A New HP Calculator for RPN Nerds

Today is a happy day for engineers everywhere. Well at least for those of us of a certain vintage. HP is introducing a retro model of its first hand-held scientific calculator, the HP-35, to mark the 35th anniversary of HP Labs and the calculator’s introduction.

Least I date myself too terribly, let me point out that my first calculator was a later model (though admittedly not a whole lot later) -- the Hewlett Packard 41C.

It served me well through engineering school.

And I kept on using it even after going to work at HP rival Texas Instruments—in spite of a persistent story (I was never sure whether the tale was apocryphal or not) about an engineering manager who so loathed HP products that when he caught a newly hired engineer using an HP, he would take it and smash it to smithereens.

The introduction of a new calculator is significant because a few years back speculation was rampant on the Internet that HP was about to exit the calculator business, causing many hard-core fans of Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) to fall into a deep depression. Yours truly included.

It's just so cool when someone from marketing asks to borrow your calculator at a meeting.

Of course, whether the handheld calculator will follow its predecessor, the slide rule, into engineering-tool extinction is debatable: Spreadsheet applications and PDAs offer most of the basic calculator functions. calculator emulators are pervasive, and math analysis software offers even more functionality, eliminating the need for a handheld calculator altogether in many situations.

Maybe that's why the response to an enthusiastic comment about HP calculators on an Internet discussion group was simply,"What are they?" Data can be entered into the new HP-35 using RPN or, for woosies, conventional algebraic methods. So better hurry and get one now -- at 2 ENTER 15 X 2 X dollars, that's just 12 ENTER 3 X 10 X 20 - dollars less than the original version!



  1. Try feeding in 45; sin;cos;tan; arctan; arcos; arcsin and see how close you get back to 45! Some of the el-cheapos are well out!

    My HP33s returns 45.00001 when set to show 6 decimal places

  2. I’ve still to this day not come across a calculator to rival the old HP models. I swapped my HP35 for an HP28S and was so impressed with it that I bought a second one to keep at work. It’s the size of a pocket diary and opens like a book to reveal a full alphanumeric keyboard on the left. (It would make an ideal format for a moden organiser.)
    Once you’ve mastered RPN, you don’t want to go back to algebraic input because RPN is completely unambiguous.
    As for modern HP products, I agree with the previous post. I used to automatically buy HP, without even looking at other manufacturers, but nowadays I avoid them.

  3. I thought this was interesting with a bit about RPN at the end:
    Stacks and it even has a link to Amazon where you can buy it at a reasonable price!

  4. i have a hp41c here now. i am considering getting a new calc. i bought a great sharp calc for 9 bucks – very very nice calc – $9.
    the low end hp cals are pure -$hit – it is unbeleable how quality has dropped – you used to buy a hp and you knew it would be good – not anymore – stay away from low end hp products.
    to be fair, it is not their fault. sharp produces a fantastic calc for $9 bucks, so …
    i recommend getting a sharp for $9 , or buy the most expensive hp – you choose. as for my hp41 here – it is slow, ugly, fat, and lazy. but i am still using it after ….lots of years. anyway – try the $9 sharp – so nice.

  5. Just like the ‘new’ HP – you can’t find any mention of how to buy this on the HP site. Yes the press release is there and it links to a page which doesn’t show the 35s. Can’t even find it by searching the site. Amazon however does know about it. Just typical of ‘HP’ – it certainly isn’t “Bill & Dave’s” place anymore!
    My first HP was a HP-55 that I bought in college – man I spent a lot of money on that! What a nerd!
    Since then I’ve had HP-67’s a 97 that I found in the trash!, HP41, and two HP-48’s. There is a really nice ‘virtual’ HP-41 that is available as freeware for the PC.
    Steve H.

  6. I still have an HP-35 somewhere in my collection of old scientific/engineering calculators and slide rules. I bought a Heathkit floating-point calculator in 1971 or 1972 ($US 125) and used it in grad school until I bought a Commodore sci/eng calculator (>$US 100)with an LED display. Logs and exponents came in handy for chemical-kinetics problems. The Heathkit used 7-segment gas-discharge displays. These days you can buy an LCD sci/eng calculator in the grocery store for under 10 bucks ($US 10). –Jon

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