Saturday, February 15, 2014

Greetings from Santa Barbara (Good Cup): What Makes A Good "Portable" Math Program Language

I am coming to you today from Santa Barbara and feels so good to get away from the house and work - even it just one day. :). I never thought I would be at a beach in February. I feel for people in the Eastern U.S. who have endured non-stop storms since last autumn.

This blog is being posted from Good Cup, a warm and charming coffee shop in downtown Santa Barbara. I am having their Special Latte - which is a latte made with organic milk. It is very light and taste good - especially after putting some simple syrup in it. Organic food is growing on me. OK, back to the topic at hand...

Portable Programming Calculators

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, programmable calculators were probably at their height where programmable pocket calculators came in the form of the (among other models) 12C, 15C, and 41C from Hewlett Packard, TI-58, TI-66, and TI-68 from Texas Instruments, fx-3650 and fx-6300g from Casio, just to name a few. Since then, portable programming calculators are slowly phased out in favor of graphing calculators, mathematical software, and today portable apps for the iOS and Android.

While it is awesome that we have full-service calculation software on hand today, sometimes all that is needed are quick calculations. Maybe it is during vacation, on a field trip, or doing a project on a long flight.

It is nice to have a portable calculator with programming capabilities. Why?

* It could be the only thing that is reach at the moment.
* The interface usually is more simple.
* If the calculator runs on solar power, like the Casio fx-3650p, that frees up other devices that depend on battery power (either regular or rechargeable).

Casio fx-3650p

The fx-3650p is a rare combination of a scientific calculator that is both solar-powered and programmable. The memory has four program slots, 360 program steps, and seven storage registers (A,B,C,D,X,Y,M). The M register has the memory arithmetic operations M+ and M-.

The programming language features:
* Prompt for Input
* Display Output
* If-Then-Else structure in the form a Jump command
* Four Boolean comparisons (=, ≠, ≥, >)
* 10 labels for branching.

HP-15C Limited Edition

If a HP-15C LE is desired, it may take luck finding one at a reasonable price. While it is not solar, the HP 15C runs on two long lasting CR2032 batteries. It features RPN keystroke programming, like its super popular financial cousin HP 12C. Capabilities of this landscape calculator include matrices, complex numbers, counter loops, and 448 memory steps.

Other Options (iOS and Android)

There is basically no shortage of programming calculator apps for both iOS and Android devices. A lot of them are $10 or less, and there are a lot of emulators of older calculators.

Active RPN: (iOS, Android?) This is one example of a programming calculator app. It is one of my favorite non-emulator apps. It is a simple RPN keystroke programming calculator. The memory has 10 numeric registers and 4 program slots of which each can hold up to 80 steps. As far as programming goes, the power is minimal: no comparison tests or loops. (Major drawback).

Below is an HP 67 emulator from Cuveesoft. Very cool to have an emulator available, especially since I never had a physical HP-67 back in the 1970s.

Those are just two examples, another is the WP-34, which is an extension of the HP-41C.

What Makes a Good Portable Math Programming Language?

A good portable programmable language can allow for quick numeric calculations for example: program the quadratic formula, calculate the payment of a mortgage, solve probability problems, and store geometric and physics formulas for later use. For me the minimum features the language should have are:

* A definite integral function. Derivatives and sums are a plus.
* Commands to allow for user input.
* Commands to output results and pause the execution of the program.
* Labels for branching, 10 should be good.
* At least 10 memory registers. If alphabetic registers are used, allow for the entire alphabet (A-Z).
* The basic For loop
* Memory should have at least 10 slots with at least 1,000 steps. This will allow long time storage plus some flexibility. If not, a place to carry a small notepad or index cards so we don't have to refinery the wheel each time.

Does this sound like a good list? Is there anything to add or subtract? Let me know in the comments.

Until then, have a great day!


This blog is property of Edward Shore. 2014


  1. Good cup is my favorite place to do work in Santa Barbara!

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  3. If you're looking for a good iOS RPN app, PCalc is a great choice. It has a nice UI, lots of customization, and allows for programming in custom functions.


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