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HP Graphing Calculators

Updated on February 5, 2011

HP Calculators, the Third Choice

Texas Instruments dominance in graphing calculators is very well known. Casio is often seen as the affordable alternative to TI. But Hewlett Packard was almost the first business to fabricate graphing calculators. By 1987, HP announced the HP 28c to admirable acclaim. Before long, HP had a huge audience among the new culture of mathematicians and students that were calculator fanatics. But like other calculator producers, HP found it difficult to maintain their market share in the onrush of Texas Instruments goods that dominated in the 1990's and the years that followed. 

Hewlett Packard's bread and butter has always been a method of calculation named Reverse Polish notation or RPN. While most scientific calculators input in the regular algebraic method , for example, 8 + 3, Reverse Polish Notation would input the same arithmetic 3 8 +. This is indeed quite a bit more proficient if you have a multitude of calculations to type at once as it permits you to circumnavigate the need for parentheses. Conversely, it can be large counter-intuitive if you have spent 20 or so years learning to do arithmetic without Reverse Polish Notation. So although RPN gained a cult following among certain segments of the calculator public, it wasn't something that endeared HP to the educational community at large.  

When HP made their first graphing calculator in 1987, the calcualtor market was new. Casio had just released the first graphing calculator about a year ago. Sharp and Texas Instruments were not yet on the scene. But still, back then, it was anyone's game, and it was anyone's guess who would prevail. Today, HP has a lineup of calculators that is far more user friendly to the masses than their original devices.

HP 39GS and HP 40GS

The entry level graphing graphing calculators for Hewlett Packard are the HP 39GS and HP 40GS. Both retail for about $50. They features alot of the functionality of higher level graphing calculators, although simplified a bit, at much lest cost. The HP 40GS is especially unusual in that it has a Computer Algebra System. This is unheard of in the budget calculator arena. The most popular graphing calculators with a CAS are the TI-89 Titanium and TI-Nspire CAS, both of which cost well over $100. You can learn more by reading a review of the HP 40GS.

HP 50G

HP's top of the line graphing calculator is the HP 50G. The 50G is primarily designed to compete against Texas Instruments' TI-89 Titanium. It features a computer algebra system, 3D graphing, and an easy to use menu system. While it's not as cheap as the 40GS, the 50G's improved menu system, 3D graphing, and mathprint features make it worth the extra few dollars. You can read more on this review of the HP 50G.

Other options

HP makes several other calculators as well. Another graphing calculator option to consider is the HP 48GS. It's a continuation of the HP 48 and HP 49 series that's been around since the mid 90's. If you're a fan of old school Hewlett Packard calculators, you'll probably love it. If you are interested in a non-graphing calculator, consider the HP Smartcalc 300. It's a competitor to the TI-30X Multiview, and it can simplify radicals, do exact trig values, and use mathprint formatting.


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      WildIris 6 years ago

      I wish I'd seen this Hub last week before buying a TI-83 Plus. It's Good to know there are alternatives to Texas Instruments.