I have been asked whether the HP30b and 20b are discontinued. While there are still lots of units in the distribution channel, the decision to discontinue them was taken long before. Nevertheless, I am ordering my last stock to be able to respond to wp34s orders – which do not seem to diminish.
The HP20b is the turkey in the financial roster of HP. The HP10bII+ has much better keyboard, a very comprehensive function set, and a good quality feeling. It feels an HP all the way – despite not having RPN entry mode. I have used HP20bs, but I have never stocked them or opened one for myself. If you’re accustomed at any rate to HP calculators, you need to forget that model.
Later models from HP, even being copies from other brands (as the case may have been) have made an effort to get a decent keyboard. The HP30b has exactly the same innards and shares most of the programming, BUT has a decent keyboard. While using a number of the newer calculations, I have learned to like the low profile, low-movement, click-and-rotate keys. These are used, in a way or another, up to the HP Prime. It will never be taken for a HP41 (probably the heyday of HP keyboard quality) or Pioneer or HP48 family keyboards (second best in my opinion, but still very responsive and giving good feedback.
If I was buying a new financial calculator, I would try by all means to stretch to the best there is, i.e. the HP 17bII+. You get a much better calculator from (nearly) all angles. The keyboard quality is better; the 2 line dot-matrix screen, miles ahead of the mid dot matrix, mid numerical screen of the HP30b. The only area where the HP30b show a clear pair of heels to the HP17bII+ is on speed and by having several specific functions that the HP17bII+ does not have, including Black and Scholes and several statistical functions not found elsewhere.
But if I want the best current scientific calculator, I now have 2 options: the HP41CL and the wp34s, which is built around the HP30b. In many cases, the HP41LC will be beyond your reach – for the time being. I still think it has to be the aim to aspire for any devoted calculator aficionado. It is my preferred day-to-day calculator and it is always on my work desk. But I understand that its price of close to 600 € may prevent some of us from stepping in and get one. Or incur in the alternative risk of doing it yourself. (which is a simpler task that it may seem at first sight)
If you have not been into calculators for the past couple of years, I will explain (again) what a wp34s calculator is. There has been an open project to repurpose an HP calculator (in this case the HP30b, but there have been essays with other machines like the HP12c (Atmel-based version)), including the best available software and using the processor memory up to the top, including ll kind of mathematical operations and constants. The output of this project, led by Walter Bonin and Paul Dale (at the beginning), later joined by. The software passed through many iterations, probably several thousands (I stopped at more than 3k), and it improved substantially. Some aficionados even made several hardware modifications, to allow for USB interfaces, infrared printing, etc. The original machine was conceived as an open platform that happened to be very modifiable. Many firmware modifications were made in order to increase code compactness and thus add more functions. If you want to take a look at the complete set of features, you may download the latest manual from this site – and be surprised by the wealth of capabilities: many statistical distributions, in three forms (direct, inverse and cumulated); complex number calculation; your choice of a 8-line stack or 4 stack; all kind of mathematical functions (Bessels, etc. Too many to be described in a blog post), and up to 34 digits of accuracy in double precision. The ideal mathematical machine!
Well: all this drivel to just say that the stock of HP30b has just arrived – and we can prepare as many wp34s as you may need!