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Graphing Calculator Deathmatch - There can be only one.

Discussion in 'Math' started by HadMatter, Jan 4, 2010.

  1. HadMatter

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Hi guys. I assume the math forum is the appropriate place for this. I'm striking off on my road to electrical engineering - a road laden with advanced math and physics - and it appears I must now purchase a graphing calculator. I've read several reviews, but who knows what perspective those people are coming from. I figure since my interests lie in the realm of the electrical, and since this site is literally "All About Circuits," you guys would be the perfect people to advise me on which calculator was best suited for my goals.

    The way I see it it comes down to 2 choices: HP 50g & TI-89.

    I'm leaning toward the Hp. I understand the it's screen is large and has higher contrast, comes with a larger library of functions, allows for user programming, and has the ability to utilize "Reverse Polish Notation." (I have no idea what that last thing is, but I'm pretty sure it's racist.) :D

    Before I fork over the 100+ bucks for one of these suckers I thought I'd see what you guys have used and preferred. I know they all have their own pros and cons. Perhaps one is better suited for my needs in ways I can not see. .... COMMENCE WITH THE FLAMING!!!! I WANNA SEE CAT FIGHTS, PEOPLE!!!
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2010
  2. dhosinski

    Active Member

    Dec 6, 2007

    I've used both types of calculators and personally, I prefer to use the HP over the TI. It's really preference, if you want a good calculator that will help you through your degree, and calculus, you might consider the TI. For electronics the HP has user libraries etc. that are really nice. The HP does calc, but sometimes you have to be able to sift through the answer to determine what it is?
    The TI, is more user friendly that way.
    Oh, btw the RPN is not racist. This is actually how a computer thinks. It puts the data on stacks and executes the commands after the data is entered. So for example to add 2 +2, you would enter 2 (enter), 2 (enter) then hit the plus key.

    You can also use the equation writer on the HP which is a nice tool.
    The TI is more of a data stream.

    Again, it's all preference. I hope you are comfortable with either decision.
  3. beenthere

    Retired Moderator

    Apr 20, 2004
    No opinion as to which might be the better, but the HP has serious nerd presence. RPN is a more efficient means of entering the terms of a problem on the keyboard.

    You may need to research as to the preference for keeping the calculator handy in a belt holster, or if it is more credible if kept in a thigh pocket of one's cargo pants.
  4. HadMatter

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Thanks, Hos, Been, for your input. Think I'll go ahead and order the 50g. The only argument I hear for the TI is it's "user friendliness." But we're men!! And we don't go for the easier way, do we!? Plus, if it's going to impress the nerds, all the better. My World of Warcraft character can only get me so far. HA!!

    Consequently, I'll be keeping my calculator in one of those shoulder holsters detectives use to conceal their gun.
    "Do you feel graphy? Well, do you, punk?"
    fracray likes this.
  5. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
    I got my first HP with RPN in 1990. It was HP28S. Since then I have only used HP RPN type calculators. Then I use a standard calculator I quickly develop an urge to toss it out of the window or in to the wall. You may perhaps need some time to get use to RPN. But then you have learned this notation you will love it. And I am NOT a nerd ;)
  6. someonesdad

    Senior Member

    Jul 7, 2009
    The infix/postfix argument died out decades ago -- result: use what works best for you. It's much more important that you can enter expressions confidently and without error. I've owned and used both types of calculators and found that RPN was slightly more efficient than algebraic; but since it's a small difference for practical problems, it's a wash in my book.

    I've preferred the RPN type of calculator ever since I tried the HP-35 when it came out. I've owned many HP calculators over the years. My favorite has always been the HP42s because of the great keyboard, layout of keys, and perfect feature set for the tasks I do. Because it has full complex number and function support built in (along with matrices), I suspect many EEs would like it too. You can find a simulator here and there's a python program that has some of its features.

    A number of years ago I bought an HP49g+. It turned out to be a piece of junk because the keyboard was so horrible -- you could press a key, get tactile feedback, and yet find that the keystroke wasn't recognized by the calculator. This was a horrible design screw-up (Bill Hewlitt is still spinning in his grave because of it); I hope the HP50g fixed the problem. Personally, I'll never buy another HP calculator because of that. The feature set of the calculator, though, is powerful if you can remember where all the dang functions are.

    The HP49g+ manual was also not very well written. It was written by someone to whom English wasn't a first language. While it was good compared to the majority of English instructions written in the Far East, it shamed the job done by the folks at Corvallis in the heyday of HP calculators -- they wrote great manuals. And because the calculator is far more complex than earlier calculators, it really needs a printed manual. No doubt HP left it out because it costs so much to make good printed manuals and HP has always struggled to get the cost down (the geezers on this board will remember that "HP" in the instrumentation days meant "high price").

    Personally, I question the need for a calculator with all the built-in functionality that the top end models have now. The reason I question the need is because if I'm working on a technical problem, I'll likely be at my desk with a computer handy and the computer is far more capable and quick than any calculator. Ditto for a laptop. Of course, I understand things may be different for a student in a classroom today -- when I was a student, I just went with a couple of rocks to fend off tyrannosaur attacks, if you believe my kids and grandkids.

    I do have one suggestion for the calculator users, whatever brand you use: learn to estimate the size of the answer to the problem you're working on and do it independently of using the calculator. The reason is the same as it was when using a slide rule or the old mechanical calculators: you need some way to verify your answer. It's just too easy to make a wrong keystroke and not know it. Another technique to catch errors is to do the problem over again, but starting at a different point in the equation. Personally, I like estimation better, but I use both.
  7. Ivano


    Feb 2, 2009
    Good suggestions Someonesdad !!

    about calculators I think HP48s is one of the best ever :) ...the keybord is very good even if older than the 49...
  8. lmartinez

    Active Member

    Mar 8, 2009
    I would put my claws out and speak in behave of the HP calculators. I have an HP48GX......... I would suggest to go for the Hp calculator....;)
  9. eblc1388

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 28, 2008
    Stay away from RPN. Once you've tried it, there is no return.

    Imagine what one can do if one can manipulating 4 values independently...That's what happens on a 4-entry RPN stack.
  10. Clay


    Feb 12, 2010
    I still use my 14 year old HP 38G calculator. Only
    downside is that it can not do decimal/binary/octal/Hex
    conversions, but that is what 'calculator' in 'scientific' mode
    on my computers is for.

    By the way, I still use my log/log slide-rule. ha!

    Best regards,

    /Clay (first post)