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Calculators Do graphing calculators still make sense?

  1. Jun 18, 2014 #1
    I lost my HP50g calculator a week ago and have ever since been contemplating whether buying another graphing calculator makes sense. Given that most of these graphing calculators are not allowed anywhere near exam halls, I have long since stationed my calculator home. Having started using Mathematica/Matlab, I haven't really found much to do with my calculator simply because with a computer:
    1. Its way faster using a computer
    2. Easily write/edit programs
    3. Plot, analyse, manipulate . . . at ease
    4. Aesthetically pleasing
    5. You just can't compare a computer to a calculator
    Computers have come a long way since the 70s and so it's baffling why calculator technology didn't follow suit and instead seems to be going at a very unhurried pace. Calculators made in the 70s don't look much different to those made presently.
    So, I wonder what others are using graphing calculators for nowadays ? Is it because:
    1. Portability: Granted, calculators are portable but you can just get any android tablet and run one of the many available mathematical software.
    2. Price: Mathematica and Matlab are expensive but there are myriad alternatives. If price is of concern, Octave is just as good.
    I'd really be happy to read if anyone believes that graphing calculators still have a place in our present day. Graphing calculators are synonymous to some of our great ancestors, the great apes, who apparently refused to leave the wilderness to evolve and as such seem utterly hopeless when compared to their super-evolved litter brothers, the computer.
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  3. Jun 18, 2014 #2
    Depends on what you study. In engineering I could see it nice to pull out a calculator without having to go to your computer. But maybe a $10 scientific calculator would work better.

    I study mathematics and thus have no need for numbers. :)
  4. Jun 18, 2014 #3
    Thats one of the advantages of mathematics !!
  5. Jun 18, 2014 #4


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    Add to that fact that there are pretty good apps for smartphones/tablets that work just like a calculator, plus - at least as long as you have access to the web - you can use wolfram alpha.

    IMHO graphing calculators are a dying breed.
  6. Jun 18, 2014 #5
    I love Wolfram alpha, I talk to it the same way Einstein probably talked to Besso. You can have a conversation with it and it gives you what you are looking for (most of the time). Calculators are picky.
  7. Jun 18, 2014 #6
    They are long past their expiration date. Its unfortunate that some early math classes require them of students for ridiculously expensive prices. I'm not prone to conspiracy, but it smells like a racket... A small scientific calculator for arithmetic and your laptop with google and mathematica or mat-lab/sci-lab is much better.
  8. Jun 18, 2014 #7


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    Yup, one of the "joys of engineering" in the real world is when a dreary all-day review meeting grinds to a halt when somebody questions a number in a presentation, and a few senior managers get out their calculators and try to agree what the right number should be. Everybody else gets a 10 minute break while they fight between themselves :smile:
  9. Jun 18, 2014 #8


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    [Source: http://xkcd.com/768/. With mouseover, "College Board issues aside, I have fond memories of TI-BASIC, writing in it a 3D graphing engine and a stock market analyzer. With enough patience, I could make anything ... but friends. (Although with my chatterbot experiments, I certainly tried.)"]
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
  10. Jun 18, 2014 #9


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    I think the cartoon isn't quite right. There were some pretty creative bits of math invented to get a puny little 4-bit microprocessor chip to function as a scientific calculator. My theory: there's only one engineer left who still understands how they worked, so nobody knows how to design an upgrade.

    This one escaped from the cage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CORDIC
  11. Feb 17, 2015 #10


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    Buttons. That is why I still use a calculator. I have several apps on my phone, I have a computer on my desk, but if I need to crunch a few numbers (and I don't need to document my results), I reach for my calculator. I don't like to wait for boot up (of course, the PC is always on), but I can crank out some Rough Order of Magnitude values without having to set up a spread sheet. Especially if I am reviewing someone else's numbers.

    For the typical student, he/she should own at least one calculator. Does it need to be a graphing calculator, not really. A good $10-20 pocket calculator is probably enough for the typical student ($20+ for the engineering student). There are plenty of low cost computing alternatives to negate the advantage of the high cost graphing calculators. However, the cost of a high end graphing calculator isn't much in comparison to all the other costs of college either. And they can help with some of the more advanced math when you don't lug around a laptop or tablet.
  12. Feb 19, 2015 #11
  13. Feb 19, 2015 #12
    I think I disagree with this. In engineering you'll be relying on MATLAB for anything that requires any sort of in-depth computing, and a graphing calculator is overkill for doing quick computations, which is 90% of what you'll be using it for. It might be convenient to have a programmable graphing calculator, but then again, a laptop with MATLAB will do much more for you and be just as portable.

    Because of that, I have a TI-36x Pro that I use constantly while the last thing I used my TI-89 Titanium for was a Gameboy emulator. Especially given that my university has been moving towards a "calculator neutral" policy on exams (professors have no way of knowing for sure which students have access to which functions and software, and students can program them to cheat).
  14. Feb 19, 2015 #13
    In my experience mathematica and google's calculator program and even using fortran or similar programs to do quick calculations has made graphic calculators of any kind totally obsolete. With programming being what it is most languages allow you to write codes that can quickly to many calculations with one command, thereby avoiding the hassle of keeping track of what you push on a graphing calculator (I still have the scars from trying to do calculus and trig on those things). It has literally been over 6 years since I have ever pushed a single button on a graphing calculator. That said, everyone's mileage is going to vary. But if something like Mathematica, Maple or Matlab can't give you the results you need, the chances a graphing calculator will get it done are extremely slim to none even if it is the very latest make/version.
  15. Feb 19, 2015 #14


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    Even though we have resuscitated this thread I will mention that with an android phone you can download Maxima for free. It's a CAS similar to Mathematica.
    Then you also have a rom for the TI-89 from the texas instrument's website, for free too.
    If you buy a raspberry pi (35 dollars I think) 1 or 2, they offer Mathematica 10 for free.
  16. Feb 20, 2015 #15
    Portability is not a problem anymore. You can just download graph calculator apps on your ipad or you can use the desmos online graphing calculator.
    And some tablet devices are very cheap(but lack perfomance) so graphing calculators are out of date..:frown: (I have never used one).
  17. Feb 20, 2015 #16
    I want to spend just a bit for calculators: I currently use my smartphone for computations and I use a calculatore rarely, but I sometimes use it for non trivial computations as the four basic operations (apart from complex integrals or complex graphing) because:
    1) I don't have to worry about not grazing the surface of the smartphone, I hate the idea that I leave it there and something/someone grazes it and all my computations goes away
    2) The calculator battery lasts longer at the same device' portability.
    3) Sometimes the "touch" doesn't work on my smartphone or I can't touch exactly the symbol I wanted, without using a touch pen.
    4) I trust a calculator dedicated program more than a sofisticated smartphone software.

    Hoping not to be considered as a dinosaur :-)

  18. Feb 20, 2015 #17

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  19. Feb 20, 2015 #18


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    I still use mine, but mostly only for numerical calculations and a bit of graphing. I'm a physics/math double major, so I tend to use it a lot. So far I haven't had any classes that haven't allowed them. The only exception was in calculus I when we were first learning how to graph equations using calculus. The professor didn't allow us to use graphing calculators on the one exam, but he allowed them for the rest of the semester.

    The newer TI-84C has a higher resolution color display. It's a big improvement over the older TI-84. The Nspire calculators are nice, but I don't really have a need for symbolic manipulation or anything like that.
  20. Feb 21, 2015 #19
  21. Feb 21, 2015 #20
    Well i carry my calculator around a lot of places, they make trivial tasks nice, ie I don't do algebra mentally anymore because of the "solve equation" button. also it is useful to see a graph if you don't have a fancy phone.
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