HHC '98: The HP Handheld Conference in Vancouver
By Jake Schwartz
Another calculator conference is history and this one gave us a glimpse into the new Australian Calculator Operation as well as its American sales and marketing arm. Jeff Blough from HP's Vancouver, Washington facility welcomed the group and told us that we'd be seeing new and better things in the future. ACO's representatives were Tanya Brooks, a product manager (sales/marketing) and Nigel Hooke, a mathematician. They primarily were there to listen to the group and bring back useful ideas. Hopefully, we impressed upon them the feeling that the HP line should maintain all the qualities of calculators to which we have grown accustomed.
There were nine speakers at the conference, plus a discussion panel. Two speakers - Megha Shyam (formerly HP Corvallis and Sparcom, now of da Vinci) and Ted Kerber (surveyor, D'Zign) actually each spoke twice while Richard Nelson (PPC, CHHU, EduCalc, etc.), Raan Young (formerly HP Corvallis, now self- employed), Brian Walsh(HPX & Chicago CHIP group), Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz (British HPCC group, writer of several HP books), Vern Lindsay (Firmware corp), Jim Donnelly (HP Corvallis) and I each spoke once.
There were talks relating directly to the HP48, such as Richard Nelson's talk on handling tabular data, Vern Lindsay's presentation on the PLDL-100/200 data acquisition units and Jim Donnelly's talk on HP48 input forms. Ted Kerber gave a surveyor's spin on the HP48 third-party software market, Brian Walsh spoke on advocating a built-in help system on future handhelds, Raan Young presented his experiences in struggling to bring a palmtop add-on product to market and Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz highighted HP handhelds' year-2000 capabilities. Although two individuals (including Diana Byrne, originally from the HP48/38 team) representing Texas Instruments were present and did not speak, Megha devoted one of his talks on the newly-introduced TI89. This machine looks impressive as a vertical-format TI92 with its 188K of RAM plus 384K of flash archival storage. I presented an overview of the PPC CD-ROM disks, a pair of CDscontaining the entire contents of all the U.S. calculator newsletters from 1974 to 1990 plus HP65 Key Note and HP Key Notes issues and relevant calculator articles from 32 issues of HP Journal. (To obtain a copy of the disks, consult http://www.waterw.com/~jake-s/ppccdrom.htm on the web.)
The discussion panel, consisting of Bill Wickes, Jim Donnelly, Wlodek Mier-Jedrzejowicz and Jeremy Smith, attempted to address the questions of (1) what might the next generation of calculator be; and (2) what hurdles will have to be overcome in order for the next generation to be produced. Since nobody from Australia participated, we probably did not hear any hints of what is to come. Later it was rumored that we might have heard something substantial had the TI folks not been present.
Three items which were of interest showed up in attendees' collections: First, Bill Welsh from Corvallis had two items which turned out to be almost unique. The first was an HP95C that had no model number label in front and no shifted key positions painted on the top case. We weren't entirely sure that this machine was a 95C until Richard Nelson took it apart and revealed the serial number on the main circuit board. Also, Bill had a machine which had a 48GX top case and a 48SX bottom case and keyboard. It turned out to be an SX and it was a version "H" - which had never been officially released. (Official versions skip from "E" right to "J".) The third item was something that Joe Rigdon showed off - it was a clear-plastic top case from an original HP35 with the hole for the "red dot" power-on indicator.
I shot 180 digital photos and also videotaped the conference in its entirety. The photos will be on the web in the next few days and the video will be edited soon.
All in all it was a most enjoyable experience, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. We have been assured by the Australians that they will keep in touch. There were rumblings that HP would like to sponsor still another conference next year - we shall be waiting to hear what happens in the near future.
The Design-The-Calculator Contest Is A Winner
At the close of the conference, the winner of the design-the-calculator was announced by Nigel Hooke - and it turned out to be our Philly group. So now we have the fun problem of cashing in an HP coupon worth a grand with virtually no expiration date. The four people who participated in the design will have to make a decision on this, but there is no hurry. This design entry is available (in pdf format) for viewing or downloading at http://www.waterw.com/~jake-s/pahhc.htm at our PAHHC web site.
Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club (now in our twentieth year)