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How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the maybe-outdated-is-a-strong-word dept.

Education 359

theodp (442580) writes Electronics almost universally become cheaper over time, but with essentially a monopoly on graphing calculator usage in classrooms, Texas Instruments still manages to command a premium for its TI-84 Plus. Texas Instruments released the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator in 2004. Ten years later, the base model still has 480 kilobytes of ROM and 24 kilobytes of RAM, its black-and-white screen remains 96×64 pixels, and the MSRP is still $150. "Free graphing calculator apps are available," notes Matt McFarland. "But smartphones can't be used on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Schools are understandably reluctant to let them be used in classrooms, where students may opt to tune out in class and instead text friends or play games. So for now, overpriced hardware and all, the TI-84 family of calculators remains on top and unlikely to go anywhere." So, to paraphrase Prof. Norm Matloff, is it stupid to buy expensive TI-8x milk when the R cow is free?

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TI calculators are not outdated, just overpriced (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824209)

The TI-8x calculators are not outdated; they do exactly what they need to do -- no more, no less. This is an important fact! If they did much more they wouldn't be allowed to be used; if they did much less they wouldn't be useful.

However, that's not an excuse for them continuing to cost $100+. There should have been an opportunity for some competitor (e.g. Casio or HP) to use 2014 technology to deliver the same capabilities with less manufacturing complexity and thus a cheaper price. Apparently, Casio is trying this, but they're not being aggressive enough: if Casio beat teachers and parents over the head with how cheap calculators should be by selling theirs for $25 or so, then IMO they'd be more successful.

IMO, a worthy "update" to a TI graphing calculator would not be more RAM or a faster CPU, it would be power envelope improvements so it could run on solar (like a 4-function calculator can) and a slimmer, lighter body. (Of course, these days I just use a TI-89 emulator on my Android cellphone instead, so I'm not the target market...)

Incidentally, the other thing I don't understand about this is why anybody picks a TI-84 when they could have a TI-86. TI-89s are prohibited for standardized tests (because they have a Computer Algebra System), but TI-86s aren't and are better than TI-84s in every other way as far as I can tell...

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

zippo01 (688802) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824231)

The problem with different venders is they would have a different procedure to do different things. They want everyone to have the same one so they only have to explain it once. I agree with you that it does what it does and why and that the price is out of control. Not that they need something more. I still have my ti-82 on the shelf... hah

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (3, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824287)

"They want everyone to have the same one so they only have to explain it once."

Then the schools can damn well buy the calculators for their students.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (4, Interesting)

Scootin159 (557129) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824411)

Or if a competitor made such a hypothetical $25 replacement for the TI-84/86, schools could just standardize on the new model. The argument for not switching to Casio, etc. right now is that younger siblings typically get their older siblings hand-me-downs, but if the replacement model was only $25, that argument would loose a lot of weight.

Although with the Ti's current tenure, they're now getting into the range where there's likely students using their grandfather's hand-me-down calculator in class. I know students were using their parent's hand-me-down Ti calculators when I was in school.... and I'm old enough now to have kids of my own in school

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824737)

Why not just make requirements/limits on the features and let users pick whatever brand they want? It's horrible that the discussion is about "which brand should we (exclusively) allow". Every/any calculator maker should be allowed to make a device that fits requirements and be allowed in schools.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (2)

swb (14022) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824865)

Then the schools can damn well buy the calculators for their students.

Because school districts taxing property owners and buying calculators is so much more efficient than students obtaining their own calculators with that same money.

IMHO, one of the big problems with "$technology_items for every student" is that parents incorrectly look at this as a windfall entitlement -- free stuff for their kids that they don't have to buy themselves, when that's more or less exactly what's happening -- the district taxes the property owners and the taxes buy the stuff. TANSTAAFL.

In some ways, though, there is a free lunch component because schools are usually funded by property taxes which includes many properties without kids, shifting the burden of goodies for kids to people without kids.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824493)

Then what we need is a group of mathematicians to get together and come up with a standard, just as we have the IEEE give us so many IT standards.

Re: TI calculators are not outdated, just overpric (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824261)

They're not overpriced: TI knows students are forced to use them so they feel no need to lower their price. 150$ is within reach of many families and should they cost more that would force the issue. It's called free market: demand sets the price. Suck it up.

Re: TI calculators are not outdated, just overpric (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824365)

It's called a monopoly: the vendor sets the price.

FTFY

Re: TI calculators are not outdated, just overpric (1)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824685)

They're not overpriced: TI knows students are forced to use them so they feel no need to lower their price. 150$ is within reach of many families and should they cost more that would force the issue. It's called free market: demand sets the price. Suck it up.

Except tablets are in that price range now and there are TI emulators in the Play Store.

Re: TI calculators are not outdated, just overpric (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824739)

You can't use a tablet on the SAT, probably not on the ACT, and definitely not in the classroom.

Re: TI calculators are not outdated, just overpric (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824759)

Real free market requirtes no barrier to entry : good luck trying to compete with them.

Not "free market" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824779)

What's free about a market where you're required to pick one specific service? It's a monopoly.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

Njorthbiatr (3776975) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824269)

They could still use hardware updates like a full LCD color screen with a much higher resolution.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (2)

Brad_McBad (1423863) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824451)

But then you'd need to include a Li-ion battery because those screens chew through AAs like no-one's business. Students, who basically throw the calculator in the bag after they've done their homework would forget to get it charged, would then no longer have the option of asking teacher for some spare batteries and would need to work chained to a wall-wart.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824549)

They could use an e-paper display for even lower power consumption and better readability (higher resolution, better contrast).

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (3, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824277)

Forget the 86, the NSPIRE is allowed on all major standardized tests and it's worlds better than any of the 8x calcs, and the CAS model is allowed on everything but the IB and ACT (and honestly unless you can't get a decent score on the SAT or live in a state that requires the ACT for instate scholarships there's not a ton of reason to take it). It's what I bought my son, I figured why waste $150 on an ancient platform that won't help him much in his last 2 years of high school math when I could spend $125 on the black and white NSPIRE CAS and he'd be set for his entire academic career.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824327)

Not "all" standardized tests. Definitely not on the major engineering exams where only nonprogrammable calcs are allowed, and eevn then they have a specific (and short) list of the calculators allowed.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824517)

Did something change? I took the EIT back in the 90s and the very programmable HP-48G was allowed.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (2)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824687)

Did something change? I took the EIT back in the 90s and the very programmable HP-48G was allowed.

Yeah, the dinosaurs finally caught on to the fact that students were using them to cheat.

TI calculators are not outdated, just overpriced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824297)

The TI-83/84 is used not because it's superior, but because that's the calculator all of the high-school math books have the buttons shown for. The schools do not teach high-level understanding of how the calculator books, they show push this button, and then this button. Teachers do not have the time to figure out and explain every student's calculator, so they all require TI-83/84 for consistency.

TI calculators are not outdated, just overpriced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824301)

It looks like they discontinued the TI-86 the same year they introduced the TI-84.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824309)

The thing I don't understand is why they don't remove the evaluation part from the standardized tests.
Entering the numbers into the calculator and pressing enter isn't a complex task, there is no need for that to be part of the test.
Let the student present the expression he/she would have entered into the calculator and let that be the final answer.

For everything but the standardized tests the students can use a graphing calculator app that is available for their smartphone.
The need for everyone to buy a TI-calculator disappears and perhaps then TI will be more interested in reducing the cost so that the students that can't afford a smartphone at least can buy a calculator.

At the moment the standardized tests are just a way to subsidize Texas Instruments.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824367)

The thing I don't understand is why they don't remove the evaluation part from the standardized tests.

Probably something to do with huggy-feely politicking. Curricula are still made up out of too much wishful thinking.

I'd agree that teaching math would beat teaching pushing buttons, but the latter is easier for quicker results and so cheaper.

For everything but the standardized tests the students can use a graphing calculator app that is available for their smartphone.

This won't fly, for a number of reasons all having to do with who controls the device, both officially and in practice.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824541)

Because the goal isn't how to teach kids how to pass a test, it is how to solve problems.

Since schools seem to teach to the tests, removing the evaluation step from the test would have the practical effect of removing the evaluation step from the instruction as well.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824319)

And I am sure competitors exist, but schools only allow the TI's. It is the same for old standard calculators, the university/college will only approve the use of that one TI calculator. In my university, you have one allowed calculator, and you still had to pay to get a sticker to let the exam procs know that "yes, this calculator is allowed"

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (5, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824735)

In my university, you have one allowed calculator, and you still had to pay to get a sticker to let the exam procs know that "yes, this calculator is allowed"

I guess I understand this stuff for standardized tests somewhat, but what sort of crap is this for university exams? If your exam can be thwarted by just having a slightly more powerful graphing or programmable calculator, your exam is probably not testing very much.

When I was an undergrad, most exams in advanced science and engineering classes allowed you to bring ANYTHING as long as it didn't involve communication with people outside the room. Forget about just calculators (ANY calculator), some people would be STACKS of textbooks, and I even remember some laptops (though those were less common back then -- largescale wireless also didn't quite exist yet).

When I first had a test like this, I packed a pile of books too, along with whatever calculator I had (I think a TI-85), etc. But I quickly realized that most of this was useless. In the limited time we had, if I didn't already know the stuff, I'm not going to have time to learn it from a book.

And the tests always had complex questions designed to test your ability to confront new types of problems (and to often present symbolic answers with your work, not just some final numerical output from a calculator, nor even some symbolic answer spit out by Mathematica, even if you had a laptop), so even if you had somehow programmed your calculator to output a numerical answer and handle every problem you had encountered in the class so far, you'd still have to have some pretty serious critical thinking skills to do well.

If the only thing standing between you and an A on exams is having a "non-stickered" slightly more "advanced" piece of crap calculator built on 20-year-old technology to do your exams with, that course is probably not asking very much of its students.

TI calculators are not outdated, just overpriced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824381)

I don't think anyone is saying that TI-8X's don't do everything they need to, but with how inexpensive electronics have become it is laughable that Texas Instruments still charges $150 for them. When you can get a basic tablet for $50-100, if a company went further they could probably simplify a cheap tablet even more (remove wi-fi, audio systems, etc), slap some graphics calculator software on it and sell it for less than half of what the TI-8X's go for and probably have more functionality.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

Nimey (114278) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824415)

Spot on, except the TI-86 has been out of production for a number of years. Presumably their market niche was too small.

From what I've read, Casios /are/ a lot cheaper than equivalent TIs, but they are different enough to need retraining and there are many more textbooks that assume a student has a TI.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (2)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824819)

As strange as it sounds, the TI-84 is a newer model than the TI-86.

Basically, the lines went like this:

TI-82 -> TI-83 -> TI-84 Plus -> TI-84 Plus Color

TI-85 -> TI-86

Since it's not obvious on that list, the 82 and 85 came out around the same time, as did the 83 and 86.

Incidentally, it's important to note that the stats listed in the summary are for the black and white version and not the newer color version and yet it's the color version's MSRP they're listing.

I believe they are outdated (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824523)

The TI-8x calculators are not outdated; they do exactly what they need to do -- no more, no less.

That doesn't mean they do it in the best possible way. I could do calculations on an Apple ][ back in the 1980s but that doesn't mean the state of the art stopped there. Sure they get the job done but that doesn't mean they couldn't make further improvements. I have a hard time believing that the perfect calculator was developed back when I was still in school 25+ years ago.

I disagree that they are not outdated. Are you seriously going to argue that they couldn't have made any improvements to the interface, power, screen quality, cost, functionality, or performance in the last 20 years? They don't necessarily have to add more functions but there are plenty of improvements that could be made.

The bigger problem really is that too many students rely on these things as a crutch and never really learn the math properly. You do not need a graphing calculator the vast majority of the time to learn the concepts shown on the graph. If you don't understand without a calculator what a parabola or sine wave is, the calculator is not going to help. Aside from calculating things like sine and cosine functions I really don't see much point in graphing calculators until after students have mastered the concepts they calculate.

Re:I believe they are outdated (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824855)

I disagree that they are not outdated. Are you seriously going to argue that they couldn't have made any improvements to the interface, power, screen quality, cost, functionality, or performance in the last 20 years? They don't necessarily have to add more functions but there are plenty of improvements that could be made.

Interface and functionality? No, they couldn't improve that. Even if something else is theoretically "better" (like RPN), there's too much inertia behind the status quo. Screen quality? Maybe: color and/or LEDs would be inappropriate, but e-ink might be acceptable if it had the same resolution and refresh rate as the LCD it replaced (ideally, it should also support or emulate the "grayscale mode" accomplished by some TI-8X software by turning the pixels on and off really fast). Cost and performance? Yes, those could be improved -- I said as much in my post! But they don't count as making it outdated IMO.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (4, Interesting)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824615)

There should have been an opportunity for some competitor (e.g. Casio or HP) to use 2014 technology to deliver the same capabilities

It should be noted that this is very difficult to do, because many modern math textbooks are actually built around the assumption that students are using TI-84's. I took an algebra course a couple of years ago at a local college and every example in the text actually used illustrations and instructions on how to do the graphing on a TI-84 specifically. So unless the competitor could copy the look, functionality, and layout of a TI-84 exactly (and I'm sure that would get them sued), profs and instructors would be inundated with "But how do I do that on my Casio?" questions that they aren't going to want to deal with. And so they would probably still make the TI-84 a requirement for the course, just to avoid that hassle.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824797)

Teaching material should be required to be device-agnostic, plain and simple. (unless ofcourse you are taking a course in a specific device).

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824857)

Yeah, and textbooks SHOULD be cheap and/or open-source too. But good luck with that.

Re: TI calculators are not outdated, just overpric (1)

builditandtheyllcome (1500307) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824671)

They don't choose the TI-86 because it is discontinued.

Re:TI calculators are not outdated, just overprice (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824875)

The technology in them is probably dirt cheap (and may have been at the time of release) a low res grayscale ~2" screen plus enough processing power to solve relatively simple math probably all of $5 cost. The rest is usability and brand recognition. That said there is something to being able to visualize things in your head. Perhaps not everyone is wired the same way but I managed my way through an honours physics degree with nothing better than a $10 basic scientific calculator: graphs, intersections, roots of a function etc I know how to calculate them and am pretty good at once I know where they are visualizing how the graph should look. Regardless of how common it is I suspect you never are going to be among those skilled at math intensive fields if you need to consult a calculator some times. Sometimes you just need to be able to figure out from the direction of current in a wire which direction the magnetic field will be generated and thus what direction the induced field in the second conductor will be traveling sort of like a sense of direction: if you don't have one don't be a cabby (though GPS makes that easier now I suppose).

Ti-82 (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824227)

Technically, the Ti-84 is a beefed up Ti-82, which has been around since 93.

Hell it's outlasted even Ti's more capable Calculators like the Ti-85/6 and the Ti-92/89 (The 89ti is being sold for now, but it's days are numbered.)

Re:Ti-82 (1)

Neil Hodges (960909) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824243)

I really wish the TI-85/86 line was the standard; it's a much better calculator from most standpoints. Sadly, we'll never see a TI-87.

Andi Graph (1)

infernalC (51228) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824311)

Andi Graph is the bomb... you can switch between any TI-8x ROMs. The only thing I miss about it is the tactile keys.

I own a TI-85. Therefore, I have no remorse about using the TI-85 ROM on my Android devices, as I'm not letting anyone use my calculator at the same time. I paid for the software.

In conjunction with BlueStacks on my Samsung ATIV Pro 900T, I can even project and take screenshots of the whole calculator without any special TI hardware.

https://play.google.com/store/... [google.com]

Even older than that (1)

pr0t0 (216378) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824437)

It goes back even further for me. I had to buy a TI-81 in 1990 for freshman year in college. Then I had to take a class (Math 148), that despite its description, was really just to teach you how to use the TI-81. In the two subsequent classes (Math 150 and 151), we barely used the TI-81 for much more than basic calculator functions that I recall, although that was a long time ago. Of course, I never used the calculator again after that. I came away from the whole experience feeling like it was scheme cooked up between the university, TI, and the book publisher.

Re:Even older than that (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824613)

While the Ti-82 is based on the 81, they have some sizable differences:

2k vs 28k Ram
no PC link vs PC link.
Much More Programming commands and functions on the Ti-82 vs the 81.

The Ti-82, 83 and 84 series however, are virtually identical other than a few added features and flash memory.

Re:Even older than that (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824801)

You would find things very different today. I went to school for my first undergrad degree about the same time as you. My experience was similar. We barely used calculators at all in the classroom, and when we did it was for just basic calculations. But I recently went back and took some math courses at a local college and was shocked at how much the TI-84 and algebraic graphing is integrated into *everything* now. No more point-plotting by hand--now EVERYTHING is done as a graph on a TI-84. Every textbook example is shown on a TI-84. Almost every test question assumes you have one. The instructors teach specifically to it.

Simple Solution - Exam Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824247)

All smart phones should have an exam mode. Using a public key infrastructure, the phone presents a blank desktop with approved apps downloaded from the schools's wifi network.

The phone can't be used for anything else whilst in this mode and all control resides with the school.

A common standard would speed adoption.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (4, Interesting)

germansausage (682057) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824295)

Because no smart teenager would ever find a way to fake exam mode. PKI notwithstanding, it just needs to fool a high school teacher. We hand wired fake reset switches into our HP-41CVs back when,

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824315)

Not only that when there are 600 or more students taking an exam at a time there is no way to check. What is really needed is for schools to get over themselves and not rely on simple tests to decide if you know anything. Let people do take home tests and assume they will use all the resources available to them.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (1)

Himmy32 (650060) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824387)

Good luck with the ACT or SAT being a take home... Those are the tests that really matter for selling calculators.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (1)

sinij (911942) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824429)

>>>Those are the tests that really matter for selling calculators.

I think this is key issue. These calculators are popular because they are allowed on standardized tests, like SAT. Obsession with these tests in US is what ultimately drives up the price and limits feature improvements of these calculators.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824483)

the irony is that when the College Board first allowed their use they forced universities to play catch up and allow them. The College Board was pivotal in the new use of technology. Now that the College Board refuses to change, they are the ones holding back curricular innovation.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824363)

It couldn't be faked with NFC. A small reader can be both used to program and query the device. In most exams, staff check student IDs at the beginning, so they can check any device at that point too.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824405)

Back in my TI-83 days, i figured out you can archive programs to protect them from the system reset function, and no teacher *ever* checked that bit.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824397)

That requires you to own a phone where you don't have root. How would you prove that?

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824851)

Having root would not matter. There would be no way to use it once switched to exam mode. Exam mode would be part of the firmware, not any software and would be validated much in the same way as DRM.

It works a little like this:

When you enter an exam, you scan the device over an NFC device which obtains the manufacturers certificate and validates the phone has not been altered. This prompt the person to accept a certificate specifically for that exam. Once that certificate is accepted, the phone is switched to exam mode and it uses a file to download specific apps to the phone. So, all that is on the desktop is approved materials and there are no other options, menus or screens. On leaving the exam, the device is passed over the NFC device and it resets to normal.

During the exam, when staff check each ID, they carry a NFC device that queries the certificate. If it fails, the pupil is cheating. Its a two second check and everything is recorded electronically.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824403)

A mode without carrier crapware? nonsense.

Re:Simple Solution - Exam Mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824513)

We've had scandals about schools using the webcam on a school owned laptop in a student's possession. We have people flipping out about the possibility of a kill switch in cell phones. We have court cases about the right to search a phone even when probable cause is present in a crime....
 
And you really think you're going to be able to "simply" hand over access rights for a privately owned phone to a school district? What?

Teaching kids R (4, Insightful)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824273)

So, to paraphrase Prof. Norm Matloff, is it stupid to buy expensive TI-8x milk when the R cow is free?

I don't know much about cows or milk, but if we could figure out a way to teach our kids R instead of how to use a TI-8x that they'll never touch again after graduation, we would be doing them a huge service.

RPN FTW (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824283)

I bought my HP48SX in 1990. I wish they still made them, because I've finally worn out some of the buttons. QQ

I tried whatever "spiritual successor" to the HP48 model came out in the early 2000s. It might have been the HP49? That thing sucked donkey balls, and I returned it because my 48SX was still better.

Aside from RPN, the most important feature for a calculator is how the buttons feel. I'm not interested in squishy keys. I want pop. Can anyone tell me how the HP50 series compares to the HP48 in that regard?

Re:RPN FTW (1)

geogob (569250) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824383)

I've been using RPN since grade 9, to the great distress of my teachers. With the time collected what I would call a small stockpile of HP RPN calculators (35, 15C, 32S, 42S to name just a few). Although I love the 2 line display of the 42S, I mostly use the 15C, regardless of the speed. I find it a shame that the "landscape" format was not further explored.

Re:RPN FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824749)

I've been using RPN since grade 9, to the great distress of my teachers. With the time collected what I would call a small stockpile of HP RPN calculators (35, 15C, 32S, 42S to name just a few). Although I love the 2 line display of the 42S, I mostly use the 15C, regardless of the speed. I find it a shame that the "landscape" format was not further explored.

RPN rules!

I tried to get my kid to use my HP48GX, but she got so much push-back from the teachers I had to go get her a TI. She never understood the elegance of RPN.

Re:RPN FTW (1)

sxpert (139117) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824423)

yeah... my 48GX was stolen a few years back... been using an emulator on the iPhone lately

Re:RPN FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824515)

I just bought a (2nd hand) 48G, and am working through the manual. Also, x48 on the desktop, though it's not nearly as satisfying as the real thing, despite that running on not even 4MHz and so not being very quick at all. It's still amazingly convenient once you get the hang of it.

One of the things I've been idly thinking about is to do a FOSSFH calculator, down to 3d printable cases and open source circuitry. I'd do a design borrowing from the TI-30 STAT (1990) or TI-31 SOLAR for the basic model since those are nice and flat, though with a few more digits in the display. But a HP 48G series-based design would be cool too. Perhaps with e-ink screen and strong focus on low-power and so long-lasting batteries. But just carefully measuring these things and putting them in 3d-printable model files would be a good start already.

In the meantime you can do a search for "WP34s", which isn't a graphing calculator but at least can be had with not too much difficulty, and reportedly has a good keyboard, as well as RPN.

testing (1)

fermion (181285) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824313)

The only use for a standalone calculator is testing. The reluctance to allow students to use a phone for a calculator in class is threefold. One is that they need to learn to use the standalone calculator for the test. As easy as the TI is use, it still requires a lot of training. The second is that most students, even in college, lack a degree of self discipline. It is hard for them not to go to facebook. This is not an insult, I often wonder how much coding I would have gotten done if I had the internet growing up. The third is cost. Students are going to have to buy the calculator anyway for the test, so asking them to buy an App, and the good calculator Apps cost money, is something that is hard to enforce.

Ti has the market because it has designed a good calculator not for general use, but for test use. The limited function makes it a bad calculator compared to the HP 49g, but I would hate to have to use my HP for a test written assuming a TI.

As tests move from paper based to computer based, I suspect the testing software will include a calculator and students will probably be moved to a similar calculator downloaded to their phone or tablet. I suspect the some College Board tests may still have require an external calculator, so TI is not in danger of losing all sales immediately. The TI is a really good machine,and they are the granddaddy of the pocket calculator, having developed the device to use their new electronics that did not at the time have a market. Interesting bit of trivia. On a College Board test a while back one of the questions put the TI into a thrashing state. You could have two calculators on the test, and if you did you could work on the second while the first finished. If you did not, well, you were screwed.

testing (1)

dukeblue219 (212029) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824393)

The *only* use? I completely disagree as an engineer. I have all kinds of "big boy" computational tools at my disposal, but at least once I day I turn on my TI-89 and use it for something. It might just be multiplying a couple numbers, or a square root, or whatever, but it works faster than starting up MATLAB or R to do it or trying to use the terrible windows calculator.

I don't know that I would buy one if I didn't already have it from school years and years ago, but it still works and it's my first instinct when I'm working on something that requires a quick answer but doesn't require more than one or two calculations to get there.

Now that said, I don't ever use any of the graphing functionality. Just the basic math, trig, *maybe* solving for a variable in a simple system.

Can't find a use in my day job (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824621)

The *only* use? I completely disagree as an engineer. I have all kinds of "big boy" computational tools at my disposal, but at least once I day I turn on my TI-89 and use it for something.

I'm an engineer and also an accountant (yes I do both) in my day job. I have all sorts of fancy calculators including some TI-8X series and I can't remember the last time I used any of them. I sit in front of a desk where I have a spreadsheet and a basic calculator. If the job is complicated enough that I would need a TI-8X or involves calculating with lots of numbers then I'm just going to use the spreadsheet or some other analytical software. If it is just a basic quick addition or similar then I'm going to use a simple calculator. I really have no use for a "fancy" graphing calculator.

The thing that I find odd among accountants it that you wouldn't believe how many of them still rely on paper tape calculators. I have NO idea why anyone would use one of those when they are sitting in front of a spreadsheet but a ton of accountants still do. Bizarre...

Re:testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824711)

There's a scientific calculator lying on the desk next to the computer. Sometimes that's just that much more convenient than even opening an xterm and starting bc, or octave, or R, or python. It's the same model I had in highschool, bought at a thrift store for two euros. Only eight digits display, but it does all the basic stuff (basic operations, roots and exponents, logs, trig) and a little more. It even has one memory!

In fact, I have a few more not quite the same but like it, and I change them out on occasion. The ones with solar panels don't need batteries either.

I do wonder if math classes with graphing calculators allow to tackle more theory and so produce better engineers, or whether it's more of a case of "we have to keep up with the times, donchaknow!" non-thinking substituting for thinking of improving teaching's core business, imparting knowledge. There ought to be enough people run through the system with both graphing and non-graphing calculators that it should be possible to figure out. And who knows, maybe the best engineers are those who learned with a slide rule. Somebody should write a thesis out of this.

Re: testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824795)

Good calculator apps cost money?? Android emulator of HP-48 is free and awesome.

Because of tests (1)

Himmy32 (650060) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824377)

It's simple. They are allowed on tests. Teachers stock them because they can be used on the tests their students need to take. And then every parent wants to get whatever the teacher is using so that their child can get the most help from the teacher.

In-class exams are the problem. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824379)

I teach physics, and there's no way I would ever allow a student to use anything except a scientific calculator in my class during an exam. They'll be googling the text book as soon as they think my back is turned, or texting friends in other classes for answers.

Granted, they don't need a fancy $150 calculator, anything that can do a sin()/cos() is sufficient [I still use my TI-55III from 1986], but anything except a real calculator would give those students an unfair advantage.

-JS

P.S. Lest anyone thing this doesn't happen, I catch at least one student a year trying to cheat with a phone on the pretext that it's a calculator (so if it's just a calculator, why do you keep switching apps when you think I'm not looking?)

Re:In-class exams are the problem. (1)

sinij (911942) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824509)

Why is this "unfair advantage"? Your expectations are simply outdated. Humans are now distributed systems, there is no value in memorizing any fact when information is available 24/7 everywhere. If students want to Google texbooks - let them. Make all exams open book and it will closely resemble 'real-world' problem solving.

You have to ask yourself, do you want to actually teach kids physics trivia (and please explain value in that) or ability to solve physics problems with hopes that some of this problem solving skills will get generalized?

The death of memorization is greatly exaggerated (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824659)

Humans are now distributed systems, there is no value in memorizing any fact when information is available 24/7 everywhere.

Remember that the next time your surgeon needs to look something up on Google while you are coding on the operating table.

Yes there is value in knowing facts even to this day and that will never change. If any of my employees had to look up how to do their jobs constantly they would be quite useless. There is SOME information that is not worth memorizing but it doesn't follow that there is no value in memorization at all.

Re:In-class exams are the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824699)

... there is no value in memorizing any fact when information is available 24/7 everywhere.

Dumbest thing I've read on the internet all day - but the day is young!

Re:In-class exams are the problem. (1)

cdwiegand (2267) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824757)

This! In the Real World, you don't have to memorize complex facts - you can let Google/Bing/whatever find it for you. What's important to know is HOW to APPLY that knowledge and TRANSFORM it to match your current situation. Example: I may have 15 years programming experience, but I still go to google to remind myself how to do foreach() in jquery ($.each(array, function(idx,obj)) for those interested) because I just don't do that on a daily basis. Not even quite weekly (although that's changing). If someone came to me and said I need to figure out the area of this 4-pointed but not rectangular shape, I'd go online to find out what info I need and how to calculate it, then probably pop into Excel/OO/LO/whatever to start doing some calculations (I'd use that so I can also show my work in case I did it wrong - which would be likely the first time). Sure, I'm sure I learned this in 10th grade trig or 9th grade geometry, but I haven't used it since then so the skill is long gone.

That said, politicians, most parents and some teachers LOVE TESTING. It makes them feel good when simple, easy to understand numbers go up and down. It's not like THEY should have to pass a test to understand how education's working, but it's ok to do that to teenagers who are ... easily distracted.

Re:In-class exams are the problem. (1)

sinij (911942) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824837)

Standardized testing, and teaching to the test does great disservice to students. It teaches them trivia. Why is this done? It is easiest to teach and test this way, and you can claim successful teaching without succeeding. Writing open book exam is actually hard, checking problem-solving process and giving out partial marks is time consuming. As a result both are avoided due to laziness.

And better yet (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824385)

The TI-8x line uses all Z80 derived CPU's. So they're very hackable.

But the other thing about the TI-8x line is if you take a short amount of time you realize you can program the hell out of it. So if for example you're required to memorize formulas, just program them in.

That said - a simple solution to breaking the monopoly would be a rule that during tests all cell phones are in airplane mode. Problem solved.

Hrmmph.. Slide rules? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824391)

Why not design the test so that it doesn't require anything beyond math/trig functions? I passed the Professional Engineer exam about 15 years ago with a TI-30X (and a slide rule for backup, in case both calculators failed). It's a seriously difficult test, but no "calculating" is required that a standard scientific/non-graphing/non-equation solving calculator can't do. Sketching a graph is something you should be able to do by inspection, not by plugging the equation into your calculator. Calculating mean and standard deviation is just busywork if there's more than a half dozen numbers in the set. etc.

R? (1, Interesting)

StripedCow (776465) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824395)

when the R cow is free?

Why use a convoluted language like R when you can use Python?

What Linux alternatives are there to TI-84 (1)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824399)

At one point, there really was no powerful analog for a graphic calculator on Linux, I mean one with the same user interface with all of the easy to access buttons that such a calculator has through the GUI. That may be the case still. Anyone have any recommendations on a Linux application that could completely replace all of the functionality of the TI-84, in functionality and user interface?

Re:What Linux alternatives are there to TI-84 (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824579)

Pyzo on Linux, Mac, or Windows should have you covered - and then some.

Re:What Linux alternatives are there to TI-84 (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824587)

My apologies, I didn't see the GUI requirement. For those who like trying to enter algebraic equations on a small keypad, I don't have anything.

Re:What Linux alternatives are there to TI-84 (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824625)

tilem is a linux based TI emulator ... of course, you still need to get the appropriate ROM file(s) for hte calculator you want to emulate, but it is there.

Re: What Linux alternatives are there to TI-84 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824775)

Octave, Qalculate!, Maxima, your good ole Z80 emulator.

High school level exams (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824427)

Don't forget, in some places the better graphical calculators (like ti86 and ti89) are banned from high school level exams, because their ability to find roots for high level polynomials, do series expansion, symbolic solving etc.

all products live in an ecosystem (1)

qaseqase (746962) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824441)

This is a good example of the fact that all products live in an ecosytem, and the brilliance of TI was at least as much in marketing and sales as in technology. This is a great example of "stickiness" of a prouct and the retuns a company can acheive by getting products adopted as standards. These calculators are still a good fit, becuase they don't do too much. The challenge for everyone (TI included) is how to avoid being frozen here forever. TI has put out more powerful calculators, but the gatekeeps (teachers, standardized test administrators) have not accepted them (and from their points of view, for good reasons).

Outdated...? (2)

asylumx (881307) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824459)

"How the outdated hammer still holds a monopoly on garages" What makes it outdated? It does everything it needs to do without being bloated. Not everything has to have a touch screen and wi-fi, you know.

Graphical calculator in schools (2)

geogob (569250) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824461)

I never understood why a graphical calculator is needed in school. We had them too in 10th and 11th class. It brought me pretty much nothing. Plus I was already used to RPN at the time, so I hate the TI calculators. It would have been a fail investment had I bought one. It was our luck that the things were part of the school material and not our own.

In my opinion, graphical calculators do not belongs in school classes any more than smartphones. It's really not the way to go to promote understanding of concepts, which is as important as learning concepts. The understanding part seems to be systematically ignored by the school system... and its getting worse with every modernisation of schools (at least from what I saw in two different countries where I lived).

But I doubt I'm the right person to ask; I have a rather odd view of this on this topic. I would go as far as to suggest to ban calculators from engineering schools and re-establish the use of slide rule. At least students would perhaps regain some notions of order of magnitude and intuition for it.

Re:Graphical calculator in schools (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824693)

But I doubt I'm the right person to ask; I have a rather odd view of this on this topic.

Not odd at all and quite a few people agree with you. I agree that there is little need for graphing calculators before college at the earliest. They tend to become an overpriced crutch that does more to prevent learning than to enable it. There is no point in having a graphing calculator before you have mastered the concepts that you are using it to calculate.

Re:Graphical calculator in schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824791)

You are dead wrong. I went to college in 1978 and since I was an engineering student I took the standard three course calculus series. Recently because of a job change I had to retake those three courses at the local university. The graphing calculators make a huge difference. Students can attack calculus problems today that engineers had a hard time with 30 years ago. I was shocked at the difference it made, and for that matter shocked at how good today's students are.

Re:Graphical calculator in schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824821)

Calculus teacher here ... Which demonstrates a better conceptual understanding, rehearsing an algorithmic routine that achieves a number called the "limit", or looking at a graph and identifying what the function is doing and truly finding the limits and asymptotes.

As for slide rules and orders of magnitude, get off my lawn. My generation is no better at big numbers than the kids learning on calculators. Nostalgia is for the weak.

Rent-a-calculator? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824463)

Couldn't schools keep a supply of TIs on-hand and rent/lend them to students for the school year? I'd be surprised if this wasn't already being done somewhere.

.

Graph 89 (1)

Peter Kingsbury (3046159) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824479)

Never had to buy a TI-84, but this (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Bisha.TI89EmuDonation&hl=en) looks interesting, and is far cheaper ($3.74 CAD).

No calculator should be required for (math) tests (5, Insightful)

jtwiegand (3533989) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824497)

Never in high school was a calculator allowed on any math tests. All problems were written to be solvable without a calculator, and they were plenty challenging. And this way, the students were pretty confident when they were going astray on an answer, since most everything wound up being a whole number, basic fraction, or one of the more common irrationals. I graduated High School is 2001 from a public school as well.

Whats more important is that they taught is math, not how to use a calculator. How to use a calculator changes with the calculator, and isn't a particularly valuable skill to learn compared to the fundamentals of calculus and the other higher math. Yes, I almost never do math anymore by hand, I write a program for it, but learning all those fundamental rules about the quadratic equation, even those weird trig substitution formulas come in handy once in a while when solving a weird problem.

Calculators aren't necessary in high school mathematics, and should not be used.

Now for chemistry and physics I can't see no calculator simply because the numbers are so unwieldy most of the time, but I think there is a way to write a test that does not require a calculator.

Re:No calculator should be required for (math) tes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824585)

Same here: no calculators allowed for me during High School math tests. High School Physics and Chemistry was another story, we could use basic calculators since we had to provide a numeric answer down to the correct number of specific digits.

And in college it was a mixed bag: a couple would allow it, most wouldn't. And the few that would allow it would often require you to wipe the memory in front of them while they watched.

Its called "Bureacracy". (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824499)

TI-8x calculators were standardized by the educrats a way-long time ago, and will remain the same forever more because bureaucracies view change as dangerous and move to stifle it. The American education system is a multi-hundred billion dollar monster, that's a lot of ability to stifle things.

Texas Instruments obviously understands this, and so they do not innovate in their calculator lines. Because innovation is -bad- in Education Land.

The next standard will possibly be the iPad. Then Apple will have an Iron Rice Bowl too. How nice.

How much better is the 84? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824529)

There are plenty of used 83, 82, and 81 calculators out there. I made it through algebra and calculus just fine with an 81 (thank you very much) and they are dirt cheap on the used market. Unless there is something specific that a class needs from the 84, I would look to the earlier models.

But, but, but- Google! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824573)

If NOBODY has to remember ANYTHING because the Internet does it for you, when are teachers gonna relent? Oh, and "what if the grid goes down, smart guy?" "Well, that's highly unlikely.." "What if it does?" "Well, then, _some_ people will remember math..during the mass killing..what's your point?"

Must be too old,.. (1)

Selur (2745445) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824577)

I conquered school (and university) without having a graphical calculator. And yes, I'm one of those who still knows how to calculate stuff in their head and work with fractions, integrals,.. on a normal piece of paper.

+ I too agree 150 $ for a school calculator is way too high, but I don't really see the point why a graphic calculator is really needed to begin with.

stupidity (1)

silfen (3720385) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824599)

What is stupid is citing "Prof. Norm Matloff"; the man plays fast and loose with the truth based on his agenda-du-jour.

What should they be teaching (1)

JeffOwl (2858633) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824611)

Why are teachers teaching how to use a specific calculator? Why isn't it simply a homework assignment? Teach the problem and then tell them to go home and figure it out for their calculator. Have students gotten that spoiled by technology that they cannot read and comprehend a manual on how to use a calculator to solve a class of problems? I used an HP-48G for those classes that required it (still have it 20 years later) and used a cheap scientific calculator for those tests where the HP wasn't allowed. The Casio users and the two of us HP users got along in class just fine.

Ahh, the return of the theodp nonsequitur (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47824619)

n/t

Oh how times change (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a month and a half ago | (#47824653)

A calculator became popular because of what it could do. It remained popular because of what it couldn't.

Sounds kind of like the Apple business model, really.

I still have the HP 48G I used in college. Now my son brings it to middle school and uses it to pick up chicks.
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