HP & AES in the past

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Detlef Mueller

Sep 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM9/9/99
Hi all,

when digging around in some of my older archives, I came across this
posting from '92, when the "Hall of Fame" wasn't sold to someone in

>From: ab...@netcom.com (Steven T. Abell)
>Newsgroups: comp.sys.hp48
>Subject: Re: HP Corvallis tours...
>Message-ID: <bc3njx...@netcom.com>
>Date: 18 Sep 92 08:15:19 GMT
>References: <1992Sep15...@unixg.ubc.ca> <2ab8281c.1714.1comp.sys.hp48.1@h
>Sender: ab...@netcom.com (Steven T. Abell)
>Organization: Netcom - Online Communication Services (408 241-9760 guest)
>Lines: 78

Regarding HP-Corvallis tours, akcs.j...@hpcvbbs.cv.hp.com (Joseph K. Horn)

>One fond memory was the "HP Hall of Fame", a corridor upon whose walls
>are hanging all the HP calculators in historical order, with their
>release date and internal HP project code name engraved in brass. Even
>the products that were born when the stars were askew, like "Salad"
>and "Titan", are on display for all to see, as if HP were a proud
>grandmother insisting that all passersby look at photographs of all
>her grandchildren.

>If any other calculator company attempted such a thing, it'd make us
>laugh; their designs are so obviously dictated by the Marketing
>Department that using one in public is very much like wearing clothes
>with company names emblazoned upon them; it tells everyone who sees
>you that you're a sucker for advertising hype.

Flame on:

Mr. Horn, I was there when Titan (HP-71B) was born. I wrote a *very* large
chunk of its ROM. I designed CALC mode. I left in August '83, and I am still

The marketeers wanted an algebraic machine. They said that selling RPN was
just too hard. For programmability, they wanted BASIC, so that people could
run "all that software already out there." We gave them what they wanted. It
had what was arguably the most powerful BASIC HP had ever released on *any*
machine up to that time. It had multiple language capability. It had multiple
file systems. It had math and stat software to *die* for. It was radically
extensible. And it was an algebraic calculator.

The marketing boys ran one ad, then started complaining when they discovered
that selling the world's most powerful calculator might mean that they had to
do some actual work, not only in concocting new slogans, but just understanding
the consequences of what they had demanded.

And then there was John Young, high mucky-muck of HP and exemplar of fine
American management, whose only question about the product was "Can you play
PacMan on it?" He asked me this question during an official dog-and-pony show.
I regret not calling him an imbecile to his face.

There are several problems with a BASIC-language calculator. Management and
marketing were warned, but paid no heed. There are limitations on what you
can do in a one-line display (such as not running WordStar, I kid you not,
they wanted it), but they didn't understand. So Titan was a hard sell, anyway.
But HP marketing and management turned it into a no-sell.

When discussing future products, the stock answers from marketing and
management were:

"We can't do that."
"You don't understand: you're an engineer, not like a real user."
"We can't do that."
"What housewife will ever use that feature?"
"We can't do that."
"Will it run CPM software?"
"We can't do that."

Prior to my exit, we had discussed personal databases, handwriting analysis,
cellular radio, and most of the other stuff that Apple is trying to make into
a Newton. We had a mockup of the HP-95LX floating around the lab in 1983.
All killed by management and marketing, who were busy designing products for
"real users" and then going to work for Apple, where they probably didn't do
much useful work either.

If you like your 48, thank Bill Wickes. I regret that I didn't stick around to
work for him, but, quite frankly, I didn't think he could keep the HP goons at
bay. Symbolic math is, after all, one of those things that "real users" don't

That Titan was born when the stars were askew is arguable. The problem
was very complex, and it started and ended with HP marketing decrees.
But don't badmouth my child very much: taken as a whole, it's still the most
powerful handheld computer that's ever been made.

Flame off.

Steve ab...@netcom.com
`Let's get some cards and play Magic' Detlef Mueller
-- Gex detlef (@) provi (.) de

PGP Public Key: http://pgp.ai.mit.edu:11371/pks/lookup?op=get&search=0x524F4049

!!! ATTN !!! To reach my via e-mail, do _NOT_ auto-reply !!!

Mike Mander

Sep 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM9/10/99
Hi Detlef,

I'm honored to meet someone who worked on the HP-71B! Despite the lack of RPN and the one-line
display, it was one hell of a great handheld computer! I still remember when I first picked up an
excellent brochure for the 71B and stood gaping at the full list of BASIC commands. I was astonished
at it's functionality. At the time I also used an HP-11C (still works today BTW) and had owned a
Sharp (can't remember the model) handheld computer, then a T.I. CC40 (anyone remember that one?!)
and also briefly had an HP-41CV. I had written a lot of software for my 71B and stored the programs
on the totally-cool magnetic card reader. The 71B amazed everyone who saw it while I was attending
U.B.C. At the time, it was by far the best handheld computer I had ever seen or owned.

Sadly, I eventually decided to sell it and replace it with the HP-28S. It was the multi-line display
that did it. I did not come to like the 28S much. It worked well enough, but it lacked that
rock-solid quality feel of all other HP calculators I had used before. The hinge was creaky, and the
glued on labels looked somewhat cheap. Then in 1990 I bought the HP-48sx with a 128 Kb RAM card
(gave the 28S to a cousin). What a beauty the 48sx was (still is)! It had the classy good looks of
the best HP calcs (even better than the 71B), felt rock solid and had truly unbelievable
functionality. IMHO, the 48sx is still the classiest calculator ever produced. When the G series
came out, I looked, but decided I didn't need the extra functionality, and thought the bright colors
of the left-shift and right-shift keys and labels ruined the classy appearance and made the 48G/GX
look much cheaper.

You can imagine my total disappointment with the looks of the new 49G! Without dwelling any further
on looks, however, I must say that I have a new 49G on order and am eagerly awaiting its arrival!
It looks to be a significant upgrade to my 48sx. I love the object oriented style of user RPL and am
looking forward to working with system RPL, HP BASIC and assembly. Bugs ? I'm not worried. Flash
memory to the rescue. I see HP just posted a ROM upgrade. Now that's service! I think the 49G will,
for me, have that same jaw-dropping functionality upgrade effect that the 71B and the 48sx did.
Thank you HP!! My life was starting to get boring :-)

I only hope I can deal with the keyboard feel and layout of the 49G. One more comment before I quit
this rambling: I personally hope HP goes back to the classic formula with their next calc -
timeless, classy colors that won't go out of style, RPN with a nice big wide ENTER key on a
wonderfully solid tactile keyboard, and of course
kick-butt-blow-every-other-calculator-off-this-planet functionality.

Get back on track, and keep up the good work HP!! Long live RPN! (and thanks to anyone who managed
to read through this posting!)

Mike Mander

Detlef Mueller wrote:

> ...

> Mr. Horn, I was there when Titan (HP-71B) was born. I wrote a *very* large
> chunk of its ROM. I designed CALC mode. I left in August '83, and I am still
> furious.

> ...

Mike Mander

Sep 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM9/10/99

Oops, in my other posting I think I confused you with someone else (must... sleep... now...). I
didn't read your message carefully enough. In any case, whoever they should be addressed to, my
comments still apply!

Mike Mander

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