Trends in calculator interfaces

In summary, the trend in commonly available cheap scientific calculators is that when you want to calculate a function like sin( sqrt(2)/5) , the most convenient thing to do is press the sin() key first.
  • #1
Stephen Tashi
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The trend in commoly available cheap scientific calculators is that when you want to calculate a function like sin( sqrt(2)/5) , the most convenient thing to do is press the sin() key first.

Twenty years ago (or less) when using the "algebraic" calculator interface (on some fairly expensive calculators), the most convenient thing to do was to work out sqrt(2)/5 first and then press the sin() key. That style interface was useful if you did rough estimates of the work as you progressed. You could mentally check if sqrt(2) looked correct, then check if dividing by 5 looked correct and if you were good at trig you might see if the sin() looked right. If you weren't good at trig you could trust your manual dexterity to press the sin() key instead of something else.

I think the modern trend is to check the visual appearance of the formula on the display. So you check if the display is showing a formula that is correct instead of checking that the stages in the calculation make sense numerically. People who do computer programming or even just spreadsheet programming develop skill at checking the visual appearance of formulas.

Perhaps better displays and more people who can check formulas explains the modern trend in calculator interfaces.

I'm curious whether any of the expensive Texas Instrument calculators have an option to change the interface to the old fashioned style - if they no longer use that style as the default.
 
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  • #2
Calculators seem stuck in the dark ages, to be honest. I blame the stranglehold TI has on school purchases and textbook writers.

You shouldn't need a big clunky calculator just to be able to see formulas in mathematical notation, graph functions, do symbolic manipulation, limits, calculus, etc.

I have a complete version of Maxima installed on my cellphone (look up "Maxima on Android"). I don't even know how to use Maxima, it's mostly for novelty :P. I'm much more comfortable in Mathematica (who have not, to my knowledge, produced an Android version).

Such a system is much too complex for most high school math students' needs. Not to mention, high-end smartphones are quite a bit more expensive than TI calculators (although they are still selling the ancient TI-83 Plus for $100, lol...highway robbery). My point is that it is clearly possible to make a sophisticated graphing calculator in the form factor of a smartphone. And I think if the device only has to be a calculator (and not a phone, etc.), then it could probably be sold at a price point similar to current TI calculators.

But they don't want to design such a device. Totally new designs are expensive; iterative designs are less so. And why take a risk when you have school districts across the country buying even your horribly out-of-date designs in bulk?

I have just learned that TI does make a graphing calculator app...but only for iPads (which cost 4-8 times as much as TI calculators to begin with).
 
  • #3
Are you thinking of RPN vs Algebraic?

Some calculators support that mode still? It eliminates parentheses.
 
  • #4
Ben Niehoff said:
And I think if the device only has to be a calculator (and not a phone, etc.), then it could probably be sold at a price point similar to current TI calculators.

I don't think the cost of a smartphone is driven by the phone features. I think the sort of price point we would be talking about would be of order what an iPod Touch costs, or $200.
 
  • #5
Vanadium 50 said:
I don't think the cost of a smartphone is driven by the phone features. I think the sort of price point we would be talking about would be of order what an iPod Touch costs, or $200.

But the iPod Touch, being an Apple product, is certainly priced higher than "necessary". And the fanciest TI calculators currently available go for about $170.

By "phone features" I meant several pieces of hardware, such as the cellular and wifi radios, that take up valuable circuit board space. A calculator also wouldn't need the iPod Touch's hard drive (or flash memory, or whatever they're using these days).

But I do agree I'm not necessarily good at estimating price points, especially without knowing what the actual bottleneck is in the production process. I seem to recall that the touchscreen itself is a fairly expensive part.
 
  • #6
I wouldn't want a small touch device as a calculator. Even if the size of the touch device is large (tablet), and the buttons as large as in calculators; I still want the tactile feedback. Maybe, this just my legacy holding me back; like when the time full-touch smartphones were damned for not having physical keyboards; but now everybody seems comfortable with touch.

To the OP: I think you are looking for an RPN calculator, which is usually supported only by HP. See https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000GTPRPS/?tag=pfamazon01-20

My favorite is this, and it has algebraic input.
51oftzW9i-L._AA160_.jpg

For anything this calculator can't do, I prefer using Mathematica in my laptop.
 
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  • #7
What if you didn't need buttons? I have an app on my phone (called "MyScript Calculator") that takes your handwriting as input. You write out something like

$$\sqrt[3]{\frac{6!}{23}- \sin (e^{3\pi})} = 3.119\ldots$$
and it gives you the numerical result (it fills in the = sign and puts the number after it...I did this example just now). It dynamically rescales things as you're writing, so you can fit all of that in. It has pretty limited functionality (pretty much everything that appears in that formula, and logs), and only shows 3 digits after the decimal point. But it is a great proof of concept. Imagine if you could couple such an input system to a full-blown CAS!

I use it for very simple calculations if I just want to know some numerical result. For most such calculations, it's much faster than punching buttons on a normal calculator.
 
  • #8
Maybe the BA-35 may offer that option.

There are at least 3 algebraic versions of calculator input. The first was simple chain logic ie the calculator worked on the numbers as you entered them ie no precedence:
1+2*3=9

Next came AOS which is what the first generation of scientific Texas Instrument calculators used.
1+2*3=7
and your trig example would be 2, sqrt, /, 5, sine= ###
This is still how the cheapest Ti 30xa still works and costs $10 and is pretty well built.

Now EOS or VPAM is currently the new calculator algebraic entry. I think all graphing calculator and most calculators with a pixel display use this type of algebraic form. Basically you enter the equation in the same order as the textbook. Often these types of calculators are very particular about parenthesis as would be expected. You need to see the function is equal to the printed form.

There are subtle nuances to EOS vs VPAM used by earlier Casios which give precedence to implied multiplication (something I personally feel is best), but this type of reasoning is now considered wrong and all multiplication and division is now operated on in a left to right manner.
 
  • #9
Another unique calculator app is pi-cubed on ipad

 
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Related to Trends in calculator interfaces

1. What are some current trends in calculator interfaces?

Some current trends in calculator interfaces include the use of touchscreen technology, more user-friendly designs with larger buttons and clearer labels, and the incorporation of advanced functions and features such as graphing and unit conversions.

2. How are calculator interfaces adapting to modern technology?

Calculator interfaces are adapting to modern technology by incorporating touchscreens, wireless connectivity, and compatibility with mobile devices. They are also becoming more intuitive and user-friendly, with improved graphics and the ability to save and share calculations.

3. Are traditional button-based interfaces still popular?

While touchscreen interfaces are gaining popularity, traditional button-based interfaces are still widely used and preferred by many users. They offer a tactile experience and are often faster and more accurate for inputting numbers and performing calculations.

4. What impact do trends in calculator interfaces have on user experience?

Trends in calculator interfaces have a significant impact on user experience. They can make calculations easier and more efficient, reduce errors, and provide additional features and functions that enhance the overall user experience. However, overly complex interfaces or unfamiliar designs can also make it more difficult for users to perform basic calculations.

5. How do calculator interfaces vary across different devices?

Calculator interfaces can vary significantly across different devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. This is due to differences in screen size, input methods, and available features. However, many interfaces are designed to be responsive and adapt to different devices, providing a consistent user experience across platforms.

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