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Calculator Gift ideas for Christmas


We’re now preparing a newsletter about possible Christmas gifts in our shop. So we start discussing our products in terms of owner’s pride, and not about “fitness for use”. And we get to different recommendations!

For example, let's take financial calculators. Probably the top financial calculator, when it comes to number, width and depth of functions, is the HP 30b. In fact, it is the only one that has the Black and Scholes formula. But would I give it as a gift to a loved one? Or to myself?

From that point of view, the best financial calculator is the HP 12c Anniversary edition. It comes in a very nice box, with leather texture, that can eventually be used to exhibit it in a museum. Please take a look at the box below. It has a better keyboard than the other “normal” HP12c (it also looks better: some keys have nicer printouts), and it comes with a full manual instead of just an starting guide. And it sports the “30th Anniversary” text in the front bezel.

Second in my view is the HP 17bII+. Its new metallic front looks much better than previous versions, and the screen is miles ahead than the calculator it replaced. In my opinion, its menu system has not been equalled yet; and with the added memory, you can fill it with formulae and cash flows until you retire. That cannot be said of the 12c. It comes in a normal blister (bad), but it also comes with a leather-like case that adds to the pride of ownership. And it is the ideal choice for your friend or relative that thinks that RPN is a television channel, since it can be used in algebraic mode.

When it comes to scientific calculators, as they say, “it depends”.

If the gift is for someone you really appreciate, he will be very happy with the HP 35s  It is programmable, it can work in RPN and algebraic, and, best of all, looks incredibly good. At the time, it was also an “anniversary” product (in this case, 35 years of the original HP35), and it really looks the part. Decent case too, but comes in blister, which is not too nice.

If the gift is for yourself, I take for granted that you appreciate yourself a lot. And that you think that you deserve the best. And the best is … the HP41CL.

You probably remember that HP41c calculator. You either had one of them, or you badly wanted to have it but could not afford at the time - this was my case. 30 years later, you can.

One problem at the time, is that buying an HP41c opened a can of worms. You always wanted more: more memory, peripherals, application modules… and once the HP15c was launched, the plain HP41c was not anymore the forefront. To remain up to the edge, you needed to add the Advantage pack. And probably you wanted a number of other modules. Even if you do it now, it will take you to a unbearable cost level.

And 30 years on, the speed of the machine can be improved. But for day to day use, many think there was no better calculator: good screen, excellent keyboard, customizable…

What if someone, using current technology, changed the innards putting a new processor, fully compatible with the original “Nut” processor, and filled with all the memory that the device could address and more, and loaded with all the modules known to mankind? What if he made it faster, say 50 times faster than the original?

Well, Monte Dalrymple did. He produces boards that can be fitted in some HP41c versions, that have all that and also the possibility of a serial connector to be linked with your PC!

The only thing that is missing from the package is the HP Time module hardware (the software - with all the time-related functions - is included in the pack). You will need to shell out 100 bucks to get one in internet - a pity. But this is just if you want to measure time - in the time of smartphones, you don’t really need it. Anyway, Monte is working on that for the future.

I have access to most of the HP calculators of now and before, and the HP41CL is the one I love the most, and the one I am reaching for when I need to make some calculations. Maybe I am seen as a vintage nerd in the office, but the HP41 has everything I need for daily business - having configured it to my taste, and with all the financial calculations (including NPV and IRR for up to 20 cash flows) running at up to 50 times the original machine speed.

When it comes to graphical calculators, you have just one that can fulfill the lust of your children - the HP Prime. Based on completely new hardware and software, with a slim form factor, a multi-touch color screen, a classy metal front and a cleverly designed cover, this is the best possible gift to a student. It will help him go through the maths courses from secondary school up to university degrees. And it is much easier to program than the RPL-based devices! Its basic-like programming language is very fast, and very clear. And it can be written in your computer, with your own keyboard, tested on the computer emulator, and then transferred to your handheld.

You can see besides a real example of the calculator. As it is slim and light, it can be taken to class in your backpack without any difficulty; it is sturdy enough to withstand a youngster lifestyle, thanks to its gorilla glass screen and sturdy plastic cover; and its keyboard is very responsive, with good feedback. He will enjoy learning maths with it!

For professors: it has also an exam mode, where you can de-activate the features you want in an specific menu. With specific hardware, it can be done centrally. And you can prepare the classes with it - and your students will be able to follow you through your explanation, at their own rhythm, while you see their screen in your computer (but that’s a feature to be introduced beginning 2014). If I had to give a gift to a maths professor, it would be the HP Prime.

It has the advantage that the firmware can be upgraded through the connectivity kit and a normal USB cable. There have been already a couple of upgrades, and there are plans to greatly improve the functionality

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More about: HP prime, HP12c, HP17bII+

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