Musings and comments about our common interest
Now we’re starting to test the Smartstream 410 together with the HP Prime. Connetcing the whole thing together is easy - provided you have the right cables - lest not forget that the connection cable between the Fourier probes and the Smartstream itself is not standard, and it had to be ordered separately.
Once the machine is connected to the HP Prime with the USB nano to micro cable, and the HP Prime is switched on, you need to look for the DataStreamer app. Once opened, the HP Prime recognizes the Smartstream and the probes it has connected. In my case, I have a multi-range voltage probe and an electrical current probe.
The current probe is always well identified, but the voltage probe has only been identified as voltage once; the rest of times, the system considers that it is a temperature probe. I have tested it in a couple of different channel (the smartstream has 4 different channels), and with 2 different connection cables, and the problem remains. I will contact HP regarding the issue.
You can set the system to stream “as standard”, and you can set experiments where you set the time for the experiment and the number of samples to be taken. You need to specify too to which app the data streamed will be sent (for streaming, there are always two variables anyway - the one measured with the probe and the time variable), and the choices offered were the Statistics 1-Var and Statistics 2-Var.
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…
I am waiting to receive my first order for the SmartStream 410 and some Fourier probes. It will come with units of the newest version of the HP Prime - the so-called version B. This version has several hardware advantages that allow it to fully profit from the new firmware upgrade. In particular, it will allow full use of the wireless dongle, and will permit the professor to run the whole class from his computer.
I have order a current meter and a multi-range voltmeter. This will convert the HP Prime into a mix of multimeter and oscilloscope of very low time resolution. Apparently, it can take up to 5000 samples per second, which means a resolution of up to 2500 hz (Nyquist-shannon sampling theorem, if I remember well!) This is very far from being of any use, except when fixing home power issues; but is perfect to teach youngsters about sinewaves, and to design some clever experiments that may be run by your kids. This is what I want to do with it.
If you have read my previous blog entries, you will know that I have a fantastic old digital oscilloscope from HP. With its HP-IB interface, I can control it from my HP85 - this is more than enough to cover all my technical requirements; but the Prime is really portable too.
I have not had time enough to report on the new firmware features, though. Enough to say that finally, I have been able to keep all my programs without problem, with the second version of the release.