Calculator blog

Musings and comments about our common interest


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New HP12c: so far so good!

P1040476I have been using the new HP12c for some time already. My main challenge with some HP calculators of late has been that, while they "click" quite well in all cases, there are some odd cases where the click does not register as keystroke. This has happened with the old 12c, 35s and 17bII+. I guess that it has to do with the settings to avoid the rebounds, and that 's a fine line to be walked lightly to avoid double strockes or missing strokes. 

This is of key importance when using the calculator. You need to be confident enough so that you can key numbers without looking at the screen. I have not been able to do that with most of previous HP calculators.

Not with the new model. Key registration has to do with the firmware (unchanged compared to the last version) but also with the quality of the hardware. This edition seem to have sorted out these quality problems and I am getting exactly what I am keying in.

(It also behaves well when reprogramming the unit to another Voyager model)

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More about: HP12c, hp15c
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More comments on the new HP12c

I have been using the new HP12c model that we opened in a previous blog issue. As financial user, I an drawn to the HP19bII back door that is on my desk, but when I travel (quite often), it is too big a calculator to move around, and to lay on a desk. It just uses too much real state. The HP17bII+ is better in that regard, but just slightly. There is something about landscape calculators that make them more suitable for every day work on a real table with a computer and several screens and papers.

Coming to the calculator, it seems to me that they have nailed it. The click of the calculator seems one of the best of the last 30 years, and so far it hasn't missed a stroke. This is very important: we need to be able to key in without looking at the screen, being sure that everything is being recorded as we key. This has not been the case in many previous calculators!

The bezel is real metal, as opposed to the previous model, that seemed plastic looking like metal. This may have the problem that it will receive scratches - but so be it for good quality bezels.

These calculators have also a contrast control - however, it seems to me that there is one step from where it is too little to another just fine. Going darker does not improve.

For the sake of checking, I have entered a HP15c firmware with the programming cable (you need to modify yours, since this one uses the USB protocol) and it works just fine. I just cant wait to see what other calculators can be developed using this hardware base! We can even foresee keyboard overlays to be able to use other calculator models, like HP15c or even HP16c - with the same basic hardware.


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More about: HP12c, hp15c, hp16c
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Unboxing the new HP10bII+

(note: some pictures will be re-taken with better light)

As it has been said many times, this approach to the HP10b was a complete success. They started with the proven ATMEL ARM-based core used also on the HP12c, and they programmed it from scratch: not just applying a firmware layer on the Saturn emulation core they have used elsewhere, but they created a native firmware. This makes it the fastest HP calculator extant - what a pity that it is not programmable. (The only other drawback that we see in this calculator is that it is NOT rpn: only algebraic and chained).

It has plenty of functions, including some mathematical ones that evaded any other financial calculator so far (bar the HP19bII of 30 years ago): trigonometrics in radians and degrees (including inverse and hyperbolic, in a "tour de force" that no financial used will ever appreciate, as far as I can imagine), permutations and combinations, natural logarithms and e^x, y^x, n!, Pi, and more.

It comes in a blister, inclding a couple of guides for different sets of languages. These sets, while not a guide like it used to be, are far more informative than the very simple page in the new HP12c. At least you get a picture of the calculator and a scheme of the parts of the keyboard. However, there is no excuse for not downloading the full manual.


The back of the blister is also multilingual. The advantage of this packagings is that it is a single one, worldwide. Easier to manage and stock - just one SKU. (By thew way, it also explains what is the license situation of the current calculator line up)


The protective case looks better than the previous model (new: right, old: left). It has volume and a better feel, much like the HP12c's. The previous one looks like pure plastic.


The calculator has a very clear screen:


And finally, the back side with the now-ubiquitous screw securing the battery case:



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More about: HP10bII+, HP12c
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Speed comparison between latest HP12c and the new batch just received

I just wanted to compare the performance of the just arrived version of the HP12c with the latest one, running the 2015 firmware. 

Both units are different from the original one (and around 150 times faster) but also different from the so-called HP12c+ that was produced around 2008. Both have an Atmel ARM-derived processor, but the newer model is far less energy consuming. Both can be reprogrammed (if you have the right firmware) and have the same connector, but the former used a different pin scheme, while the latter's protocol is USB (albeit with the same POGO-bsased connector).

I have run the simplest of programs for a minute:

01. +

02. GOTO 01

Both have exactly the same speed (within the accuracy of my finger starting and stopping the count). Notice the lack of "Hewlett Packard" in the lower part of the keyboard plate. We have just received a batch of the latest model, as well as units of the other current HP models. 


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More about: HP12c
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Unboxing the new HP12c

We are now opening a brand new HP12c unit. We will post some pictures and compare it with the previous iteration.


Packaging is thinner and hence cheaper for shipping. It includes a case behind the quick guides:


The quick guides are multilinguals and foldable, in line with other machines. They show only batteries, statutory information and starting the calculator, and a link to the site with the manuals - really nothing else !! You have access to the complete manual in You really need them: the foldable quick start guide does not even say that HP12c is RPN, nor guides you on the simplest of calculations, let alone give a glimpse of what your machine can do. Download the manual NOW!

The back shows the screw that secures the battery bay cover. I will not sell any other battery cover since they won't be needed !!


Here you have it compared with the previous Philippinean iteration. Main differences are: the bezel is metal (opposed to something that looks a little like metal, but feels like plastic in the previous unit), and there is no "HEWLETT-PACKARD" label in the lower part of the keyboard.


(The right one is the new model). And here, the backs compared (upper old, lower new)


Bonus: comparison between HP12c case (latest) and our own brown true leather case:


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More about: HP12c
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Reprogramming current models

There are two current models that are firmware re-programmable. One is the HP10bII+; the other is the HP12c. 

The HP12c is probably the most attractive to repurpose, because there is already available firmware for several Voyager calculators for several other models.

Both HP11c and HP10c are not too interesting, since why load them when you can load the HP15c - and what's more, there are versions with 3 times more registers or programming steps?

But what about the HP16c? this is a model intended for the Computer Scientist. It has not been reissued unlike the HP15c. And yet it fills a gap of fast operations in different number modes. These can be done with the HP48 family, but it is much more cumbersome than doing it with the HP16c. 

So it has been done:








The problem remains with the lettering. The easy way is to take a photocopy or print out a HP16c picture at full size, and then paste it to the calculator with a transparent tape for packaging. 

We have been considering creating a sillicone cover that would have a better aspect and mechanical feel:



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More about: HP12c, hp15c, hp16c
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A comparison between the latest HP12c and the upcoming HP12c

We mentioned a couple of posts ago that there were HP12c units coming our way in a boat. They are slightly different from the previous versions - at least the prototypes we've seen.

(BTW - did I say that they are made in the Philippines, not China?)

The new ones are more "metallic": the lettering in the back looks like metal uncovered by the black paint. Here is the upper one. Notice the additional securing of the battery cover:


The bezel looks real metal, not like the previous one, that looks a little like plastic. The small scratches on the new one are due to heavy use lately:



Is this the template for new coming products? Let's see...

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More about: HP12c, hp15c
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HP10bII+ and newest HP12c "on its way"

We have been told by Moravia that the HP10bII+ and the HP12c (of the newest version) are now on their way in a boat from the Philippines.

Compared with the previous HP12c, the newest has the same innards (as shown in the previous blog release), but the bezel looks much more "metal" than the plasticky bezel of the last version. They clearly look better.

The HP12c is many times faster than the HP12c platinum, due to its atmel processor. It is also several times more efficient in consumption than the original HP12c+ and Anniversary - the processors are different and much more evolved when it comes to energy consumption. When I have some time, I will make a comparison.

Due to the programming model, much simpler than the HP15c, it is also significantly faster in simple programs than the Atmel-based HP15c. Go figure! Now, the HP15c has a much wider range of functions, and also much more memory for registers and programs.

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A HP12c's innards

Out of curiosity, I wnted to open one of the latest units of HP12c that I have received. This is a normal unit, made during HP's tenure in the Philippines (I think the actual producer is Kinpo, but I am not sure). Let's see what we find within!

When opening it, you have to remove the 4 feet in the corner. There are 6 screws to unscrew (do you find the sixth?). Trying to open it without unscrewing all will destroy the case.


The sixth screw is below the right battery. Careful!

Once opened, both sides are united by a three cables that carry the power from the batteries. The circuit, on the other hand, is visible in the back of the keyboard. It is very concentrated around the main processor. There are a couple of copper pads that I don't know what they are for. There are also a couple of small springs that are exceedingly easy to lose (This is common to other Voyager calculators of all vintages)



The white band below is an adhesive. again, I don't know what it is for. I have removed it and found nothing to protect below it.

The 6-point connector is a POGO 6-pin connector, but it is connected as a USB interface, as well as a reset device, by shorting specific pins. The problem is that this connector is completely non-standard. There was one produced long ago for the HP15c Limited Edition, but it has a completely different connection schematic. If you have one from that time you can modify it - but it won't work as is with the new calculators.

Is there not another alternative? Yes, it is. In the circuit there are provisions to solder a true USB nano connector. Where? in the right side of the circuit. Here:


I don't know the exact part number that can be connected here. You'd need also to break the case, or have opened each time you want to change the firmware. If you look into, you'll find that there is people around still interested on Voyager firmware mods. You could eventually want to repurpose the calculator for whatever type of calculator or functions. You have, though, the wrong keyboard for it. You would need to consider creating a silicone film with the lettering of whatever you want. 


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Reprogramming a HP12c into an HP15c

There is still a lot of demand worldwide for the HP15c calculator. While the HP42 was arguably a better calculator, the sheer elegance of the HP15c beats it every time. All keys had three functions - at least, since some key labels could be understood differently if you were working with numbers or matrices (yCx and yPx), or as matrices or program labels (A to E keys). 

Si ti is no surprise that people want to get hold of an HP15c "on the cheap". the easiest way is to reprogram a current ARM-based HP12c. There was a recent discussion in on hp15c firmware for the old Hp15c LE edition issued in 2011 - and it was posted there ( I will not do it here due to copyright issues - at the end this is a business and it is better to stay safe)

To do it you need a cable to connect your computer with a JTAG connector like the one in the back of the calculator. these connectors are made of POGO pins, and are increasinglt rare:


It is the 6-pin connector in the middle. This is a recent HP12c calculator. Beware with the cable: there are two types of HP12c ARM-based. The ones prior to 2015 were based on an Atmel AT91SAM7L128 and the communication protocol is serial RS232; while after that there was a new model based on another chipset, the Atmel AT91SAM4LC2CA, and here the connection is USB !! (with the same outward connection)

I enclose here a screenshot of discussion about the pinout of the two calculators:
















You can get there more information on how to get the cable. Good luck!

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More about: HP12c, hp15c