HP Handheld SIG News - June, 1999

Surprise! Prototype of the HP49G Revealed

Back in early May, there were rumblings of an upcoming meeting in Paris called OpenHP '99, where "new products" would be discussed. This gathering took place

on May 21st and sure enough, a unit called the HP49G was presented and demonstrated. By the following day, much appeared on various web sites from

the French HP48 user community. The reaction on the comp.sys.hp48 newsgroups was rather swift, with a large majority of users feeling negatively about this

machine at first glance. Finally, Jean-Yves Avenard (head of the MetaKenel team and apparent head of the HP49 team at HP's Australian Calculator Operation)

posted a detailed description of the machine. With his details, the smoke began to clear as to the planned capabilities and the philosophies behind this unit.

Check out the image (hopefully accompanying this article), which was posted on the web recently.

In Jean-Yves' own words:


Dear all.

You've all wondered what was this new machine.. Was it a hoax or not... Well here are the facts and what exactly happened.

There is a new HP called HP49 coming.. It was announced during the Open HP event in Paris (France).

Actually, HP Europe has decided to introduce this calculator before HP USA ... That will be my only comment there...

Hardware specification:

- Saturn CPU running at 4Mhz (don't scream, and see my comments below)

- 131*64 LCD screen, using a new technology -> Black on White with an excellent contrast

- 2MB of Flash ROM (1MB used by the OS)

- 512KB of RAM

- 51 keys

- No IR, but a HP49<->HP49 cable is provided.

Key Product Features : (some marketing stuff...)

** A large 1.5MB of Memory (512KB of RAM and 1MB of data storage flash memory), allows the user to benefit from the biggest and most comprehensive

library of third party calculator programs, games and software applications ** Flash Memory that enables future electronic software upgrades.

** Step-by-step solving option that enables you to learn how to get the right answer numerically or symbolically.

** The most complete built-in Computer Algebra System (CAS) currently available on a calculator for fast, advanced symbolic manipulation and solving.

** Inferential and Descriptive Statistics (suitable for Advanced Placement and College/University level statistics)- Now includes hypothesis tests, confidence intervals and data table options.

** New Sleek and Colorful Design available in Metallic Blue with a Translucent Blue Slide-on cover.

** Every HP 49G may be connected directly to a data-logger, overhead projector, a personal computer or another HP 48G Series or HP 49G graphing calculator.

** A fast, flexible and intelligent Editor for isolating, editing, manipulating and evaluating text, equations, expressions, sub-expressions, programs and graphs.

** Input and Output Customization - choose between 'textbook' form, algebraic and RPN input and 'textbook' and algebraic output in various font styles and sizes.

Key Differences compared with the HP 48G Series

** New High Contrast Screen - looks more like a computer screen.

** New Keyboard Layout - a user friendly keyboard that incorporates the strengths of the existing RPN keyboard layout and the more familiar algebraic style keyboard layouts on the HP 38G, TI-83 and TI-89.

** Between 10 and 100 times faster than the existing HP 48G Series.

** A unit-to-unit link cable that will allow communication with a HP 49G or any of the HP 48G Series models.

** No built-in equation library.

** Data-logger and overhead projector connection (no need for an external card)

Now, my personnal adds:

About the CAS..

Just imagine an HP48 with Erable + ALG48 plus everything that is missing.. Now speed it up so it can compete (and be faster) than anything else on the calculator market.. Well, you get the HP49's CAS About the Algebraic Mode/RPN mode... When you first boot the machine, it's an algebraic machine. With a specifically designed Algebraic User Interface Don't like algebraic mode, press Mode, select RPN mode and that's it.. You're back to the HP48 old fashion mode.. And it works EXACTLY like the HP48, but faster...

About the Operating System.

The OS has been completely rewritten, mainly in Machine Language. So nearly everything that was slow on the HP48 works faster.. Everything (including input form, choose boxes, stack display, command line, file manager, ...) When I say faster, I mean really faster... The HP49 is even faster than an HP48 with the MetaKernel running in it..

For programmers:

-Grey scale support (in ML as well as SystemRPL): Every systemRPL graphic routines work on greyscale graphics...

-Vectorised Interrupt System (add your own interrupt handler)

MFSA (Most Frequently Said Affirmation): Must be slow, it uses a 4MHZ CPU..

Not anymore:

1- New technology to access covered ROM. Everybody in this newsgroup know that the Saturn CPU has a 512kB address range. The Flash ROM is 2MB, and the RAM is 512KB, but no fully covered ROM. There's no need to copy the covered program into RAM and then run it anymore... Everything works in absolute address mode, so it's really fast.

2- Every critical parts were re-written in ML, everything including the 3D plotter

3- There's no bankswitching to access the RAM.

4- The user sees 3 ports only:

0: Internal System RAM (256kb)

1: Extended RAM (256kB)

2: Flash User ROM (1MB)

The system will manage how to copy your files for you... No need to get lost in a bank 2,3,4,5,6,....31

5- Slow ? Just imagine that the 3D real-time plotter can draw 6 frames (for a 14*14 points matrix) per second... It's faster than any current competitors !. You can rotate in real time over the X axis, Y axis and even the Z axis...

About the User Interface:

Depending which mode you're using (full algebraic mode, or RPN mode), it's much faster than the HP48. I've read that some people were wondering: I'm using Java and I prefer it over the MetaKernel... Well, just wait until you see the HP49.. You won't miss anything from the HP48 (except maybe the old fashion, timeless industrial design, if you were a real HP48 lover)

About the support programming language:

-HP Basic. which is very similar to the RPL language, and there's no GOTO statement... Very easy to use..




IF I+1-5==50 THEN DISP("Hello World",2) ELSE DISP("I'm off",2) END



The UserRPL is fully backward compatible with the HP48 one. But to re-use a User RPL program from an HP48, you must send it using ASCII kermit

-ASM/SystemRPL support

Nothing to write here. It's not officially supported. But there is a SystemRPL decompiler, ML disassembler etc... in the system All the documentation will be provided when the calculator comes out. To run your application on the HP49, just need to recompile it... And it will probably run faster (especially if it uses a lot of GUI)

About the connectivity:

-There's no InfraRed port. But a Unit to Unit cable is provided... There were a lot of problems in many countries where the HP48 was not allowed because of IR

-RS232 port:

Built-in protocols:

*Kermit (binary, ascii)

*Xmodem (128 checksum, 1K, 1K CRC)

-Overhead display port.

Every unit can be connected to an overhead display


About the Keyboard:

Hey ! It's an HP product ! HP product, means HP quality... Technology is changing over the year, but quality is still there.. Do you really think that HP could let a new product goes out of its doors with a keyboard that will break after 6 months ??? Sure, it's not the HP48 kind of keyboard... Did you know that to make an HP48 keyboard you waste 40% of plastic ??

We (at ACO) wanted a product that we can be proud of.. On every points, including environment !

It uses rubber keys that's for sure... But rubber keys doesn't mean bad quality, there are a lot of mechanical parts to make a keyboard... The feeling is extremely similar to the HP48 keyboard

To summarize:

The HP49 is the most powerful calculator ever announced by HP at this time.

It works in two ways:

-Fully compatible with the HP48 series, RPN and faster

-Algebraic, easy to use/easy to learn calculator. But still the most powerful calculator ever released...

So, please wait until you touch it... Do not panic when you see the photo of one of the first prototype....

After all, the HP49 were developped by HP48 users and tested by HP48 users !


Now, if you have questions, I will answer any technical questions... But please do not ask things like: when is it released, how much will it cost etc...

Best Regards

Jean-Yves Avenard

This message is not the official view of Hewlett-Packard ACO, but my personnal view.

Proud user of an HP48, member of the HP48 users community for the last 10 years...


No mention has been made as to the cost or the actual release date, although a followup post by an attendee of the OpenHP meeting said that they were

expecting to release it in the early fall. This obviously means in Europe, since it was mentioned above that Europe would get this machine first.


HP49G: Facts and Speculations

A few things need to be mentioned here... Jean-Yves said that this machine would be out in Europe first. It was also mentioned that several countries had problems with two-way IR-equipped machines (such as the HP48) as to allowing them in the classroom environment. Putting these together, one might speculate that a later model for the U.S. might put the infrared back into the unit. Also, by him saying that it is "...the most powerful calculator ever announced by HP at this time...", he might be trying to say that something else will be waiting in the wings. For those who crammed both 128K and 1-meg RAM cards into their HP48s, the HP49 should satisfy their RAM requirements. For those who purchased third-party 2-meg RAM cards to increase RAM to 2.25 meg, the HP49 (with its 1.5 meg total user memory) will be a step backwards.

For those who plug in ROM cards into their HP48's, the only way to get software into this beast will be via cable to either another HP49 or to a computer. For those who use the equation library built into the HP48, a method will have to be devised to restore the library into the RAM of the HP49. For those who rely on keyboard overlays to label keys defined in USER mode, a new overlay will have to be designed (if HP hasn't already thought of this). All things considered, being that this development team has been together only a year and a half, the HP49G is a significant achievement. Hopefully, all the bugs will be ironed out by then. I'm sure the HP49 will be the major topic of discussion for our upcoming meetings.