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The HP10bII+

10bII_Hero_Shot_-_Hi_ResLet's start with the simplest financial calculator from HP. There has been a 10b calculator from a long ago, but the current model is much, much better than the previous versions.

From the innards: this calculator is using the same processor as other fast units like the new 12c. A completely new job by the techs in the HP calculator department.

Also, it has much more functions than the previous versions: a lot of mathematical functions (including trigonometrics and hyperbolics, in a financial calculator) and many financial, including break even analysis. 

The body and keyboard is much better than the competition - the keyboard in particular ranks there with the best, and clearly better than the HP50g or HP30b.

At the price (slightly below 30 EUR) is a steal, and a much better buy than any of the 12C or 17BII units.

The only thing that puts it down for me is the lack of RPN entry method, and the lack of programmability. If you don't need any of these, then it may be your unit!

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The humble HP10bII+

This website is devoted to HP calculators, and it is mainly geared towards HP calculator enthusiasts. But this blog issue will not be mainkly devoted just to them, but to everyone.

HP created the scientific calculator business in 1972, when it launched the HP 35 calculator. It is less well known that it also created the financial calculator business when it issued the HP 80. This was the first calculator that included the Time Value of Money formula built in, as well as other percentage-based formulae. That was as early as 1973, and it was its second handheld calculator. The basic difference is that in the scientific model, it was assumed that the formulae would be introduced by the user; in the financial models, the main formulae would be built in for faster results.

Both of these calculator were high end models at the time, with a price of around 400 dollars then; and both were using the Reverse Polish Notation data entry method, which was the only available back then.

Fast forward to 1989. Then, as part of the Pioneer calculator series, HP launchs the HP10b, the lower level of its business series at the time (which peaked with the HP17b). It was continued with the HP10bII in 2000, with the rounded body that appeared when production was outsourced to Chinese third parties. The keyboard click on these, while still miles ahead of everything from the competition, had a plastic feel that alienated many HP users (that could be said as well of all other Pioneer sucesssors, like the HP 17bII+ gold version). The firmware quality did not have the same level of the original HP versions. Since the processor was completely different from the Saturn-based chips that HP had been using from the HP71b and HP29c, the Chinese producer had to redo it from the start. Inferior algorithms were used, although with faster processor. This was much more evident on the HP17bII+: the solver in it is clearly worse than the original. In a way, these models were "reverse-engineered" by the chinese supplier, based on the original design requirements.

But with the new calculator team in HP, a decision was made to produce themselves the firmware thereon. The new team has created the HP30b and 20b, the fastest calculators around; the HP10bII+, using the same body but with many more clever functions; and the HP 39gII and the HP Prime, heralding the future scientific models.

The original 10bII used a single "second" key. As the basic financial calculator, it only had a limited set of functions. The new one, on the other hand, has many more functions. HP has decided to add on top a lot of scientific functions, to the point of making the purchase of a purely scientific calculator questionable. And it is an statistic powerhouse: it has several distributions included, apart from many other statistical functions. Were it not for the lack of RPN, it is vastly better than the HP12c for all practical purposes.

Take a look besides and see how it looks in reality:

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New flashing service

Today I have received a USB to com adaptor. Since most of our computers are laptops and quite new, we did not have serial adapters. I have then proceeded to update a 12c+ with the latest available software. In this particular case, it did not increase speed (it was already 150 times faster, so I am not deceived), but it corrected a number of issues compared with the original firmware.

We have decided to offer firmware flashing as a service for our purchases of a calculator. It will have a 10 € charge. The rules:

  • Calculators elegible for firmware flashing are HP10bII+, HP20b, HP30b, HP12c (ARM version)
  • The customer supplies the firmware through email.
  • The calculator to be flashed will be a new, out-of-the-box (or plastic package!). The serial number and proof of purchase bits of the packaging will be included in the shipping to the customer. (It is the customer decision to register the calculator in HP's website). Sorry, we will not flash calculators not brand new!

One of the most exciting projects is the repurposing of the hp20b and hp30b financial calculators with ultra-slick scientific firmware. The project is called wp34s and is run by Marcus von Cube, Walter Bonin and Paul Dale (in no specific order!).

You can find it on http://wp34s.sourceforge.net/

There have been a number of releases (build number was 800 at the time of writing), and you can check whether you like the software by running the included .exe file and testing the features. The .exe file has the advantage of having the right labels on the keys!

I have not yet tested the flasher cable and software on a HP30b but I plan to do it shortly. I will then report on the results!

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The new HP10bII+ has arrived!

The new HP10bII+ has arrived!

A complete review will appear in a future blog instalment - I am too excited to wait for that and will just give you my first impressions.

While I love RPN machines, I have to accept that this one clicks more than some buttons in my heart. Three pictures will suffice to see what I mean:

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Look at all buttons filled with blue and organge shifts!

You can see the typical financial keys, but there are as well mathematical functions like trigonometrics, inverse trigonometrics, Hyperbolics, date functions, and several useful additional features, like breakeven analysis (in all the companies I have worked for, the breakeven calculation (how fixed costs, variable costs and units sold relate to reach a given result) is used to predict the monthly results)

Now look at the screen:

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Readability is very high, and the metallic trim looks classy - in fact, the whole calculator looks classier than the 20b and 30b. Key click is miles ahead of the 20b and similar (altough different) to the other calculators (30b, 17bII), and better than the 50g - surprising on an entry level calculator.

Finally, take a look at what I found when I opened the battery door:

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You can see the same connector that appears in the HP12c+ - which means that this calculator may be re-flashed to update software - or to repurpose it. I understand it uses the same ARM processor as the 12c+

At this point in time I have not dared to disassemble it - to check if there are more connectors inside.

The machine has the lower round edges of the new HP generation (20b, 30b, 35s, 17bII+ silver), that greatly enhances use with a single hand (opposed to Pioneer series). although it is substantially thinner. I stress that it does not look cheap at all - in fact, it looks more expensive than the 20b (and has better keyboard, too) and the 30b.

I would still give the nod to the 30b - it can be keystroke-programmable while the 10bII+ cannot.

I have as well a sweet spot for non-menu calculators. In many cases, when you are in a meeting and everybody expects your answer, it is painful to navigate the menus to find the right one for your application. While the 30b keys can be assigned to specific programs, it is more cumbersome to do so. I have long favoured the 15c as my all-terrain calculator. I can understand the 10bII+ can be the same for a non-RPN calculator user.

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