2012 05 23

My new Hewlett-Packard 15c Limited Edition (LE) hand calculator came in today. I feel kind of excited about it - and a little guilty. I already have a 15c from around 1981. There is nothing wrong with the old one; so why do I need a new one? I don't. It's just that this hand-calculator is the nicest and best-designed calculator ever made. Having read about this calculator, I was intreagued enough to go ahead and plunk down the cash for a new one.

Until the release of this product the original had been selling used for hundreds of dollars on ebay. I heavily used my 15c all through college - and six years of teaching school - and it still works as well as it did when I first unboxed it. To be fair, if this calculator ever died I would want to replace it with a very similar if not identical product. That's also part of my motivation for buying the LE.

I have read reviews about this calculator in various places around the Web. In several cases, the writer said the new LE's quality is inferior to the original. Well, that may be; but I can't tell by looking at it or feeling it. The buttons have a slightly more snappy feel on the LE compared to the original. I cannot determine if the snappier feel is evidence of inferior workmanship.

As I compare the calculators I notice the screens are slightly different colors. I also notice the keys on my original are more shiny than they are on the LE. I believe the shiny keys are the result of heavy use. They are polished. Visually there are no significant differences. I believe all the keys are located in the same places on both calculators.

On the back of the calculators are several printed quick-reminder notes. Some reviewers called the silver plate on the LE "garrish." Hm. Picky-picky. The battery compartment houses a different type of battery. I don't know which is better; but the larger batteries look nicer - in case you want to take off the battery cover and admire the batteries. Between the batteries is a cureous set of six connections. It appears a divice might be designed to be inserted there and used for some kind of expansion. It looks like something could be snapped into that space. I doubt that HP will develop for that slot.

Hewlett-Packard is not really in the calculator business any more. Their big thing these days is printers and computers. There are some of use true believers from the '80s who grew to appreciate the excellent efficiency of Reverse Polish Notation (RPN). Once you use the efficient method you don't want to go back to the inefficient (read: Texas Instruments) method.

I wish HP (or some other corporation) would further develop RPN calculator technology. Maybe they see no need for it since people don't carry calculators any more. They use applications on their phones; but my opinion about calculators on your phone is they don't hold a candle to a good scientific calculator - even if it's compared to a Texas Instruments calculator!

The user's guide that came with my original 15c was spiral bound and very informative. It read like a math review with further information on how to do that particular math on the calculator. I have lost that manual. I have moved residences so many times with that calculator it's no wonder the manual was lost. I was able to find a pdf version of the manual recently and I printed it out.

The manual that comes with the LE is just as informative except that it isn't spiral bound. Do I need to explain why spiral binding on a calculator user's guide is better than a glue-stiff binding? I took the manual down to the local print shop and had it spiral bound. $3.75.

I was hoping that the new LE programming feature would take advantage of some of the new programming features on RPN HP calculators. In particular, I was hoping the name of the function would display in the program - rather than the address of the key that contains the function. For example, the Hyperbolic Cosine function shows as "42 22 24" - which is a little dated for a function display method.

I can see it now. HP will update the 15c to something like 15c+ or 15cg and it will have all the latest features - and I'll want one.

One of the most outstanding features of this calculator is it's layout. Much thought went into the layout of the keys and orientation of the calculator. I think people in general didn't accept it. People want a vertically laid out calculator - even if the horizontal format is more ergonomically useful. People want Algebraic entry rather than RPN - even though RPN is far more powerful. I can give you many examples of this consumer mentality; but I would have to stray off topic to do so.