Musings and comments about our common interest
We have received the first two halves of the Tomcat battery bay replacement. The initial tests with the Sub-C batteries show that it is a little tight in all directions for the batteries. We'll enlarge it . Both halves clipping together, on the other hand, works well as expected. Now we need to solder the terminals and it should be ready! anyone interested?
The prototype is in white but most likely the final units will be in black. Problem is, the parts are very expensive and I don't see it being below 50€ VAT included (20% cheaper if outside EU). On the other hand, the slimming that is needed (remember the little tightness inside?) can cut somehow the cost. In any case it is much better than the products I have seen in eBay.
This battery will work with HP92, HP97 calculators and diverse HP41c printers: HP82143A, HP 82162A IL printer, etc.
By now, all original batteries made for Tomcat machines and HP41c printers cannot hold a charge anymore. There are several replacements in the market, all of them using the ubiquitous Sub C batteries, in different energy capacities. These batteries are cheap, and most of the packs are held in place by some rubber foam corners and adhesive film. You can find them in eBay mainly.
I have tried to break apart two one of the original batteries that I have, to refurbish the original cells for new, current cells, but it was impossible without doing a lot of damage. This cannot be the right way to do more than one of them, and forget about series production! So we decided to make our own case
We have designed a two-halves case for these batteries, with precise holes for the connectors, to be 3D printed. Here the main challlenge is the cost of the parts in any 3D provider: it is far too expensive and it eats most of the cost. The parts are clipped one onto the other - and like the original, it is a single part used for both sides. We have not decided yet whether to offer it as a kit or send them fully assembled - I am quite frightened with batteries as opposed to passive, non-energy storing parts. There would be some soldering involved, in order to connect the cells among them and to the terminals.
There may be still some work to do in optimizing the part to reduce material - I can see a couple of areas where material can be taken out. However is the sheer size of the piece that determines most of the cost, I think.
The HP97 in the French construction industry.
I am working for a company that supplies aluminum profiles to the construction industry. Its main brand, Technal, had its origins in France and was in the avant-garde of the industry.
Their customers are window-makers. They need to calculate offers for their customers, based on the size of the windows and the model of the window used. The company sells aluminum profiles that are cut to length and joined into windows and doors. Prices for the different profiles and accessories vary.
There are now sophisticated cad-based budgeting systems, and you can imagine a spreadsheet-based budgeting system on the cheap. But at the end of the seventies and beginning of the eighties, these options did not exist.
Technal then decided to offer their customers a way of easily preparing offers to the final-final customers. They offered them the HP97, with cards with programs and data, so that new price lists could be sent easily (please remember that, at the time, the fax was being introduced; the only business computer was the apple ][; and the HP41c had not been introduced yet). They sold several hundred units.
Here is a little bit of the story - you need to be able to read French to understand it!: