Musings and comments about our common interest
During the last days of August, there will be a meeting in Geneva, organized by HP for the European network, so that professors and educators can be trained in the use of the SmartStream 410 and the Fourier Probes with the HP Prime.
As I have said several times before, this combination is the current equivalent of what we had at the beginning of the eighties with the HP41c and its HP-IL interface. The only thing is that while the interface was extremely slow, the instruments it could connect with were totally professional. I still have before myself a HP 3468A multimeter, a portable device that can be used standalone, but that can be connected through HP-IL to automate readings. I have not used it that way - as I have a similar HP 3478A machine with HP-IB interface, I prefer to connect it with my HP-85A, which has a much friendlier interface, a proper keyboard and a very simple BASIC language. I can even plot graphs of the variable evolutions, which would require yet another device - and give much lower quality.
(When I was at Engineering college I managed to get an HP7225A plotter to be used with the HP85. While it is now regarded as an inferior device compared with the ubiquitous HP7470 (of which I have a unit pending refurbishment), it is the one that stays in my memory. I remember looking at it, mesmerized, while it was plotting the labels with its ugly fonts, at handwriting speed, much noisier than a dot-matrix ribbon printer. I managed to create a small lab in HP-IB, and wish I had kept the plotter too)
The devices associated with the Prime are intended to prepare experiments to be shown in class. I can’t picture a field engineer using these devices in professional use - you can buy hand multimeters and oscilloscopes with much better precision than these. However, for the DIY that needs to do some automated readings, it can be of help, and at a much lower cost than professional alternatives.
My main gripe with the specs is the low sampling rate. We’re not talking megahertz, we’re talking (low) kilohertz, around 5. This precludes it being used as an oscilloscope.
But, as a tool for school teachers to show maths and physics to their kids. I have not received my test samples yet…
Welcome back to the Hewlett Packard of the past! From the box style to the manuals, to the polythene packaging, this product smells like 20 years old. All around it looks from another era. The only difference is that you can buy it new, now.
Sturdy, slow, heavy, and yet the only practical way to print with your infrared-enabled HP calculator. I have successfully used it to print with an HP50g, an old HP17bII, a new HP17bII+, an HP19bII, and HP28s, a HP42s, a HP41c equipped with the infrared module…
A caveat: you will not be satisfied if you're just using it with batteries. It is so slow it hurts! It sounds like it's crying for help. Fortunately, we were able to find several original HP chargers - the only problem is that they use the British plug (you can find them here in the website). I am now using a British to Schuko adaptor. It really changes the product, making the printer much faster and seemingly robust.
The paper it now comes with is black, with quite good contrast. When compared with the blue that came with any of the HP97s we have (more on that on a later blog issue), it is clearer and sharper.
With the HP42s, it is really comfortable committing your programs to paper. As you cannot store them elsewhere, as it was the case with the HP41c…
Even with new batteries, you cannot avoid having some characters printed as a "block", and some end-of-carriage characters do not come through, having sometimes 2 program lines on the same line. Sometimes characters are lost, too.
With any of the HP19bII ("weak door" and "back door"), the printer works as a charm. It is clear that both were designed to work together. Even the body color and texture are the same. And in this case, the trace mode and the print menu is really optimized. There are no gaps or missing characters. The quality of the printout is excellent. For us engineers that ended up in a financial job, it can really help to track the calculations you did. Among the printing functions of the HP9bII, there is one for printing all registers, and another to print all variables defined in the solvers:
(I had just pressed "CLEAR DATA" and therefore all had to be zero)
There are too the typical trace functions, where all entries are printed, including the name of all functions.
For those of you who use your calculator at work, this is bordering on the "need to have" as opposed to the "nice to have". You can print you calculations at will, document your little programs, and it is an incredible help in tracking your thoughts while calculating (when you're following your thoughts while calculating, instead of executing a calculation that you have previously written)