346509)

They have their own marks as well but yes, TI still make BB devices.

Sorry, wait - what? My cell phone is better (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345117)

Let's take stock here - there are 50 million smartphones out there with more memory, better processor, better display and they are multifunction, including internet enabled and play music.

Why do I need a 320x240 pixel display with 21K memory again?

Just make an Android/IPhone/Win8 phone app that shows me a virtual machine running the code for the TI-84C!

Re:Sorry, wait - what? My cell phone is better (1)

ocop (1132181) | about 2 years ago | (#42345169)

My thoughts exactly. Alternatively, get python running on Android and all of a sudden you can tack on whatever you need (Numpy/SciPy/Statstools etc, etc) and exceed the functionality of an entire piece of hardware. Just create a smart-phone/tablet front-end UI for one of the scientific computing packages (Sage or Python(x,y)) and TI is dead. When your product owes its utility to lagging technological literacy in education administration that business model isn't long for this world. TI would be better served moving to corner the software market...

Approved lists (5, Insightful)

ableal (1502763) | about 2 years ago | (#42345135)

You have to consider what it means for a calculator to be on approved lists for school systems all over the world.

You do not mess with that lightly.

Re:Approved lists (4, Interesting)

Radak (126696) | about 2 years ago | (#42345523)

This is exactly right. The reason the TI-8x line has been around unchanged for so long is because school systems find it sufficient, but not too much, and teachers know exactly how to reset its memory. If you let kids start using whatever software they want on their smartphones, cheating would become much more widespread than it is now. When I was in high school, I used a HP 48S (still do from time to time) and I could have cheated my pants off with that if I wanted to, as the teachers didn't have a clue about it. (I didn't, but easily could have--more important to have things like Ant in my RAM!)

Re:Approved lists (2)

Firehed (942385) | about 2 years ago | (#42345635)

Is using Google really cheating? That's exactly what you're going to do outside of a school if you don't know how to come up with the answer.

It's important that students understand fundamentals but to be honest anything beyond basic algebra is going to be useless for most people. Even as a software engineer, I use "advanced" math... never. For people wanting to go into careers that require that kind of stuff, they should take those classes or pick it up during an internship.

Then again, that applies to basically every subject. It's good to push slightly advanced stuff so students can find what they like and find enjoyably challenging to pursue it further (I took a lot of bio-type classes, remember none of it, and have used it precisely zero times outside of a classroom), but there's a point past a certain baseline when it's just going to frustrate people and take their time away from subjects that could actually turn into careers.

Re:Approved lists (4, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#42345739)

For people wanting to go into careers that require that kind of stuff, they should take those classes or pick it up during an internship.

They have those already. It's called a PhD. Every other degree exists to give you a basic grounding of all principles involved. I like your ideal but the reality is that the modern form of a career means you change jobs and specialties every 5 minutes. If you asked me a year ago if I were doing functional safety I would have said "Fucntional what?" If you asked me 3 years ago if I was going to work in the oil and gas industry I would have said no I much prefer micro electronics. And if you asked me in university if I ever thought I'd use an integral in my job, I'd have said hell no.

That's the problem. You don't know what you don't know, and how do you know that in 5 years from now you won't get a lucrative job offer working for some software company that develops simulation software suddenly making advanced maths a core skill of yours?

If we really got to pick our subjects in a way that made them only relevant for the jobs we were planning to get we'd find ourselves entrapped in one job. Kind of like our grandparents where career meant working for the same company in the same role for 20 years.

Memories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345173)

Back in school. building [youtube.com]

21 KB RAM (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#42345189)

These days it's kind of hard to wrap your head around just how little 21 Kilobytes of RAM is. You laptop or desktop has about 8 GB RAM, which is 400,000 times 21 KB. Put another way, 8GB RAM costs $40; at that rate, the RAM for 10 of these calculators would cost 1 cent.

Re:21 KB RAM (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#42345301)

take a trip to arduino land where you get 16k or 32k for program space (in bytes).

turns out I was able to get about 10k lines of C (mixed c++) inside an arduino 328 32k flash chip.

but when you run out, its a hard-stop and you KNOW it. oh boy, do you know it. virtual memory? what's that.

Re:21 KB RAM (1)

chthon (580889) | about 2 years ago | (#42345531)

My ZX-Spectrum in 1984, with its 48 kB RAM was more powerful than this thing, and I had a resolution of 256x192 pixels.

Re:21 KB RAM (2)

ratbag (65209) | about 2 years ago | (#42345773)

The following assumes you were making a serious point - a self-inflicted "whooosh!" if you weren't.

Power, in this context, is relative. The power of the electronic calculator is obviously portability combined with immediacy. The resolution of which you speak so proudly came with a form factor that was inappropriate for putting in your pocket (unless you've got seriously baggy cargo pants on with room for a small CRT, a power supply, and a tape player or perhaps a microdrive).

The Spectrum's handling of maths from complex numbers upwards was also a little challenging (write your own routines from scratch).

Program retention was limited at launch time to saving to audio tape, which again hampered portability and also meant you couldn't just switch it on, factor a polynomial and get on with your life.

Horses for courses etc., and I don't think anyone would advocate using a ZX for maths, any more than you'd use a TI (or an HP) to learn BASIC programming (basic programming maybe, but not BASIC).

Re:21 KB RAM (1)

chthon (580889) | about 2 years ago | (#42346019)

I think both. After I read the rest of the thread, I also became aware that the thing can even be more likened to a ZX Spectrum because of the Z80, and then my nickel fell also on the resolution and the color range, 320x256x16 means a memory of 160 k bytes of RAM. With its 21 k of working memory, that means 4 times the memory of the Speccy.

Yes, you are right.

Where can you even find components like that? (3, Interesting)

dargaud (518470) | about 2 years ago | (#42345197)

I mean, I build embedded systems and we have problems _finding_ components so archaic. Where do they find them, I wonder.

Re:Where can you even find components like that? (1)

smi.james.th (1706780) | about 2 years ago | (#42345251)

TI makes them I believe...

Re:Where can you even find components like that? (5, Funny)

makapuf (412290) | about 2 years ago | (#42345253)

Yeah, how could a major semiconductor firm which is deeply in embedded electronics find chips ? Mystery ...

Re:Where can you even find components like that? (1)

pantherace (165052) | about 2 years ago | (#42345257)

They make them. Seriously TI fabs the Z80s for the calculators.

Re:Where can you even find components like that? (1)

Y-Crate (540566) | about 2 years ago | (#42345527)

They make them. Seriously TI fabs the Z80s for the calculators.

It seriously warms my heart that the Z80 still lives.

Tis the season for heartwarming, after all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345671)

Here ya go, 19 different Zilog-made Z80 in-stock at Digikey, starting at $4.48:
http://www.digikey.ca/scripts/dksearch/dksus.dll?FV=fff40027%2Cfff80164&k=z80&vendor=0&mnonly=0&newproducts=0&ptm=0&fid=0&quantity=0&PV-5=31943&stock=1 [digikey.ca]

It's older than Star Wars. It's older than Space Invaders. It entered service before the Shuttle. It's a cool little chip that got such a lot right.

Is it the oldest microprocessor still in production?

Re:Tis the season for heartwarming, after all (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#42346505)

Is it the oldest microprocessor still in production?

Quite likely - the 8086 (no, not 80186, just plain 8086) is also around, but it's a couple of years newer.
There may be some that still manufacture the 6502, if so, it's likely the oldest.

Re:Where can you even find components like that? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42345269)

They probably build them themselves, TI has a large chip collection they sell, including 'high end' OMAP chips for Androids, down to tiny flip-flops [ti.com] . Believe it or not, most of these calculators use old Z80 chips [z80.info] . Scroll down to the bottom of that page for some suppliers.

It took so long because they had a lock in class (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 2 years ago | (#42345297)

When you have a lock on the market what reason is to innovate?

Re:It took so long because they had a lock in clas (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 2 years ago | (#42345563)

That's not quite it: the market doesn't want them to innovate. The reason these simple calculators are so widely used in classes (despite their cost) is that they are simple calculators. On my school they didn't like the TI83. It could be programmed and they didn't like that. We were legally required to use it during our exams so they couldn't refuse it to us, but they would have if they could.
The lower levels of education, which weren't required to use a TI83 (or equivalent) weren't allowed to use them.

And rightfully so. I spend some time learning to program on the thing, and programmed some math stuff (a pythagoras program amongst others. It showed every step the teacher wanted to see on the paper) I then found out how I could send it to connected TI 83s. I didn't need the program anymore, I worked enough with it to know the way by heart, but my classmates didn't. They just punched in the numbers and wrote down what the calculator said.

The second year someone built a parallel port cable, so we had games on the things. I programmed a simple scrolling space shooter myself (with ascii art), but most of us were playing penguin (a simpe sidescroller) during boring classes.

Re:It took so long because they had a lock in clas (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 2 years ago | (#42345579)

These are thing I can understand not being allowed to innovate, but a larger screen, touch controls, color, are all innovations they could have done years before now, without allowing for the items you mention.

Re:It took so long because they had a lock in clas (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | about 2 years ago | (#42345893)

Touch controls are overrated, and I'd rather read a greyscale LCD that's easy on the eyes and lasts all year on AAAs than a backlit colour screen that burns through the nonreplaceable rechargable battery in a matter of hours.

Ha (1)

gnu-sucks (561404) | about 2 years ago | (#42345325)

"That is all about to change now" Really? "320x240 16-bit color display, 3.5MB of flash ROM, and 21KB of RAM" I think my Mac SE had better specs than that. I think a gameboy might. This is not impressive, and I'm sure it will still cost too much. $100-$150? Not likely. TI will sell a lot of these, I'm sure, but overall their success has nothing to do with the technical specifications of their device. It has to do with clever marketing. Note to students: Buy the minimum calculator that the teacher requires (if they do require anything). Get a computer with some good plotting software if you need to graph functions to help you understand complicated new ideas. You could probably use the computer for other things too...

Re:Ha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345897)

Your Mac SE fit in a pocket and ran 15 hours on AAAs?

What? (3, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | about 2 years ago | (#42345411)

Back in my day we didn't have this fancy TI-84 stuff. We had our RPN HP calculators and we liked them just fine.

Oh, and get off my lawn ;-)

RPN was always the best (1)

Radak (126696) | about 2 years ago | (#42345537)

Back in my day we didn't have this fancy TI-84 stuff. We had our RPN HP calculators and we liked them just fine.

Oh, and get off my lawn ;-)

What you do you mean "back in my day"? RPN was and still is the best way to do handheld calculations.

When I was in university, I explained RPN to some classmates one day and was met with the incredulity I was used to, so I proposed a race. Without the participants looking, one student was to write a hugely complex, multiply tested function on the blackboard and then we'd both turn around and start feeding it to our calculators (some fancy TI job for him, HP 49G+ for me). I had the answer before my opponent was even 20% of the way through entering it. RPN uber alles.

Re:RPN was always the best (1)

Radak (126696) | about 2 years ago | (#42345539)

...multiply tested function...

Er, damn. Multiply nested.

Re:RPN was always the best (1)

ratbag (65209) | about 2 years ago | (#42345617)

Absolutely. I recently treated myself to a brand-new HP50g after a couple of years of using 48 series emulators on my Mac and iOS devices. Makes maths fun again and it's inspired me to re-learn a lot of the calculus that I've forgotten since Uni. Back in the day ('87 was when I stopped learning maths the first time) I had a Casio 7000G. Rambling now, but RPN FTW!

Re:RPN was always the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42345851)

Ack the 50g rocks, particularly the CAS and units functio s. I can't do without a programmable calculator still. I've had just about all of the decent ones: TI-81, Casio FX-6500, TI-85, TI-86, TI-92, TI-89, NSpire and now the 50G. The 50g is orders of magnitude better than even the NSpire.

Re:What? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#42345963)

'round my parts, an HP calculator was the High School graduation gift of choice for academically excellent kids.

I got a HP 34C for being accepted at MIT and Princeton.

Rich dumb kids got cars instead of calculators. Oh, well.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42346205)

The calculator is worth now more than the car would have been and it probably still works fine, so win win situation :)

When you are the market.... (2)

bobjr94 (1120555) | about 2 years ago | (#42345451)

I guess you can get away with charging $150 for something worth about $35. Same as having to buy a college text book for $235 that's worth about $40. For $135 you can get a 3DS or a cheap android from a pre-paid carrier with a 800-1000mhz cpu and 8GB ram. 3.5MB flash rom ? A 4GB micro sd costs about 6$ now ?

Obligatory XKCD (1)

WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) | about 2 years ago | (#42345521)

Obligatory XKCD [xkcd.com]

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

skade88 (1750548) | about 2 years ago | (#42346145)

I had it in the original submission but they took it out for the front page.:(

fancy calculators (1)

tracius01 (2541214) | about 2 years ago | (#42345683)

it's funny how you americans praise your fancy calculators, here in my country, Romania, these devices are ban in universities & colleges. oh well.. maybe this is the reason why we kick your ass in math, physic and chemistry contests and have better paid jobs in your own country.

Battery Life? (1)

rsmith-mac (639075) | about 2 years ago | (#42345711)

One thing TFA touches on but doesn't answer is what battery life is like. Those old Z80 monochome beasts could easily last for a whole semester on a single set of batteries; in terms of hours of runtime that works out to dozens and dozens of hours (the similar Gameboy got 30+ hours, and that's with it working at full tilt every second it's turned on!).

So what's the impact on battery life by using a color screen? A Z80 + RAM uses so little power these days that surely the bulk of the unit's power supply is going to the screen. And as much as I do agree a color screen is handy, is giving up battery life for it a good tradeoff?

Re:Battery Life? (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | about 2 years ago | (#42345947)

Plus, I consider a greyscale reflective LCD to be much easier on the eyes over a long time than a backlit colour screen. A decent resolution one would be a nice (and long overdue) upgrade, though. Maybe something like the one on the Sony PEG-SL10 [wikipedia.org] from 10 years ago?

320x240 (1)

blind biker (1066130) | about 2 years ago | (#42345725)

There is simply no justification for such low resolution screen. I know the argument about TI calculators being on approved list - but a higher screen resoltion won't make them "un-approved". Fuck, in this day an age such a low resolution screen is probably exactly as expensive as a 800x480.

I can't shake off the impression that TI are just being dicks because they can.

Re:320x240 (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42346445)

I can't shake off the impression that TI are just being dicks because they can.

It's called a public corporation. As long as the money keeps coming in at a pace they're happy with, they don't change behavior, no matter what that behavior might be. Sometimes it produces simply a shitty calculator, as in this case. Sometimes people die in great numbers, e.g. Union Carbide in Bhopal. Sometimes the repercussions last for decades, e.g. BP in the Gulf.

"Yeah well"? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#42345797)

+10 for writing your own summary and not just copy-pasting from the article.
-100 for using "Yeah well"

Re:"Yeah well"? (1)

skade88 (1750548) | about 2 years ago | (#42346143)

Noted for next time!

And here I was hoping that the C would stand for: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42346011)

C

Sigh. Well, I can dream, can't I? By the way, existing C compilers for Z80 are incredibly inefficient... to the point where they don't even do register allocation. Can you believe it?

Re:And here I was hoping that the C would stand fo (1)

skade88 (1750548) | about 2 years ago | (#42346151)

Feeling up to writing a c compiler for this calc using the tools they give you?

Day Late and a Dollar Short (3, Interesting)

Zero_DgZ (1047348) | about 2 years ago | (#42346339)

I remember back when the TI-83 "boom" was happening in public schools around here and math textbooks were starting to show up with content in them tailored to TI-83 calculators. Suddenly, it was required that students have "a graphing calculator" for math courses, on pain of automatic failure. I'm not sure how this happened but I imagine it involved large sums of money changing hands: Somehow, every single published textbook was chock full of key-by-key instructions on how to solve problems that applied ONLY to TI-8x series calculators, and none other. Never were the concepts behind the button presses explained, it was just a matter of "press this button, then this button, then enter your value, then press this button..." So, while the schools were not able to admit that what you really needed was a TI-83 calculator and none other without exception, that's really what this new policy meant. In the early days, most primary school teachers didn't have much experience working with these "newfangled" calculators and were not able to offer assistance or background explanation about any of these button-pressing procedures, so the lucky ducklings with non-TI calculators (like me!) were basically shit outta luck. I had, and still have, a Casio CFX-8950GB Plus, which was at the time and still is superior to the TI-83 line in every possible way. It also has a color screen, but owing to the times it can only do four colors. Even still.

However the heck this twisted situation came about, it meant that TI wound up with a near-monopoly on the graphing calculator market, considering the lion's share of that market is mandatory primary education, most of it in public schools (this is in the USA, mind you). So, they've been able to churn out basically the same calculator pretty much without change or improvement and charge the same price for it at retail. I'll bet you a nickel it's a shitton cheaper for TI to manufacture a TI-83 now, with it's tiny simple processor and chunky low-rez monochrome screen than it was back in the early '90's. I'll bet the damn thing prints money for them.

Meanwhile, the rest of the market (and the world) innovates, improves, and moves on. This move to stick a 320x240 screen and a "whopping" 21k of RAM would be a bold and exciting one if it happened 15 years ago. Somehow, I picture today's students failing to get excited about a machine that's considerably less capable than a low-end current smartphone. Hell, I have a first- or second-generaton PocketPC PDA that's more powerful than that.

I predict that this machine will cost just as much if not more than the old calculators, the old style calculators will stay on the market as a "budget" option for poor kids but their price will not drop much or at all (especially if the zooty color model costs considerably more than the current price point), and nobody who isn't forced to buy one as the particular calculator for a particular math course will care; From a functional standpoint, as opposed to your specific "press this button" classroom requirements, better tools are already available elsewhere and will continue to be.

Try to calculate sin(pi) using a TI... (1)

Damouze (766305) | about 2 years ago | (#42346367)

In my years in secondary school and later on at university the usage of any TI calculator was strongly discouraged, the reason being that it could not even calculate the sine of pi properly. Instead of plain 0, it gave a (infinitessimally) minute number instead...

Re:Try to calculate sin(pi) using a TI... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42346465)

Interestingly enough, the HP48G and HP35s also do this (and give the same value as each other). So that maybe not the best of tests.

(My guess as to why this occurs is because the calculators use an approximation of pi, rounded or truncated to the precision the calculator allows)

the point of a graphing calculator? (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 years ago | (#42346411)

We did math the old fashioned way, with a "scientific" calculator, and did the graphs by hand using colored pencils. But I guess nothing of importance was created before the invention of the graphing calculator.

Why color? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42346519)

Did I miss something? Why do these need to be in color? Data is a black and white matter. I don't see the benefit.

Better question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42346585)

I always assumed innovation lagged because the folks at TI (and HP) assumed that the coming ubiquity of cheap general purpose computers would render their innovations useless. After all, everything they do could be easily replicated on a computer.

Technically, anyway, this could happen. It should happen. But it hasn't. Show me one decent scientific (or accounting, or whatever) calculator (or a capable evolutionary offshoot) for the iPad, for example. Just one. Where is it? WFT?

The question isn't "Why didn't TI do this sooner." The question should be "Why is anyone still making calculators at all?" - which is another way of asking "Why in hell hasn't anyone created a decent replacement that runs on my iPad, Android phone, etc.?

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