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Why using a handheld calculator nowadays - part II

The Smartphone as an alternative to the calculator


If you have a smartphone, then you already have a calculator - or should I say, all calculators.  Due to my job, I use a Blackberry, and the "app ecosystem" is not as rich as that of the iPhone/Ipad. I know that there are a couple of emulators for HP12c, but what's the point of loading one in such small screen, when I have several units of the original machine? But if you have and iPhone, then there is a very wide choice for you - free and payable.

The advantages of a smartphone as a calculator are several:

▪   You can have many calculators - you are not limited to one. There are emulators for practically all the calculators we love. And these are not exclusive: you can have as many as you want in your phone. In fact, calculator apps are not specially big: take into account that most of the original calculators were fitting their logic into 4 kbytes ROMs, or 8 in the case of HP15c, or even 48 kbytes in the case of the HP85a). There are not fancy graphics or memory-consuming animations.

▪   You can have the calculator with all the options - not just 4 modules to choose. There are examples of HP41c smartphone applications, that are running an emulation of the nut processor and can load any of the hundreds of modules developed for that machine; or you can have much more memory than the original; or you can have an extended character set, or more legible number fonts.

▪   The calculator is a couple of orders of magnitude faster than any of the originals, and sometimes faster than even the new models.

▪   You can even carry the manual with you - if you are able to read a pdf in such a small display!

▪   When you hear the click of the key, then it has registered. It won’t happen what we’re seeing more and more in new calculators: tactile positive feedback, and key not registered.

▪   Sometimes we forget this one: you don't need to carry an additional machine, and you’re taking the smartphone with you anyway!

▪   You can upload programs – something your calculator most likely can’t.

However, there are as well some disadvantages:

▪   You can't calculate when you are making a phone call - a situation that, if you look at it, is happening all the time. By extension, you can’t see a contact, you can’t connect to the internet, etc., when you’re calling (unless you’re using a Bluetooth headset, a reader pointed to me ;-), but even in that case, it is cumbersome to navigate the apps while you’re talking)

▪   Usually the screen is much smaller than that of the original calculator. This makes keying in cumbersome, and a high wrong key rate.

▪   Depending on the models, the graphical interface is not fast enough to keep you “connected” to the machine, even though your programs run at breakneck pace;

▪   At a test,

▪       You are not allowed to have a switched-on phone (or a device that can handle the whole library, or access to internet, or…)

▪       You want a dependable calculation device: you don’t want it to run out of batteries during the examination! 

In a way, it is a little bit like using your Iphone as a sound meter – it works, and it works well; but if you’re a professional, you want something specific – and better, for sound measurement.

At the end, the user has the right answers for himself. Myself, I lived a couple of years without calculator when my HP17bII died – and I survived in business without.



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