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Scientific calculators

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 

I've recently been thinking of buying a new calculator.

But first, the Genesis of calculators in my world:

Chapter I

1. In the beginning, there were low-end TIs, and they were good. (From the Apocrypha: In the beginning, there also were Koss TD-20s, and they were awesome. (Translator's aside: Tangent isn't much of a prophet, apparently.))

2. And it came to pass that at school, Tangent did receive a high-end (at the time) Casio as a prize. Yea, and it had parentheses and backspace, and it was very good.

3. Now at this time in the land where Tangent ruled, RPN was shunned, and graphing calculators were seen as children's playthings, suited only for cheating on trig tests.

4. In the years that followed, more Casios were tried. But Casio had fallen from grace, for at this time in the land of Casio, textbook entry was seen as a good thing.

5. And Tangent cried out, saying "Buggrit, textbook entry is fine for Mathematica, where you have a keyboard and mouse, but it sucketh greatly on a handheld calculator!"

6. And so Tangent came to try the HP 20S, and he was much pleased and purchased two more in the fullness of time.

7. All was well in the land of Tangent until one day when the original Casio cried out, "Lo, I am stricken! Behold the dimming of mine display."

8. And it was determined that the batteries were low. But like unto a horse put out to pasture, this once fine machine was esteemed no longer. It spoke in a strange dialect, and had begun to rot, and smell.

9. And so it was decided that the Casio should be chucked into yon trash can.



Chapter II

1. Now in the years since Tangent did purchase his last 20S, it came to pass that the high priests of HP held a council. And they did say among themselves, "Let us discontinue the 20S, for who in their right mind pays for quality these days?"

2. And upon hearing this news, the eBayers were much gladdened, for 20Ses now commanded higher prices than when they were new.

3. But there was sadness in the house of Tangent, for he did shun cheap calculators. And so he did decree that a survey party go out to seek a machine like unto the great 20S.

4. And when the party did report its findings, Tangent sayeth disgustedly, "The 33S seemeth to me as like unto a teenager's cell phone, and the 30S hath much infirmity compared to a 20S."

5. And he did curse Queen Fiorina, the erstwhile leader of the Packardites, saying, "Why couldn't you have given the calculator division to Agilent, where they know how to make scientific instruments?" And he was sore teed off.

6. It came to pass that Tangent began to learn the mathematics of electronics. And in time he began to tire of incantations such as "[2] [*] [rshift] [pi] [*] R [*] C [1/x]" and "[4][*] [1] [.] [0] [3] [8] [lshift] [E] [2] [3] [+/-] [*] [3] [0] [0] [*] R [*] [2] [0] [0] [0] [0] [sqrt]". Yea, the 20S began to quake under the strain of this mad button-pressing.

7. And as a furtherance of this effort, Tangent began to learn the calculus, and found the 20S completely lacking. Yea verily, it could not differentiate, nor graph, nor integrate.

8. And so the confluence of these events caused Tangent to wonder if he wasn't looking in the wrong direction entirely.

9. In his left hand, Tangent took up his Palm PDA and sayeth, "Can not this singular artifact be turned into a fine calculating machine?"

10. And in his right hand, he took up his mouse and surfèd to the land of Bezos, whereupon he did find the mighty HP 49g+. And it did accept algebraic entry, and it costeth far less than did its predecessor the 48GX.

11. And so, Tangent began evaluating the $60 powerOne Graph against the Power48 emulator running a 49g ROM as a cheap way to test drive a 49g+.
 

That's the story as it stands today.

So far, I do prefer the native Palm-based calculator to an emulated 49G, but a lot of that has to be because shrinking a 49g down to Palm screen size isn't quite a fair comparison.

But on the other hand, I wonder if spending $130 or so on a 49G+ is a good idea. The PDA is always with me, and while I do prefer hard buttons to tapping a screen when given a choice, the PDA has a much better screen and the buttons on the 49G+ are supposed to be a weak point anyway. If the physical instantiation of a good idea is weak, the good idea isn't worth much, is it?

The availability of HP48 series programs isn't a deciding factor either way. If it comes down to it, I can buy powerOne Graph and keep using the HP emulator. powerOne is lightly programmable as it is, and if it comes down to it, I've been known to write a Palm program now and then.

So the questions I pose to anyone who has bothered to read through this saga are these: Does anyone have any opinion on these two products, particularly with regard to their use for electronics? Are there other things I should be looking at as well? I have about 25 days left on the powerOne demo, so...


Edited by tangent - 4/3/14 at 10:36pm
post #2 of 29
LOL, that's an interesting tale. I don't have any opinions to share about the 49G or its emulation, but I have this HP 41CV that served me well for over 20 years, and still going strong. It was a present from my brother, and probably one of the most useful gifts. I also have the mag card reader for this baby although I rarely used it.

I searched ebay recently and found that the 41CV and its accessories still command a hefty premium in the used market. They're fine machines and really built to last. The tactile feel of the 41CV's buttons is second-to-none.
post #3 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I searched ebay recently and found that the 41CV and its accessories still command a hefty premium in the used market.
I imagine it's just the collectors propping up the prices, since they're about the same cost as the newer 48GX.

Neither machine is for me, though...RPN is right out. I'm a programmer, so I can handle stacks, but as far as I can tell it's a reaction to not having cursor keys and other modern affordances. When you can edit your equations before saying "go", I can't see a point to RPN.
post #4 of 29
My roommate in college dropped $395 on the very first scientific calculator, the HP-35. Many nights there was actually a line down the hall to borrow it. Boy did we meet a lot of smart women!
post #5 of 29
Well, it's a shame that RPN is out for you because I'd recommend the HP 48G or GX. I'll give up mine when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers. I had a fling with a TI-92 Plus for a while because it was easier to do indefinite integrals on than the HP. It's kind of huge, but very much the Cadillac of calculators, I think. It's probably one that you'll have to look for on EBay because I think that it's been replaced by something even more cumbersome.

That was a lovely tale, by the way...it was so moving that it almost brought tears to my eyes.

-Drew
post #6 of 29
Tangent, that was a great post. I really enjoyed your humor.

There is much to be said for having a standalone calculator rather than using Palm software. Real buttons with a solid feel that you can press with your fingers are ergonomically superior to a touch screen. Standalone calculators are very durable. They don't require frequent charging. Some even use solar cells.

Try to get one with the equals/enter key in the lower right corner. The HP 48 enter key location in the left middle of the keypad seems ergonomically inferior to me. What about other brands of graphing calculators?
post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I'd recommend the HP 48G or GX.
Surely the 49G+ can do everything that the 48GX can, else they wouldn't have replaced it? I'm still researching, but it's my impression that the main thing you lose in the 49G+ is the tactile feel of the 48s. Also, there's a 48GII, which is probably a cheapened 48G. It's described as being in the 49 line, so it probably adds things like the option of algebraic entry.

Quote:
it was so moving that it almost brought tears to my eyes.
Would you say it was a religious experience?
post #8 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by drewd
I had a fling with a TI-92 Plus for a while because it was easier to do indefinite integrals on than the HP. It's kind of huge, but very much the Cadillac of calculators, I think. It's probably one that you'll have to look for on EBay because I think that it's been replaced by something even more cumbersome.
Me too, wanted a TI-89 or a TI-92 long time ago, found one on Ebay but got bought by someone else, then never tried again. The TI-92 is no longer listed in TI's pages, there is a Voyage 200, full qwerty keyboard, but is rather ugly and looks cumbersome indeed (to me). Top reasonable model listed is the TI-89 (and there is a Titanium edition). I'd consider one of the TI-89's, I think it's easily one of the best and most powerful calculators out there.
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by morsel
There is much to be said for having a standalone calculator rather than using Palm software.
Yes, but vice versa also. I don't see myself buying three high-end calculators. The Palm is always with me, so I only need one program.

Quote:
Real buttons with a solid feel
Not, reportedly, on the new 49 series. That's one reason why they're variously going for $100-150, while the 48 line ranged up to about $250 as I recall.

Quote:
...ergonomically superior to a touch screen.
I should reveal at this point that this Palm is a Treo 650, so real buttons I have, aplenty. Indeed, when it comes to entering things that don't have hard buttons assigned to them, I'd say powerOne has a real calculator beat. In these higher-end calculators, a great lot of the calculator's functionality isn't available as a single key, so this is significant. And, the large screen of a Palm lets you pick from lists of functions in a tree fashion, so often you don't even have to type in their names.

Quote:
They don't require frequent charging.
I'm already taking care of that, because this is also my cell phone.

Quote:
Try to get one with the equals/enter key in the lower right corner.
I'm not bothered by that. It's on the bottom row, second to last column on the 20S.

Quote:
What about other brands of graphing calculators?
As I said, I've had a falling out with Casio.

The TI-89 is well-esteemed, but I wasn't terribly impressed with them when I used them back in high school....probably a TI-83, actually. I don't mind a harder UI to learn if I get more power.

On the RPN thing, my aversion to that is mainly in the day-to-day usage of it. I wouldn't mind programming in it so much, I think. I've played with Scheme and FORTH before, so I'm sure I can cope.

So far, though, the only thing swaying me towards the HP is that it can do symbolic calculus, whereas powerOne is only capable of numeric calculus. That is, you give powerOne a function, it graphs it, and then you can walk the cursor along the curve and get the slope at that point (essentially showing you the derivative, one point at a time), or you can drag over an interval and get the value of a definite integral.
post #10 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by tangent
The TI-89 is well-esteemed, but I wasn't terribly impressed with them when I used them back in high school....probably a TI-83, actually. I don't mind a harder UI to learn if I get more power.
I haven't caught up with the latests specs, but are the TI-83 (+) calcs more powerful than the 89's?
post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by rsaavedra
I haven't caught up with the latests specs, but are the TI-83 (+) calcs more powerful than the 89's?
I believe the TI-89 and TI-92 are essentially the same internally with the latter having a QWERTY keyboard and these are the TI flagship models. They have CAS. The TI-82/TI-83/TI-83+ are increasingly powerful and do not have CAS nor do they do numerical calculus/analytic geometry things. The TI-85/TI-86 are analagous to the 82 series but they do the numerical calc stuff.

The interface of the TI-89 is appreciably different from that of the 83 or 86, it is worse in some ways but it is extremely easy to do integrals which is a fair portion of what I use a handheld calculator for.
post #12 of 29
For what it's worth, I'm very happy with my HP48G although I don't use it much anymore except for simple arithmetic. The buttons feel great and the large enter key is easy to use with the left thumb. They seem to go for about $40 on ebay. PM or email me if you have any particular questions about it.
post #13 of 29
I have an HP 39G+, and I am a big fan. It's basically a neutered version of the 49G+, but with the same processor running at the same speed so it is quite fast for being a $70 calculator. It also possesses quite a lot of RAM and flash memory, so it is actually quite powerful in that respect. The main things it is missing is 3D graphing, differential equations, and some of the more advanced symbolic math. Also, for the RPN fans out there, it lacks that aswell.

For me, I absolutely love it, as if I have any really nasty calculations to do I can use Mathematica (which I highly recommend), but for just doing eigenvector calculations, or doing an SVD decomposition on the fly it is very nice.

Again, my only beef is that its symbolic mathematics capabilities are rather limited. Indefinite integrals, anti-derivatives, function solving, etc. are all there, but if you get into really hairy symbolic equations, it tends to not do too well. One or two variables in less convoluted expressions, it will do perfectly fine. It can also do fractional (exact) calculations, though it has difficulty with stuff involving pi or square roots. For instance, (1/2) + (1/6) = (2/3), but if you do arctan(1/2), it will not return (pi/2). Also, for sin(pi/2), it will not return sqrt(2)/2, rather .7071.

It retains all the programmability of the HP line, and the applets it comes with are SUPERB, particularly the function solving applets. Button placement is superb, and you can get to just about any function you want with 1 or 2 button presses, and the learning curve is pretty good.

My only major gripes with it is that it just came out not long ago, so there isn't the large base of applets and programs out there for it, but there are some and it is growing. Also, it has no slide-on cover, and the overall look of it is very "middle-school". Also, the buttons are rather stiff, though it IS brand new so that may loosen up.

Personally, for $70 I think this calculator is an unbeatable value. I mean the limited capabilities of this calculator relative to the TI-89 and hte HP-49G worried me, but even as a Ph. D student, I don't miss them. I mean mostly I am doing 1/(2*pi*R*C) calculations, adding dissimilar fractions, and doing eigenvector stuff, which does NOT need a simultaneous differential equation solver or 3D graphing.
post #14 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by remilard
I believe the TI-89 and TI-92 are essentially the same internally with the latter having a QWERTY keyboard and these are the TI flagship models. They have CAS. The TI-82/TI-83/TI-83+ are increasingly powerful and do not have CAS nor do they do numerical calculus/analytic geometry things. The TI-85/TI-86 are analagous to the 82 series but they do the numerical calc stuff.

The interface of the TI-89 is appreciably different from that of the 83 or 86, it is worse in some ways but it is extremely easy to do integrals which is a fair portion of what I use a handheld calculator for.
Thanks much for the clarification Remilard!
post #15 of 29
The TI-89 is the same as the 92 minus the keyboard. And I believe it is probably the most powerful regular size handheld calculator ever made. Quite easy to differentiate, integrate, solve equations, etc. Also, if you get the "Calculus Tools" flash app (free download from TI), you will have a very powerful suite of advanced calculus tools at your fingers. Very good calculator and blows the comparatively feeble TI-82/83(+) out of the water.
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