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As engineer by training (but not trade), I want a calculator that can do anything an engineer may do - but I have not been interested in heavy mathematics - at least while my children were in primary school. I have to admit that I often get the results that I want sooner when I do them myself than when I get the calculator to solve the equation in my stead. So I have been using scientific calculators preferentially over graphical ones - basically I have never needed to plot anything on a calculator ever. I have needed to plot formulae on paper, for presentation purposes, but what’s the point of doing it in a calculator if you can’t share it?

Now, if you think about it, a graphical calculators has some advantages over a scientific one. For one, you can see several previous results on screen - instead of one or two lines at best. What is more, it can evaluate expressions that you would need to write a solve formula for, in a more cumbersome way in a scientific calculator. The only comparable way of doing it was the solver used in the HP17bII and HP19bII calculators. But in addition, the graphical calculator has (or can have) CAS: computer algebra system.

Computer-assisted Algebra calculators have been for a long time among us, basically from the HP28c from 1986. It took much longer to TI to come up with something similar, in 1995 - but they have taken the whole market by storm, by concentrating on the student market instead of the engineering market. HP concentrated on the latter - and eventually lost both! Let’s hope that the current intent with the Prime can recover part of it. It will only happen if HP wholeheartedly supports it with all their means - and add the areas where HP can make a difference: communications and measuring.

When using the prime for business I only work in the Home area; basically because it’s the only area where I can work in RPN; but more and more I am using the CAS environment when the function I want to use doesn’t appear in the Home environment. And it is good to have two calculators at the press of a key: a RPN (Home) and algebraic with CAS (CAS). You will see several posts on CAS from now one - but I need to refresh a lot of the concepts I learned on the introductory engineering courses.

One thing that I have seen missing in the Prime firmware is the “step by step” configuration that can be found in the HP50g. For example, when you want to diagonalize a matrix, it is good to see what you’re doing. But let’s not advance ourselves as we learn the machine!

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