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The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)
7

The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

2
(OP)
I had a few days off over the holidays, so passing the time in front of NFL football and World Junior hockey on TV (-25 C outside...), I started transferring iPad apps onto my new iPad Air. While doing this, I decided to search for new apps that emulate graphing calculators. I now have four such on both iPads: RCL-59 (TI-59), i41CX+ (HP-41CX), i48 (HP-48GX) and HP50G (HP-50g).

I went through university using a TI-59, and I have never been converted to the RPN cult, which gave rise to the purchase of my post-university calculators, both TI: a TI-81 and the one I use now, a TI-89 Titanium. In light of that, and perhaps because I am now in a physical and cerebral midlife crisis, I rationalized that having the three HP emulators wouldn't do me much good without having the original calculator manuals, so I found and downloaded all of them in PDF format - in aggregate, thousands of pages of documentation. Feeling nostalgic, I decided to pick up my TI-89-T and teach myself how to program it, which is something I always wanted to do but never took the time. I hooked it up to the PC and refreshed myself with the associated TI Connect software and various user documentation. After an evening spent between that and doing some on-line web searching related to a gamut of pseudo-related topics, I came across some articles and points of view that were thought-provoking and somewhat disturbing.

There is a rapidly growing camp that shares the opinion that handheld calculators of any kind are already obsolete, and have been for about a decade. But for the fact that educators mandate their use (by association, forbid the use of iPads, iPhones, PDA devices and certain models of scientific / graphing handhelds) on examinations, there would no longer be a market for them. More disturbing was the suggestion that Texas Instruments has been able to gain and maintain the vast majority of the market share by working collaboratively with educators and textbook authors to implement an educational system in which the course material in math and science curriculae is integrated with their technology, indeed to the point where you need one in order to succeed in the other. It is further suggested that this alone will perpetuate the necessity and, therefore, existence of calculators (particularly TI calculators) long beyond what would otherwise spell their demise. This might explain why you don't find a lot of TI calculator apps for the iPad or iPhone, since it wouldn't make a lot of sense to spend several hundreds of dollars on a device when an equivalent app could be purchased for 5% of the cost.

I personally like calculators. I like the look and feel of them, and I like the fact that they do exactly what they are designed to do (for the most part - bugs aside). I like picking up a pencil, ruler, eraser and calculation paper pad and solving a problem, using a calculator to the extent required in support of this endeavour. However, I have an iPad at work with numerous good apps installed - Math Studio for example - that replaces a lot of the functionality that my calculator used to have. I also have a PC workstation with two big screens and MS Office. I am now in a mode at work where most of the time I spend pushing buttons on my TI-89-T is in a conference room in design review meetings; even then, I often pull out my iPhone for unit conversions because using the app is faster than pushing the buttons on the calculator.

My question is twofold (threefold maybe):

After graduating from school, are handheld calculators worthless due to their apparent obsolescence relative to emerging technologies?

For that matter, is the combination of "calculation paper + pencil + eraser + ruler + calculator" obsolete and worthless?

With the increased use of and dependence on current and emerging technologies, are we still nevertheless educating students and producing practitioners that "can do the math" rather than simply "correctly enter the data" and, if indeed we are, then are folks like me who still "go retro" and "do things Old School" becoming more worthless and obsolete?

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

If "calculation paper + pencil + eraser + ruler + calculator" makes one obsolete and worthless, then that makes at least two of us. There are lots of tools available today, but I don't see that any of them have made common sense and engineering judgement less valuable.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Your post brings up many issues I have with the current state of calculators, education, and mathematics. I will be hard to not be long-winded on a topic about which I care greatly, but I will try to be concise.

TI has long been marketing directly to educators as a marketing strategy. It has worked so well that all other manufacturers struggle to maintain ANY market share. The downside to such a strategy is that, I believe, it takes away understanding of why the math works the way it does. It has caused the math education of young people to move forward at a blistering pace to the point that children are learning algebra at younger and younger ages. However, I do not believe that breadth of mathematical knowledge is beneficial to the average adult. More benefit could be achieved by practical mathematics and financial management instruction than by learning how to play Tetris on their calculator.

The reason that calculators are still used at all is the same reason that people still wear wristwatches. It is often valuable to have a tool that does one job and does it well. Students who learned calculation in school who go on to be engineers or scientists will still want to have the tool they know and trust as their go-to device. I have personally bought up used calculators of my preferred model as back-ups in case my primary one dies, since it is no longer in production (and hasn't been for 25 years).

I had an instructor ask "what is the language of engineering?" I thought that was an interesting question, and I didn't really know the answer. He said the language of engineering is the sketch. I have taken that to heart, as more and more I have found that to be true. For this reason, I don't see pencils going away any time soon. That doesn't mean that most people's handwriting isn't atrocious. Let's face it, most people don't put good handwriting high on their priorities, but they should.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

After leaving school, it was hard to sever the tie with the calculator. Then I got fustrated with making corrections that required recalculation.

Spreadsheets are a better tool when you are at your desk. Your phone will be with you when you are not. i do keep a handheld calculator on my desk for quick calcs often in design meetings - a $10 Casio fx-115ES non-graphic, non-programmable...which is a very capable machine that I bought for professional examinations. Back in school, I was a devotee of the HP-48gx. That calculator died riding around in my motorcycle backpack...so I replaced it with an HP-50g...never really used it.

I could see using a machine like the HP50g but only if one was involved with making routinue programmed calculations in the field. But, you have to think you'll need to maybe print or put that information into a report...so why not use a laptop?

The calculator companies have really never had the vision to move the device beyond how they were used back in the early 1990s. They seem to be fine with the devices being limited to education- and why not...still sell a lot and people can hang onto these things for decades.

If one was to reboot the design, you would want to salvage to the good...the dedicated keyboard and display and make it easier to work with other devices. With all the different sorts of specialized cellphones and tablets, why isn't there a scientific calculator specialized version? Probably because students couldn't use it exclusively- that's why!

As for drawing tools and just the pen/paper notepad, these should always have a place. Drawing is a fundamental design skill everyone needs. I have a Samsung Note 10.1 tablet which has a Waacom pressure sensitive display and stylus for drawing. Great tool that does partially fill this space. Paper and pen are just a little more straightforward...

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I like to keep my options open.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I guess a lot of this conversation depends on your age. I am now 72, in my 20's the conversation was "Will the digital calculator ever replace the slide rule?" We now know how that turned out, you have to go to an antique store to buy a slide rule now. As a dinosaur I still use a Casio programmable FX 9750G Plus that I can write my own programs for. Oh and I still have a slide rule. I guess sooner or later I will get dragged kicking and screaming onto a tablet.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I spent a week away in another office recently. Didn't take my calculator with me. That's a first in 25 years! Didn't take phone either, but did take watch. And pen & pad.

- Steve

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

When I graduated I used my TI-89. I forced myself off the 89 when I was studying to take the SE and I never turned back. Now my 89 is gathering dust and my tried and true TI 36 is what I reach for first. I do rely on spreadsheets to do annoyingly repetitive math (i.e. manipulate areas and wind pressures to get actual wind forces) but nothing can take the place of the handheld calculator to check to make sure deflections make sense or quick reinforcing areas. If I tasked with the design of wood building I will do all the calculations of the roof/floor systems using a calculator and pencil with the calcs on a plan sheet, and I would venture to wager I would be as quick as someone flushing it through RISA or Woodworks.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I'm in the same camp as berkshire only a few years younger (I'll turn 68 later this year). When I was in engineering school back in the late 60's all we had were slide rules and about 10 year after graduation we were having this same conversation, as berkshire alluded to only the topic was the obsolescence of the slide rule by handheld calculators, of course this was before PC's and spreadsheets.

But getting back to something SNORGY said in his original post; I to decided to install an app on my iPhone that gave me access to the 'calculator' that I was most familiar with from my past, only this one is called 'SlipStick' (it includes a full 'multimedia' tutorial on how to use all the features of your 'Virtual Slide Rule'), and it emulates my old Pickett N-500-ES to a 'T', which I still keep in the bottom drawer of my desk in case of a power failure winky smile

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

SaitaetGrad-

I still use an HP 48-GX. It belonged to my son when he was in high scool (20 years ago now). I took it over, almost by accident, and it has served me well ever since. When you are at the very front end of a project and you are searching for viable options and generaly musing, you cant beat a piece of paper, a pencil, and a calculator.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

In the office, only for quick, simple, calculations do I use a calculator, and it's often the one that's installed on my phone, because carrying a real calculation is just inconvenient. Otherwise, I use Mathcad or Excel or Matlab, depending on the application. At some point in time, I'll hopefully be a able to install something equivalent on the phone or phablet, and until then, it'll be unclear whether the calculator will survive.

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

A spread sheet works well, but because most computers are slow about starting up applications, they aren't always convient. A calculator is quick and works with degrees, where excel only works in radians (not the way I think).

I go back to what happens when your all in one device dies? Are you left with nothing?

Most computers, calculators, watches, etc. just don't feel right up next to my ear, because they were not made for that (my phone dosen't either, but that a different story). Each device should be designed for it's primary purpose, but a multi-function device is designed sort of as a best fits in your hand.

If you can't hold your phone between your face and your shoulder and talk while trying to pull your computer out, then the phone is the wrong shape/size.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I have a Casio fx-991MS I use frequently. I still miss my fx-4000 which got stolen many years ago. I still have a slide rule. I am 60. Internet capable devices should be banned from exam rooms.

If a calculation is important, I use a spreadsheet, or Octave, both of which allow me to punch in alternate numbers. The strong point about Excel is that it runs on everybody's computer. I can name the cells.

--
JHG

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

With all these comments about the old TI calculators, I thought you all would get a kick out of this bit of trivia:

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Doesn't take much horsepower to blow away the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC). Even my Z-80A from 1982 was slightly faster than the AGC, and with a full 64 kB DRAM memory.

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

drawoh, I have used an fx-4000P calculator since I was a sophomore in college. love this calculator. When it finally gave up the ghost about 6 years ago I purchased another one on Ebay. You can occasionally find them there for $50 or less. But beware - these Ebay offerings often have issues. It's difficult to find one that is in good working order, so ask a LOT of questions before buying.

Maui

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Actually I think that trivia item was referring to the guidance computer on the LEM, which controlled the Moon landing itself.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

And to think the Apollo and all it's parts were built by the low bidder. Maybe TI should have given a lower bid.

Have you put the moon lander program in your TI yet?

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

The second thing I did with a programmable calculator was write an autopilot for the moon landing program, which was the first thing I ever did with it. That was a Commodore PR100, which got me through uni

http://www.rskey.org/CMS/index.php/exhibit-hall/7?...

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

My first calculator was a TI-55 programmable. I liked it until I discovered that some of the built in functions used the user registers. That was documented somewhere, but I only found the documentation after getting strange program results. After that, I was wary of computing machines.

For a few years I used a company owned Tek-31 desktop calculator, also programmable but hardly portable. My then employer used Tek-21 calculators to drive instruments, over a GPIB precursor interface bus on a fat cable. I hacked one of our plotter interfaces to drive an analog plotter with 4 decimal digits of resolution vs. the original 3 digits, because I got tired of plots with jaggies. Later I programmed an 80/24 SBC to accept digital plotter commands over parallel or serial interfaces and drive a plotter through that same interface.

After I got hold of a CP/M computer and discovered spreadsheets with T/Maker, I never bought another discrete calculator for myself.


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I had a slide rule in college and moved to an HP-95 just as I was getting my masters. I then had an HP-97 where I worked. Those eventually gave up the ghost and I have been using an HP-20S for probably about the last 20 years. While I do a lot with spreadsheets on the computer and have also done some significant programming in various assignments, the HP is great for those quick sort-of one-off calculations that aren't worth going through the spreadsheet for. I probably do more on the calculator than is sometimes logical, but it feels more like an extension of my brain rather than this separate box feel that you get with the computer. It lives in my briefcase and I suspect I use it more days than I don't in the office.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Pencil and paper remain the most useful tools on an engineer's desk. If you can't estimate the answer with those tools, you shouldn't trust the answer you get with an electronic device. As a stress analyst mentoring apprentices, I insist that they use Roark & Young and Peterson to estimate upper and lower bounds on the answers they expect to get from ANSYS.

Slide rules were definitely becoming rare when I was in college ('81-'87) but after the batteries died during a test, I started taking two calculators and a slide rule to tests. Before I finished, I needed to use the slide rule on one exam.

Doug

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

As a young guy, often I use pen + paper + cheap calculator for a quick calc. There's value in that, but there's really no value in knowing how to use a graphing calculator; it's just a less intuitive, less transparent, less ergonomic version of Mathcad/excel/etc... Haven't touched since third year university.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Canwesteng, I'm the same way. I had a TI-89 throughout school. The FE exam required me to buy something different, and I chose the Casio fx-115ES. I used the TI-89 at the start of my career but never the graphing functions and then the annoyance of changing batteries got to me and I'm now using my Casio again. Now I own 3 and use all three of them.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

There will always be basic handheld calculators as they are just too handy.

But scientific calculators , in my view , have just no real use when we are never more than a few feet away from a screen that
can run immensely more powerful number crunching apps. Other than test taking of course.

I prefer to use speq mathematics www.speqmath.com or freemat http://www.freemat.info .

Who want's to buy a ti89 cheap ?

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Too bad IR.

They provide a no install version, really handy for places with rabid IT people.

I once had a filter block a site because it was categorized " Educational ".

Can't have any of that now can we..


RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Quote (IRstuff)

speq math website as porn

'Geek porn'...the worst/weirdest kind smile

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Coming back to the early comment about most curricula and textbooks beeing written around handheld calculators*, what calculating tool SHOULD a textbook assume?
I'd say excel. I don't like it that much, but excel probably is the most used calculating tool in the engineering community. Why not start working with it properly in school?
(of course, for universites there's the headache of allowing laptops in exams and the possibilities of cheating, which I'm not sure is a solvable problem)

I think many other powerful tools (like python, fortran, matlab) are far less ubiquitous, building the education around them would be far riskier for the student.

There's problems with excel (unreadable formulae, microsofts almost monopoly). Could you write a textbook or curriculum that assumes the student has access to some powerful computing tool, without specifying which?

* Over here (Germany) we were only allowed non-programmable calculators for exams. Don't know if all univerisites do it like this + and it was a while back.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

My opinion is a spreadsheet is a poor environment for doing engineering calcs of any significant complexity.

I think students would be better served by introducing them to a mathematically oriented scripting language right at the start.

Scilab or Octave with Scilab getting the nod at this point for having an integrated gui environment, both are free.

It seems like most textbooks for college level are migrating to Matlab as a numerical environment.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

While Excel might be OK if you're sitting at home doing homework, a calculator is still the only option in an exam at school. TI-83, TI-89, and its ilk fit a good price bracket for high school and college students, so that's what they teach. Since we presumably don't want our teachers to spend their class time debugging why some random brand of calculator isn't producing the same result as the rest of the class is getting, they standardize on a single make and brand. And, since cheating is so common, they restrict it to non-programmable calculators.

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I am a firm believer that first pass calculations should be done without a calculator or a computer. By all means bust out your FEA or whatever after you have a clear thought process in place.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

IRStuff,

I agree with your post up until the point where you said non-programmable. The TI (and just about any other brand) graphing calculators are quite programmable. I had an HP 49 through college, and the program for solving beams (both determinate and indeterminate) was a lifesaver for me on more than one assignment.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Spreadsheets are very clumsey with complex numbers, where my TI68 has much fewer problems.

Still use the spreadsheet for forms, but for the one or two calculations, the calculator works well.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

There will never be a replacement for the cocktail napkin sketch.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

fegenbush,

You're right. I forgot that we had to buy a Casio for his Algebra 2 class because it was non-programmable, and a TI-83 for his Pre-Calculus, because it was programmable and graphing.

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I use a spreadsheet when I need to do multiple calculations, but I still use my calculator to test the formulas in my spreadsheets.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

A handheld calculator will be required for the immediate future if one is sitting for the FE or PE exam.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I have nothing to add to the calculator discussion that you geeks haven't already pounded to dust- other than to say that if I need to do a calc more than a couple times, I do it in a spreadsheet. I have a TI calculator in my bag, but I rarely get it out any more. I hate the sack of crap on my phone- should get an app for a better one I guess. I more or less ignore my phone already until I need to call somebody with it- then I turn it on...otherwise it's too much like a leash.

My 0.5 mm mechanical pencil used to be like an extension of my arm. Then it became a 0.7 mm because I broke 0.5 mm leads too fast- stress built up over the years I guess. I've always liked dark lines and B leads, but they're not that strong. Now I almost exclusively use Pilot Frixion eraseable pens- great contrast, as cleanly eraseable as a pencil and way better than a pencil crayon, but with no smudging or leads to break- and available in umpteen colours AND as highlighters too!. Rare is it that something so fundamental as a PEN has been improved so dramatically!

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

When quick calculations need to be run a calculator is a very efficient tool to perform these. Trigonometric functions, and basic algebra are performed very fast on a calculator. Sure spreadsheets and smart phones have the power to perform such calculations, but is anything going to perform as fast as a handheld scientific calculator? I'm sitting at a computer with my smartphone to my left and Casio fx-115ES on my right. My phone has a calculator app that can perform the exact same functions as my casio. However, if I have to find the product of 874x35.4 I have three choices.
#1 I can press the on button on my calculator, type in the formula and have the answer
#2 I can unlock my phone, load up my calculator app, and then run the formula.
#3 I can load up excel and enter the formula and perhaps have to format the size of the cell to fit my result.
The first choice is going to be faster every single time. Saving an additional 18 square inches of desk space isn't worth it.
Caveat, this is for desktop applications only.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

molten, I have also noticed that 0.5 lead breaks more often than it did in the past. So what if it isen't us, but the lead that is getting weaker.

Mostly I use a mechinical pencel given to me by a vender, and I do't know what type of lead it has. But I don't have a breakage problem, most of the time.

I don't use excel as much for calculations, because it is very clumsey for complex numbers, and the old TI work well with them.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

(OP)
Perhaps the pencil companies are now using a carbon-graphite composite. When considered in that perspective, it becomes easier to rationalize what's been happening to hockey sticks over the past few decades.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Upon arriving at my current employer, I went hunting for pencils... nada. Brought a package from home. Sharpener? Nope. Pads of paper? You gotta be joking. I'd arrived into an environment so completely computer-oriented that nobody even took notes or put ink on the paper when making drawing corrections. As the youngest one here, I felt odd - so anachronistic. I've dived in feet-first and now I'm the guy with the colour pencils and 3 different hardnesses of art pencils, and rulers, sketch pads, the works. I'm tempted to roll in a drafting board beside my desk.

Over the years, I've used my pocket calculators so much that I have worn out at least 3 of them. For those of you who are curious, the AC/ON key just stops working some day and you either can't turn it on, or clear the memory to start a new calculation. They last between 5-10 years.

I use Excel a lot, now. But before, I used MathCad very extensively. I really liked the algebraic interface, that looked just like math without all the lines of programming, and I got it to do some pretty nifty things.

STF

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Strange how work stops when the power isen't there, and very few companies consider backup power.

We do have a beckup generator here, but strange how the critical circuits include the pop and candy machines.

Engineering shoulden't stop when the power is off. After all who is going to fix it if no work is done.

Yea we need to have the old backup methods.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I liked the idea of Mathcad, but the implementation, not so much.

I couldn't remember how to drive it if I skipped a day.

I never forgave it for crashing my home computer, which didn't have a genuine Intel brand 80387 (because the game store I bought it from on a weekend only had 'clones'.).
Mathcad didn't check for the chip's particulars at startup and exit with a warning. It just went ahead, and crashed in a way that did a lot of damage.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Back when I was still working in the real world and we first started to get Deskstop electronic calculators someone hung-up a cartoon showing an abacus in a glass case on the wall with a sign that stated: "In case of power-failure, break glass".

Of course, later on when we installed our first CAD system someone found another cartoon only now the abacus had been replaced by an 'Etch-a-Sketch'.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Can't speak to that particular version of Mathcad, but M15 is pretty reasonable and not particularly prone to crashes. If there were something as easy to use and as capable, Mathcad would have died a long time ago. But the reality is that it's still the only game in town if you care about units.

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

...the only game in town if you care about units.

That's exactly what I use MathCAD for 50% of the time, especially for things like power, heat, fluids, when working in clumsy US units.
When I do really complex stuff, I always try to conserve units, which includes defining new units (things like kPa are not built in, but Pa are, so you can add new ones at will). It's very helpful to get to the end of an analysis and find that the calculation of power actually ends up giving you Watts, not Watts per second or Newtons per meter, which will also give you an indication of where the mistake might be.
Sometimes it's fun to invent units that don't exist, such as a "sagan" which is 4x10^12 stars (ie. "billions and billions") and use them in MathCAD. Well, some people find that fun.

STF

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

My favorite 'made-up unit' was always 'Furlongs per Fortnight'.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
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Cypress, CA
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Not made up anymore; both units were permanently incorporated into Mathcad quite a while ago. furlong/fortnight = 0.1663 mm/s

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

JohnRBaker,

Furlongs and fortnights are valid units, whether or not MathCAD recognizes them. Wait until someone tries to use cubits.

--
JHG

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I never suggested that either furlongs or fortnights were not valid units. After all, I worked 14 years for a British company (at their American subsidiary in Saginaw, MI) and while I can't recall the term furlongs ever being used, I often heard my British counterparts use the term fortnight when discussing a project status or when talking about delivery schedules and such. It was only years later when I started to work for a CAD vendor that the subject even came-up as to whether, when using the system to solve engineering problems, were we limited to units hard-coded into the expression system (AKA 'formula builder') or could a user define his own units if they were more germane to what he was doing than what was provided OOTB (Out Of The Box)? Well the answer was, "Yes you can." and when asked, I would always show them how to create a new unit for velocity, in this case, Furlongs/Fortnight, being that it was about the most outrageous thing I could think of, so as to make the point. As for your comment about the practicality of using 'cubits' as a unit of length, well, we are selling our software to several large ship-building concerns, so who knows...

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

My first encounter with furlongs per fortnight was in Mr. Stark's Physics class in 1974, as his response to what units velocity should be in.

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I was just going to say that your teacher was probably trying to make a point as well. Perhaps if you could recall the precise context in which the question was asked, it might help you understand why you got the answer that you did winky smile

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

Back in university, when solving problems in strength of materials, I once wrote "N-km" instead of the traditional "kN-m" for a bending moment on a homework problem. I was not marked wrong. I tried the concept on some of my classmates, many of whom found it confusing, or thought I should had it marked wrong. But maybe they were just annoyed at how I thought the whole thing was so funny.

STF

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

The comment wasn't directed at me, I think, but memory is pretty fuzzy. Got an A and a 5 on the AP test, so probably wasn't me. But, he used the term a lot, both in that class and in the electronics class I also took from him.

His other favorite pithy saying was "intuitively obvious to the meanest of intelligences," because the author of the text would gloss over certain concepts as if they were so obvious that they didn't need any explanation at all.

TTFN
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RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

We had a memorable Hungarian prof in 1st year who did a whole series of lessons about unit systems, how arbitrary they were, and how to develop unit conversions between them. He did this by constructing an entire unit system based on hell, notably measuring temperatures in degrees Hellcius which were based on the melting and boiling points of sulphur (which I believe were 0 and 666 degrees Hellcius...).

RE: The future of handheld scientific and graphing calculators (or pen + paper, for that matter)

I have over 1000 views on how to get the HP48GX ON button working again on youtube, so someone is using these antiques.

For reports we submit, some cities want the calcs done by hand and others want it done in a spreadsheet. What I do notice is that plan checkers don't check hand calcs but they do check computer spit out calcs. I started to just make some of the calcs into apps on my phone, so I could quickly plug and chug the numbers in a meeting. That slowly got me away from bringing a calculator around, and now when I need a calculator I pull up the DROID48 app. My business partner prefers using excel for everything, and won't use the calculator anymore. One of my structural professors said everyone stop using calculators and learn to do the math in your head. The only person that has impressed is my fiance.

Looking at my desk I know exactly what came from a past company, as they all have a little sticker with my name on them. Pencils, scales, calculators, triangles, lettering guides, etc. We weren't supplied with anything so my desk was a good place to get it, especially the owners of all people. If I was to take a guess, a small tablet or larger phone can take the place of a lot of that stuff most of the time. Just got a stylus for my phone/tablet to write notes, do calcs and draw sketches on.

B+W Engineering and Design | Los Angeles Civil Engineer and Structural Engineer http://bwengr.com

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