Musings and comments about our common interest
Several days ago we informed that the HP12c is out of stock and it will be for several months due to the current scarcity of chips. What is available for the time being is the HP12C Platinum.
This is a different beast altogether. Issued as a development of the HP12c, it had several advantages over it and also several drawbacks:
I wanted to discuss briefly the current price situation for old calculators in Europe. I don't know if this situation is temporary or it will just increase over time.
We all know that calculator prices have been increasing during the last 2-3 years. I just did not realized how much.
We do repairs for our customers, and for the HP41 family 90% of the repairs are quite easy and straightforward with our tools and parts. However, something that still requires an original part is when the screen is defective. It may be the LCD, or -more frequently- the display drivers. In these cases, the screen does not show anything or it shows the screen only when pressing a key. According to the service manuals, you need to change the screen then. Your otherwise perfect calculation cannot work unless you find another screen from a donor calculator. (apart from the difference between half-nut and full-nut calculators, the full-nut displays are largelly compatible with each other, save for a little capacitor if you're to use one of the very ealry screen with a later calculator processor)
So, we are always looking for calculators to act as donors. And for that purpose, it is better to find a defective calculator (if it were working well, why use it as donor? you just use it!!)
When I found a lot of 3 defective calculators in eBay Germany, I said "Perfect! I have most likely a couple of screens to repair and maybe other spares too). Be aware that these calculators had already been stripped of all port covers (which are the easiest and nices spare you can get from a defective calculator), so I said "OK - I can offer 150€ tops: two of them are C (for which I have already many processors) and there is only just one CV - for which the processor has a little market value. Then the interesting part are the screens! Let's assume (since these are sold as defective, never forget), that 2 of them are fine, the other really defective. I would be paying 150€ for 2 screens and a CV processor. One of the bodies is tall keys, also - that may have a slighllty higher value. I have plente of bodies without screen, so the body in itself has no value to me (unless it is tall keys, of course). So I bid 150€.
You have here below the results of the bid: 330€! This is crazy! This makes buying an old calculator in Europe (seems that the US is somewhat different and cheaper) totally crazy and you really need to repair your own calculator. The secopnd thing is that we need to say goodbye to calculators that have defective screens - it is just not economical to buy defective calcs for spares, at the price of roughly 100€ per screen (not counting the work of unsoldering and soldering back in the calculation that is being repaired). A pity!
I make reference to this post from Ángel Martin, the developer of so many ROMs that we love to use (the Sandmath series of ROMs have been a permanent plug in my HP41CL memory). It includes some of the programs and exercises created by Valentín. While we are always in search of interesting programs, I bet that you will like more the accompanying articles. These are also referenced in Ángel Martín's article.
As an appetizer of what you can see there, there is a chess program! Due to the size of the printout of a chess table and the memory requirements, Valentin decided to settle on a 5x5 net instead of the standard 8x8 - but it is extremely interesting! The post provides the the manual that describes how to play it. It does not check the legality of your moves - but it does calculate its moves! Do not expect a fantastic performance, but with 50 times the speed of the original, it may amount to something.
Normally, it would require either fill in the program by hand (listing provided) or by barcodes (it requires to have the old HP41 barcode), but you don't need that if you have an HP41CL: you can upload the module with the seral cable and your computer!!
From time to time we receive emails on whether we repair HP calculators. This makes me wonder on how well we communicate: this is what we do! So we have thought it out and decided that apparently it is not clear from our website. Then we have decided to open a new department on the website about repair.
We are specialists on HP41 and card reader repairs, but we also have a partner (Ignacio Sánchez) who is expert on the rest of calculator types: Woodstocks, Classics and Spices.
We think that newer calculators (Pioneers, Clamshells and the HP48 family are far more difficult to repair than the previous models, much more modular and where the problems are typically mechanical in nature. And for some models (HP50g, HP17bII, you are much better off if you just buy a replacement off an auction site.
We also sell parts for repair (now based on the HP41 family but also battery solutions for other ranges too) and we plan to offer calculator enhancements (HP41CL in the past, bu we will try the Panamatic and Teenix solutions that improve on the previous calculators with a number of interesting additional features.
We have enlisted a designer to get a proper logo for The Calculator Store. A logo is required in many places as SEO enhancement - but you did not come here for the logo, but because of our common love for HP old calculators!
Well, here is the new logo in small and original sizes. What do you think about it? I think it joins simplicity with the minimum information to identify a HP calculator: the two shifted keys in blue and yellow, with the dark brown color typical of old HP models. Due to the size and shape, ir could be used with a hypothetical iphone/android app!
Apparently due to the semiconductor scarcity there are no more HP12c for the time being. We have been given end-of-year delivery dates - and we have just finished our last units!
A pity - it is the fastest and best thought out financial calculator available!
We'll inform you when these units are back in stock.
Here is a working prototype of the AAA classic battery holder. Many picures and few words to show you where we are:
HP12 Polynomial solving.
From Valentín Albillo’s “Serendipitous Solver” article. I have not read it from a long time ago, but I got struck by it sheer originality. The HP12c is maybe the perfect financial calculator, but it is quite limited when it comes to scientific purposes. It misses trigonometric functions, integration, solver…
Does it really miss a solver? It does miss a generic solver, but it does have a solver for the NPV calculation. What the calculator does it trying to solve the NPV equation for r: getting the internal rate of return (IRR)
NPV: Net Present value
CF(i): net cashflow at i period
r : discounting rate
but if you replace 1/(1+r) = x, you have a polynomic function in x. You can now find the zeroes of the function. You just have to enter the coefficients as period cashflowsand the constant term, and solve for interest i. Careful with the monthly/yearly equivalences! . Then you just have to find X substituting again. Be careful of the discontinuities that may happen when i crosses zero. Now, the calculation will give you a zero; you need to play with the initial values of r to find others.
This of course might be done easier with the HP15c – where you just need to enter the polynomic expression as a RPN program and then apply the generic solver. No need to do substitution.
I am having a discussion with my son, an engineering freshman. He's just finished the first year, and he's very happy and thankful of having the HP Prime calculator. Probably it is the best calculator for a student nowadays. I have the feeling that the HP50g is the better calculator, due to its more "elegant" programming model; however, the Prime has more raw power and is easier to program is a procedural language similar to basic. (It is surprising what can be done with this language. You can take a look at the games that have been programmed with it in hpcalc.org. I hope that my children never see it or there goeas another distraction more)
My discussion with him versed on the fact that the HP15c is the best calculator to master "for the rest of his life". I see no point in having him using a HP41, even the cel: is a cumbersome machine that will occupy a lot of room in wherever he puts his things; The hp42s would be an alternative, but even that one is a little too big; but the HP15c is exactly the right size and has everything the prospective engineer needs - short of anything a computer spreadsheet or Mathematica or Mathlab can do. Plus, it is small enough to be really portable and carry it on your jacket pocket; and it keeps the utter elegance of the HP50g we were discussing about.
I plan to have him learn how it really works. He'll have one as heritage, and he'll be thanking me for it in the long run. I guess that the Prime will not see much use after he has finished college!
I will give it to him with the leather case to increase the acceptance rate - by the way!
This week I have been using the HP15c in my normal work. for that I have entered several financial programs including the Time Value of Money program. It is a long program but it makes use of many of the programming techniques in the HP15c.
The HP15c always surprises me regarding how cleverly distributed the keyboard is, and how well thought out is the function set. Most of the functions can be applied to complex arguments; also, compared with other HP calculators (including the advantage pack for the HP41c), the complex mode doubles the RPN stack and so programs can be applied to real or complex numbers, depending on which mode the calculator is; it allows to redefine the upper 5 keys; and you can combine complex numbers with the integrate and solver features.
A surprising capability on a calculator this size is the extended use of matrixes - you can invert matrixes and can also use them to solve linear systems - which is something you can do in an exam whithout anyone noticing that you're using your calculator. Also I liked how elegant is to solve an equation system: after entering the 3 matrix dimensions (coefficients, independent terms and results), you enter the values for each term in the matrix, and then you recall the independent term vector, you recall the coefficient matrix, and then you just press the divide key! then you have the result in the results matrix. So powerful, and yet so simple and elegant.
The calculator came initially with two manuals: one was the user manual, roughly equivalent to that of the other calculators (but with many more functions, of course); however, this was a machine devoted to scientists and engineers, and it should explain them with details how it works and what are the limits of operation and accuracy in the different functions and features. So, the machine came with an "Advanced Functions Handbook", pictured besides.
The manual dealt with the following topics (reading from the index):
These subjects are dealt with detail and combining precision and clarity - a must read for any computer science student!
The previous anniversary version did not have this manual, only the User Manual. Let's hope that, if this calculator is ever resurrected, it comes with this manual too!