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: