[ Submitted to Datafile, but I don't have a record of whether it was
ever published. ]

		     Some Thoughts on the HP-95LX
			   Craig A. Finseth
			   HPCC #<unknown>

After much soul searching and almost three weeks of delaying, I broke
down and purchased an HP-95LX.  In the past three weeks I have used it
extensively.  These are my thoughts on what the 95 is about.


(No, this isn't going to be a rehash of the HP brochure.)  What are
the features that appeal to me?

Screen: It is big enough to be useful and very readable.  My only
complaint is directed to the demented person who, ten years ago in the
employ of IBM, decided that an underscore cursor was preferred to a
block cursor.  HP, of course, copied the IBM PC standard and I do not
fault them for doing so.  Fortunately, we all have programs that can
reprogram the cursor size.

Keyboard: Surprisingly good.  I can type rather quickly on it.  While
on my way to lunch today, I was able to type while walking.  Of
course, I wish that there would be more keys.  However, given the
constraints, I can't think of anything that I would like to change.
Applause to whoever at HP came up with the layout.  There are some
problems, though:

- The SHIFT and CHAR keys latch just like the shift and alpha keys on
the 48.  So why don't the CTRL and ALT keys do the same thing?

- For some reason, I keep hitting the 'k' key when trying to type an
'l'.  I don't miss any other right-hand keys, so I am at a loss to
explain this.

Input / output: Great.  Exactly what I had hoped for, although I would
have been disappointed if I owned an I/R printer.

Case, weight: Phenomenal!

Batteries: At last!  Two months!  I have a laptop which is always
running out of battery power, and it is a pain in the neck to always
have to worry about nicad memory.  (Aside to peripheral vendors: it
would be nice if peripherals were available for this and the 48 that
did *not* have batteries and always ran off the mains.  Cheaper to
build, too, although I would probably pay (pounds) 5-10 more for a
device without the <censored> battery hassles.)


The main reason I purchased the 95 was to have a portable device that
I could run my Emacs-type text editor on (additional information on
this editor is forthcoming).  The 95 is such a device.  Thus, I am
happy.  Unfortunately, while the 95 can run MS/DOS programs rather
well, they do not easily integrate with the existing applications.

(I know that HP built this as a 1-2-3 platform.  I could care less.  I
don't know how to run 1-2-3 and hope to never learn.)

However, all is not lost.  There are ways to write your own
applications that will run with varying degrees of integration, and I
expect to take advantage of those techniques.  (But that is a
different article.)

For those of who who are curious about the built-in software, I will
run down the list.  In general, all of the applications are very well
integrated.  Keys do the *same* obvious function in all applications
(well, 1-2-3 is a little different).  Again, kudos to the people at HP
who did the work required to make this appear as the unified device
that it is.

All applications offer help.  This is usually enough to whet your
appetite but not answer your question.  For example, when entering an
equation in the solver, you can get general help ("use arrows to
change columns") but not specific help ("S(name) returns True if you
are solving for "name"; SIGMA(var,start,stop,incr,form) is for summing
a form").

SETUP: You can control how the 512K bytes of RAM is allocated between
main memory and RAM disc.  I found that you need at least 256K bytes
of main memory if you want to do real things with the applcations.
SETUP also lets you change everything that you expect.

FILER: This is a nice, but vanilla MSDOS visual shell.  The only
complaint that I have here is that ENTER always views a file.  It
should look at the file's extension and try to run COM and EXE files.

COMM: This is a nice, but vanilla communications program.
Transferring files is clumsy, but you're supposed to use the FILER to
do that.

APPT: Overall, very nice.  You can't schedule repeating appointments
except on day, week, month, or year intervals.  You also can't get a
view of all of your repeating appointments at once.  The conceptual
model implemented by this application is weird.  There are two
"threads" of execution:	appointment book and stopwatch.  You press the
F9 function key to alternate between them (well, sort of).  Well and
good.  However, the appointment book thread has an overall calendar,
which you "explode" into each day's list.  Well and good.  From the
calendar, you press the "Day" key (F10) to get into the exploded day.
>From the exploded day, you press ESC to get back to the calendar.
Well and good.  However, when the application starts, YOU ARE IN THE
EXPLODED DAY.  To see the calendar, you must press ESC even though
you never pressed a key to go "into" anything.  When fiddling (who
reads manuals?), I knew the calendar was there and found it once by
accident.  It took me three days to find it again.

Life would have been much more simple if the stopwatch had its own
application.  You can't quit from the stopwatch (MENU doesn't work):
you have to switch to the appointment book (any mode) first.

The time zone stuff is done *right*.

PHONE: This is a very limited database system.  I suggest ignoring it
in favor of a real text editor / database system (say, for example, my
Emacs-type text editor).  The list of country codes is nice.

MEMO: This is a very limited word processor.  I suggest ignoring it
in favor of a real text editor / database system ( "  " ).

1-2-3: I think that the people who design VCR controls did 1-2-3 while
moonlighting.  I hope to never have to use it.  If I want to do cash
flows (see below), I will trot out my 18C.

HP CALC: Very nice.  What a calculator should be.  Here are the
differences between this and the HP-19BII:

19BII menu		95LX notes

DISP	FIX All		Menu Options Format, adds Sci and Eng
	. ,		SETUP application

MODES	D/R		Menu Options
	BEEP		SETUP application
	PRNTR		SETUP application, only serial printers are supported
	INTL		SETUP application
	DEMO		--not available--
	ALG RPN		Menu Options

PRINTER	DISPL		Menu Print Stack
	LIST		1-2-3 application
	REGS		Menu Print Data, Menu Print Registers
	TIME		--not available--
	DBL		--not available--
	TRACE		--not available--

MATH	SINH COSH TANH	--not available--
	ASINH ACOSH ATANH --not available--

FIN	TVM AMRT TABLE	through 1-2-3 application
	CFLO		1-2-3 application
	BOND		1-2-3 application
	DEPRC		1-2-3 application

BUS	CURRX		different implementation
	UNITS		different implementation, missing temperature units

SUM			1 unnamed list, otherwise through 1-2-3 application

TIME	CALC		--not available--[*]
	APPT		APPT application
	ADJST		SETUP application
	SET		SETUP application

SOLVE (again, you get 1 unnamed sum list, otherwise through 1-2-3 application)
	SINH COSH TANH	--not available--
	ASINH ACOSH ATANH --not available--
	FLOW SIZEC #T	--not available--

TEXT			MEMO and PHONE applications

[*] The TIME CALC functions can be written using the solver as:


Limits on use: (1) when solving for DATE1 or DATE2, the actual
calendar is always used and (2) you have to solve for something once
before TODAY is initialized.

In conclusion, the only material differences are:

	cash flows
	hyperbolics (Yes, I wondered too.  Wondered, that is, why the
		     19B and 19BII had these...)


The 95 has major origins in (at least) three other HP products.  (I am
only counting products with model numbers under 100.  I will let
someone else handle the Portable, etc.)

First, it is clearly the new "high end" business calculator.  People
who had previously purchased a 19BII to have on their desks will now
buy a 95.  And, maybe -- just maybe, they will finally be able to
discontinue the 12C (hah!).  More specifically, the 95 incorporates
all of the 19BII's functions (unlike I, most business people are
willing to use 1-2-3), clamshell design, adequate number of keys, etc.

Second, I see many features of the 71B (and, to a lesser extent, the
75C and 75D) in it.  For example, the keyboard layout echoes that of
the 71B.  More generally, I get the same feel of a huge machine
tucked into a small package that I get from the 71B.

Third, this is not the first HP handheld with an 8086 instruction set:
the 94D/E/F was released several years ago.  And this leads us into...


The use of the 8086 instruction set allows the use of
generally-available software development tools and industry expertise.
For example, commercially-available compilers, debuggers, etc.  This
makes it possible for many more people to develop software for the
device: a situation very much to HP's advantage.

Consider that HP now has a wide range of tools available for 8086
development: a business calculator with all functions, an operating
system, development software, chip designs that can handle all
calculator functions (power, I/R, keyboard scanning, etc.).

Consider also that, with this architecture, HP can take advantage of
other companies' work on speeding up the CPU.  (Would HP be able to
develop a 40 MHz Saturn processor without spending a fortune?)

With all that going for it, I would not find it surprising to learn
that HP is planning to convert all of their calculators to the 8086
instruction set.



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I am Craig A. Finseth.

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Last modified Saturday, 2012-02-25T17:29:06-06:00.