Calculator blog

Musings and comments about our common interest


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Price Reduction for new HP calculators


We have recently reduced the price of most HP calculators, due to higher volume:

Now prices are more competitive - in particular the HP Prime that is clearly the best calculator there is now!



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17bii_5bigLately I have been using more the HP17bII+. While I use the HP15c for my hobbies (namely electronics), since I use it with the ENG format and it is more comfortable to handle when you are using a multimeter or oscilloscope. I use the HP17bII+ when I do financial review on some subsidiaries of the company I work for. And it is very convenient to use the change% page, and the total% page. Much better than any other unit except the HP12c - but it has the advantage of seeing every moment what you are doing. The HP12c has the advantage of the simplicity and elegance - but for everything else, the HP17bII+

The company I work for is using 6 currencies - good enough for the FOREX menu of the HP17bII+. This menu, by the way, does not exist in the original HP17BII. This not the only advantage of the newer HP17bII+ over the bII - there is also the much clearer screen, with a strong contrast. Keyboard? While I slightly prefer the keyboard of the original, the newer is also very good - better in fact than any other HP current calculator bar the HP35s.

Another thing I value a lot is the solver. I have now around a dozen formulas - some of them quite elaborate, with MIN() and some logic branching in a couple of them. You don't even have to isolate the variable you want to find, or even having it appearing just once - you can just write the formula as you find it.

The HP17bII has been in continuous production since, I think, 1986 (in all three forms), which makes it nearly as long-living as the 12c, which predates it by 5 years.

Did I say that the HP12c had been discontinued but it is likely that it being put in production again?

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17bii_6bigFor me, the HP17BII+ is probably the best hidden secret of calculator world today. I don't know why it isn't sold much, much more. It has the feature set of the original HP17BII (minus a couple of only-programmable functions for the solver that I have never used), plus a new menu for currency translation (very useful when you're analyzing a foreign company financial statements), and a much, much (did I say much) better screen. It also has much more memory that you can use  to store many solver formulas.

And this is the beauty of this calculator: the solver. While the mighty HP42s had vectors and matrixes, it lacked a simple, programmable solver that solves your day-to-day problems in a much more flexible way than the typical program. And it can do loops and ifs, if you want to spend time; but that's not its purpose.

It also has a lot of menus made for the financial user - and a math menu that frankly it would be enough for the scientist - if only it had trigonometrics too.

Let's see the menus for a while:

FIN: finance. Time Value of Money, interest compounding, cashflow analysis, bond calculations and depreciation

BUS: useful % calculations: change, total, markup on prices and margin on sales. Very easy to use and fast!

SUM: statistical calculations on one or two variables, keeping all the data sets (different from the 12c and other units that have statistics). You can go to any sample and change it. Eventually you could plot it if you had the printer.

TIME: this calculator keeps a clock and can do all kind of time calculations, and keep appointments and alarms. Like the HP41C Time Module - but much better and simple to operate.

SOLVE: here is where all your formulae are. Extremely powerful - if you know your business and set to make it easy. (Calculate prices that go according to a formula involving market commodity prices, currencies, etc. is a very simple thing with the solver)

CURRX: currency calculations. You can have many pairs of currencies defined. Once updated the exchange rate, you can easily make all calculations.

On top of all that, it looks the part too: the metal surface is quite resistant, and the plastic back extremely so. It could print, too - only if you found an infrared printer, which are out-of-market nowadays.

And the price is only 77,90€ - much cheaper than 12c Platinum!

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A lot of HP17bII+


17bii_1bigWe have received a new lot of HP 17bII+ calculators. They are now priced at a competitive 77,90€

It is true that the sexiest financial calculator is the HP12c, but the HP17bII+ is soo much more powerful.

From the beginning: it is extremely solid. The whole back part is on hard plastic - the beautiful metal front is protected by the raised sides. Keys are big and wide, and click very well. As the machine is menu-driven, the keyboard is not as cluttered as the HP12c or some scientifica calculators'.

It comes with a protective pouch. It is build in the same way as the HP35s, but it is not as big as its scientific sibling.

The screen is two lines but one of them is reserved for the menu hotkeys. This hotkeys can be programmed through the solver application - which is a programming system in itself - and an easy one, at theat.

The menus make it a lot easier to remember how to do things. While with the HP12c you achieve things with less strokes, the HP17bII+ allows you to be able to recall most of the components of the calculation for later use.

When it comes to statistics there is no comparison between both. With the HP12c, with each data pair entry you are feeding the 5 counters (n, x sum, x2 sum, y sum, y2 sum and xy product) but the information as such is not kept. With the HP17bII+ the data is kept in a list that you can save, edit and retrieve for another moment.

Cashflows for DCF calculations are kept in both - but the HP17bII+ makes it much easier to edit them. You can also choose between individual cashflows or grouped cashflows.

The real strong point of this calculator is the solver. You can write any formula algebraically and the system will keep all the variables in the hotkeys, allowing you to solve for any of them. As you can store a lot of formulae, you can really configure the machine for your own uses. Typical formulae include Black and Scholes, trigonometric functions, break even analysis, etc.

There are a lot of scientific functions too - all except trigonometric (but think - when was the last time you used them?)

Some of you ask me several times what are the differences between HP17bII+ and the original HP17BII. Here there are:

  • The new model is a new calculator built on a different processor with different firmware. The old was based on the Saturn processor - the same as the HP71B. The new is based on the 6502.
  • There is a new menu for currency comparisons. It is very useful - provided that there are not huge rate changes.
  • The memory is at least 3 times bigger than the original - useful if you really use the solver and store a lot of formulas.
  • Some very ultra-rare programming solver functions do not work in the new model.
  • The screen contrast and quality is at a completely different level - much better in the new one.
  • Keys are equally nice to use but the newer machine's are bigger.
  • Cosmetically there is the old brown HP colour in the original machine, vs the classy metallic surface of the new.
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HP12c vs HP17bII comparison? Maybe


I have received mails about my previous comparison between the HP17bii+ and the HP19bII. Some felt unfair that we compared a calculator that is 25 years old with one in current production. They say that the proper comparison is between the HP12c and the HP17bII+. For some reason, no one includes neither the HP10bii+ nor the HP20/30b, nor the HP12c Platinum. Truth be told, they are right. The new HP10bii+ is a fantastic calculator for the price, and arguably much better equipped than both of our contenders with functions - but has a cheaper feel to it - albeit less than the HP20/30b family, which is not worthy of the HP tradition.

On Monday we’ll discuss both calculators (HP12c and HP17bII), their applications and typical use in real life.

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HP 17bII+ vs HP19bII


I have been comparing the HP19bii with the HP17bII+ for the last few days at work. Have to say that it was a fair fight - both units are really very good.



  • several lines on the screen allow for clear interpretation of what you are doing and what you need to do
  • when you need to enter a solver formula, the attached keyboard helps you in doing three or four times faster than the 17bii+
  • Very good keyboard that never misses a beat.
  • nicer font (in my opinion) than the other machine
  • Fantastic menu system.
  • additional math items: trigonometric, hyperbolic, unit conversion, etc.
  • When folded is pocketable. No more losing the calculator case!
  • Graphs (but I have never used them!)


  • Too much real estate taken from your desk
  • Half of it is not used at all most of the time!
  • screen contrast is really low. You depend on good lightning conditions.
  • Problematic battery bay door - unless you have the back door model.



  • Much better form factor.
  • Elegant silver design.
  • much better screen contrast - black is black!
  • Currency exchange on first menu level
  • Better key feel


  • Just one line seen on screen
  • Good font, but not as nice as the competition above.
  • Sometimes, I’ve missed some keystrokes. Not often, but it is different from “never”, which was my experience with most other HP calculator.

I hope this helps in selecting the right one for you!

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A boxed HP41CL and the HP19bII collectors' set

DSC_7732smallWe are putting together two new items:

  • A new HP41cl, coming from a version 41C, but boxed and with English manuals. It is already available as an option in the website. It is more expensive than the rest - but it is not so easy to get boxed units in good shape. More and more, we’re finding difficult to find units with un-corroded battery contacts. Yes, we know that this can be perfectly repaired with a repair kit, but some users may object to having a less-than-original calculator when they are paying north of 600 €.

  • A set of HP17bII, including all of the most significant models:

    • The original, brown color HP17bII

    • A black model - I have two available only, so only two persons will be able to have this pack

    • The gold, curvy HP17bII+

    • The latest, silver HP17bII+

With them, you have this part of the collection ready in just one swift stroke!

You will have the chance to compare all the different versions of what I feel is the most accomplished financial calculator ever made - and one of the 3 or 4 top calculators from HP - all types comprised.

(For the sake of clarity - the silver HP17bII in the pack is a new unit, in its original blister. You can choose in the instructions of the order which specific language you want it)

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HP official emulators

hp17bIII guess that you have seen this somewhere else, but in case you haven’t: there is a page with all current HP calculators’ emulators for PC, in HP’s French site. You can find it here:

You have several surprises awaiting there:

  • The unblocked hp15c emulator, for those who bought the hp15c and tried to reinstall the emulator, not being able to unblock it since there was no control site anymore for your code…now you can! (And everyone else that wonders what’s the fuss about the hp15c, here’s your opportunity to find out)
  • The hp17bii+ emulator. I have posted several times my opinion that it is one of the most balanced calculators ever made by HP, and only bettered by the hp19bii for financial duties (although the latter not as resistant as the former in the long term). This is the gem of the lot - the others could be found elsewhere.

Both the hp17bii and the hp42s were built on the same Saturn architecture, and therefore, if you have mastered the emulator architecture, it would be a piece of cake to do the emulator of the hp42s. And why not think about doing another limited edition…?

I have been told by hp officials that the current HP17bii is not a good platform to do that, since it is built from scratch on a completely different architecture, and it is not even compatible with the original HP17bii firmware. But this is a good development thread - the really good thing about these calculators was its wonderful set of features and clever key combinations.

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Monthly closing with the HP17bII - some comments

Scene: monthly closing at a multinational Headquarters office. Most calculations are done in Excel. Imports from the accounting consolidation package (HFM or Hyperion Enterprise) are loaded in Excel and the analysis begins. Many things are automated and the same analysis performed month after month; and many others get calculated on the go in the Excel spreadsheets. In principle, there is no need for a standalone calculator - and many controllers work without one.

For those who do, there are two different schools: those who use HP, and the rest, which use “shop” calculators: these with big screen numbers and even bigger keys, to be used by manicured ladies to give you the discount percentage over the time you want.

The Hp ones come from three families:

  • the old timers, married to their hp12c;
  • the more recent MBA and graduates, with their hp17bii[+] machines (most of the 19bii that they used to have at college or graduate school have died by the sad battery door death, and the user replaced it by the hp17bii, even if they wanted to get their old one again [note to hp marketing specialists - try to get the full functionality of the 19bii in a new package - take the hp prime as a guide, and perhaps use the body and screen too])
  • The engineers, with their 48–49–50 machines (you seldom see a 41 anymore - just my 41cl)

So this year end closing I decided to try to work with the 17bii+. I took the “+” version since I wanted a better screen contrast, and specifically the currency exchange menu, that the original machine doesn’t have. I need to translate frequently between 4 different currencies, so this is a good help.

I have grown used to the % comparisons from the hp old financial calculators, that i have programmed into the hp41cl or 15c (yes, both have most, but %T is not one of them, and it’s the one I use most, together with %CH). I doubted if using the screen-keys calculations in th BUS main menu would be a match for them. I was wrong. I actually took much better productivity from it. I could always recall the old value, or subtracting both easily. When you store the numbers in the screen softkeys, they still are in the stack - so you can subtract them, too, apart from taking the % you want. And its easier to take the right formula for comparison - you need to use less your brain.

Same for the IRR and NPV analysis. I thought I was fast with my 41cl - I was able to do it much faster (and with less errors) with the 17bii.

Same for the exchange rates. (What a hit today with the Swiss Franc - a lot of noise in the office about it) I have a program to calculate the exchange values in the hp41cl, and I still think it has the edge for use (The top letter means “translate from this currency to €” while the shift-top letter means “translate from euro to that currency”, and you can use one currency after other without changes) but it is so much cumbersome to set up, since you need to enter the currency rates in specific registers.

So, for controlling, and if I need not to do anything else, it is the hp17bii from now on!

And it really looks gorgeous. Look below!


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The amazing HP17bII financial calculator - 1

Don Shepherd is a well known calculator expert that usually posts in This forum is populated mainly by scientific calculator users, with a couple of exceptions that also have a little place in their heart for other types of calculators. Don is one of them. In particular, Don’s interests include the HP17bII, of which the HP17bII+ is the latest version. For me, it is the best current financial calculator; and fighting with the HP19bII for the “best ever” title. And it is incredibly flexible with its solver.

The reason of this blog issue is an article from Don that I have read while looking for additional solver programs. You can find it here:

Some examples of what Don managed to extract from the programming capabilities of the HP17bII+:

  • Sum of the digits of a number.
  • Convert from Digital to Binary
  • Convert from Decimal to Octal
  • Find out if a number is prime

This last one is below. A Zero result means the number is prime; any other number shows the first factor found.

fact = 0xL(j:0)+



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