It's the buttons.

It's the buttons.

Postby CalcFerret » Fri May 14, 2010 3:47 am

I still use my 41CX as my preferred calculator and at least part of the reason is the tactile feel of the buttons. Aside from the other innovations, the tactile feel of the buttons on their earlier calculators set HP apart. Just as on a computer, the keypad is the main user interface. It doesn't matter how powerful the underlying hardware is if that interface is poorly done. HP got it right and got it right from the start. There's a slight auditory and a much more pronounced tactile feedback that HP's competitors could only hope to emulate even when new, much less maintain on a 20 year old piece of hardware. That's the same reason I use a buckle spring keyboard on my current PC. Sure it's a bit loud, but no other design since has offered that tactile feel. I'd be interested to hear others' feelings on the importance of tactile feedback when it comes to the current crop of calculators.
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Re: It's the buttons.

Postby Garth » Sat May 15, 2010 8:21 am

That feel definitely a favorite part about it. I like it too of course, although the most important thing is that it keep working. The software debouncing has to be good too, but I know from experience writing embedded software for our own (non-HP) products that if the hardware key bounce is really bad, effective software debouncing becomes irritatingly slow. I don't know what HP put in for software debouncing, but I do get some bounce on especially one key when I use the hex-to-decimal conversion in the Advantage module and no problem from the same key in other functions.

For those who don't know what key bounce is, it's when the key does not make a solid, reliable, continuous connection when you press the key, and keep that connection until you release it. Even if you press and release the key slowly, only one press should be registered if indeed you only pressed it once. If the key gets bad, a single press might be seen as several presses in quick succession.
http://WilsonMinesCo.com (60 HP-41 links on the links page)
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Re: It's the buttons...definitely!

Postby Klaws » Tue May 18, 2010 5:53 pm

Yup, every keypress is a definite success, on the first attempt. I can input data at mad speed (well, as long as the software keeps up...), without the need to check the display to verify that the machine got it right.

Surprisingly, even more than 30 years later, still very few devices feature a keyboard which induces such a confidence in the user...

...or maybe not surprising. The current hype is a user interface where a user needs to "stroke" his device. Yup, this definitely looks flashier in the TV ads than a ultra-reliable, ultra-efficient, ultra-vintage keyboard from more than 3 decades ago.

Of course, as everybody knows, the HP48GX was the latest calculator with the "real HP keyboard" (not counting the HP12C, I guess - this one is still manufacturered with the original keyboard?). Apparently, a good keyboard was only a minor selling point in the past, and by now noone seems to care about such "surficial" things any more...

However, there are other aspects as well. First of all, there's of course RPN. It lets me build up calculations the way they form inside my brain - not in the way one would form an equation on the blackboard (where it's easy to add brackets as an afterthought).

Then there are a few other points which are more specific to the HP-41. The 41's display looks old-fashioned compared to a modern dor-matrix display...and it looks brilliant. It features better readability due to a better contrast, and I also consider the 1,000s-seperator helpful.

The 41 also has no power-up delay, like the 48.

And yes, the "good old" keystroke sequence programming (FOCAL) features about nothing you'd expect from a modern programming environment. And yet, for many simple and repeatative tasks, I can extremely quickly enter a program, assign it to a key and begin to "crunch numbers". Much faster than with my 28S or my 48GX.

So the 41 is still my main workhorse. Alltogether, it's the machine which gets me my (numerical) results the fastest way.

- Klaus
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Re: It's the buttons.

Postby Klaws » Wed May 19, 2010 11:53 am

To clarify my previous ramblings: on my desk, there are two laptop computers. Both are perfectly capable of performing numeric calculations...and thanks to the V41 emulator, even in a way not totally different to how a HP-41 would do it. The major shortcoming of the V41 is the keyboard. That's why I don't use it.

Instead, there's a real 41CV sitting between the laptops. So I can enjoy the buttons.

The 41CV is relatively "new" (bought it a week ago). It replaces the 48GX (which I got as a replacement for my 1980 HP-41C, which went dead some years ago). I also own a 28S, which I consider almost inacceptable due to it's clamshell design - it is basically a desktop calculator, almost impossible to operate it as a hand-held device.

So, emulators are available for free, yet I paid hundreds for "outdated" hardware...solely for the buttons.

- Klaus
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Re: It's the buttons.

Postby Garth » Wed May 19, 2010 6:11 pm

(which I got as a replacement for my 1980 HP-41C, which went dead some years ago)

http://fixthatcalc.com/ repairs them, and, from what I've heard, they do an oustanding job.
http://WilsonMinesCo.com (60 HP-41 links on the links page)
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Re: It's the buttons.

Postby Klaws » Thu May 20, 2010 9:26 am

Garth wrote:
(which I got as a replacement for my 1980 HP-41C, which went dead some years ago)

http://fixthatcalc.com/ repairs them, and, from what I've heard, they do an oustanding job.

Yes, I know...and, yes, I almost sent my 41C to them. Their price is very reasonable, but in my case, shipping costs from Germany and back needs to be accounted for as well. And then I was lucky enough to get a 41CV for a very competetive price...so I canceled my repair plans. As already mentioned, I am a user, not a collector. so my decisions have to be "economic".

Erm. Well. At the first glance, it might seem not totally sane and economic to pay $100+ "just for the right buttons". OTOH, millions of people paid much more for mobile phones because of it's touch screen user interface.

It also appears totally reasonable and economic to me to have more than one HP calculator. This reduces or even eliminates the need to transport the device between work and home (and between deifferent desks at home), thereby reducing the risk of damage during transport.

Well, to tell you the truth, the case of my 28S already falls apart even when it's not moved ;)

Best regards, Klaus
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Re: It's the buttons.

Postby Garth » Thu May 20, 2010 5:08 pm

I am a user, not a collector. so my decisions have to be "economic".

Same for me, but my 41cx and accessrories is valuable enough to me that I could hardly justify not fixing it if it needed it.

OTOH, millions of people paid much more for mobile phones because of it's touch screen user interface.

Are you sure? Touch screens dramatically reduce the appeal for me. I hate the paralax, the fingerprints, the scratches, and the sometimes-fickle operation.
http://WilsonMinesCo.com (60 HP-41 links on the links page)
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Re: It's the buttons.

Postby Klaws » Fri May 21, 2010 3:04 pm

OTOH, millions of people paid much more for mobile phones because of it's touch screen user interface.

Are you sure? Touch screens dramatically reduce the appeal for me. I hate the paralax, the fingerprints, the scratches, and the sometimes-fickle operation.[/quote]
True. I have a clamshell mobile ("flip phone") because it sllows to acceppt a call by flipping it open - instead of attempting to hit a tiny button which can be located only visually, not haptically. I seriously dislike the idea that I'd have to constantly watch my fingers to make sure that they hit the right spot.

I know that there are applications where touchscreens make perfect sense. A good example is the GrandMA, a lighting console. It has three touchscreens, which are typically used as "soft buttons" to recall lighting scenes. During a major event, there maybe hundreds of stored presets, accessible via dozend of touchscreen pages. I typically hit the touchscreen buttons with my knuckels to minimze fingerprints.

Still, the GrandMA has a large number of conventional buttons and sliders as well. At a typical sustained rate of (roughly) two keypresses per second, only the conventional buttons make sense. Especially if the operator has to keep his/her eyes on the stage - or on the touchscreens, where he/she prepares the next scenes while simultaneously running the show with the other hand.

Image

Okay, this is the special case where the flexibility of a touchscreen can be combined with the efficiency of high-quality buttons.

But I digress. Why do mobile phones need touchscreens? To add more flexibility? So, instead of being perfect for a job as a telephone, they can be inefficiently used for a wider range of jobs?

Nope. The touchscreen has no funcitonal purpose. It's only there to look cool in TV ads. And TV ads are the reason why people buy stuff.

Except the three enlighted people, who coincidentally happen to participate in this thread ;)

- Klaus

PS: to further digress, I need to mention that many modern lighting consoles use the same type of mechnical buttons asthe models which were in in use 30 years ago.
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Re: It's the iconic buttons.

Postby StickyFox » Sat Aug 23, 2014 11:42 pm

While I was reading this, I began to wonder if I like a calculator that 'feels' right for the same reason I like my guitars to be vintage ... there's something tactile about old HPs, they have a certain mass that is missing from newer machines. I suspect the newer machines are built down to a price rather than up to a standard.
I have discussed such almost metaphysical issues with many friends over many years. I guess some things are built well, and some designs are iconic...
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