Readers respond to Dr. Joseph Paiva's October 2004 article on the HP48.

The End of An Era
October 2004

I'm sure every surveyor who has been working these last 25-plus years will identify with the image of a surveyor and the HP calculator. I'm also sure many will want to give you their testimonials about the calculator that they took a shine to over the years.

For myself, the sluggishness of the HP48 was always a nuisance, and for my day-to-day field work and most small jobs, I used the calculator that you didn't mention, the HP42S. That puppy, once you got it programmed, was/is (mine still lives on) very fast. No waiting around like with the 48. I do run the same programs in both calculators, and the only benefit [of] the 48 (in my opinion) other than plug-in programming was the ability to download coordinate files from the computer.

I have been hesitant to move into another calculator platform for our department, as we do have five working 48s left. But it's just a matter of time. And, as an old dog now, I had hoped to get out of the business before I had to learn a new trick. [I] guess the handwriting is on the wall, though. Thanks for the great article on what has been an adjunct to my daily life since 1978.

James Stone

Just a line to let you know [I] enjoyed your article on the HP48 era. We use the HP48 and SMI DCE card. We are saddened by its end because we found it very user-friendly. Is there another calculator that will accept and run this SMI card? If not, what do you recommend that is similar to the HP48/ SMI data collector card program, [is] user-friendly to the surveyor and will be around for a while? We are a small surveying firm out of Portsmouth, Va. (near Norfolk & Virginia Beach) that does mostly surveying and a little engineering site work.

James C. Hudson, LS

Author Joe Paiva responds:

Dear Mr. Hudson:
Thanks for writing. The editors and I do appreciate the time you took to write about your enjoyment of the article. Sadly, it is not likely that you will find another device that will read and use the HP48 card. As for similar programs, I am reluctant to recommend something, as only you will be able to tell from evaluating it whether it is optimal for you. However, you might keep in mind that TDS and Eagle Point are the developers and marketers of the products that took over from the HP48-based products. Eagle Point, you may recall, acquired SMI.

There are many data collectors on the market, and you may want to peruse POB's data collector survey. (Check if you don't have the last one from the November 2004 issue.)

The likelihood of product end-of-life, when it comes to electronic devices, is unfortunately quite short these days. The HP48, and the HP calculator line in general, was actually an exception when it came to product life. I would personally not bet on the life of any product on the market; the decision on whether to end, continue or even upgrade an electronic device is rarely pre-announced. You need to look at the manufacturer's history, but even that can only be a guide. Also, don't forget that most of the newer products (i.e. data collector software) are somewhat hardware platform-independent. This is because many of them sit on an operating system platform that is Windows-based. That is a positive point-if one hardware platform goes into oblivion, it may be that there's another one around. Good luck!

I enjoyed your article on the HP48 and agree with the comments regarding HP setting the standard for surveying calculators. I purchased an HP21 handheld in the '70s, which I understand was the first HP calculator with built-in trigometric function keys.

Ken Ramsay
via E-mail

Just read your neat article. I, too, grew up in the era of HP calculators in my surveying career and remember when my dad bought the HP35 in 1974. The HP line of calculators is not dead! The HP48 is no different than the HP41 when it was discontinued. I continue the HP legacy at Enfinger & Assoc. with the recent purchase of the HP49g+.

Bryan Enfinger
South Carolina

Joe Paiva responds:

Thanks for your comments on the article. Regarding the "deadness" of the HP line, what I was trying to say is that nobody has decided to follow the HP48 as a platform for advanced surveying data collection and other software. It is particularly apparent that HP was not interested in specifically making sure the surveying market was covered-the way they worked with developers to ensure third-party surveying products for the 41 and 48 were available. I don't own a 49, but have seen it and worked with it. I think it is a great product and tool for surveyors. I'm always glad to hear from HP fans. I still use my 41!

The Business Side
October 2004

I always try to read articles by Milton Denny; he is usually right on. I agree, land surveyor does define who we are! I am also a professional engineer, but when asked I usually tell people I am a land surveyor first!

Early in Milt's article he talks about the survey being the first step in the grand public works projects; that is the part I enjoy most-water, wastewater, streets and roads. Later Milt talks about how surveys for real estate transactions are causing problems for owners and surveyors alike. Our firm is shying away from mortgage survey work; it simply isn't worth the trouble when compared to the surveying that is related to engineering projects.

Part of the problem as I see it is that locally the custom has been that the seller pays for the survey and his interest is lowest cost. But the buyer doesn't want to pay for the survey of a property that he may not choose (or may not be approved for financing). There ought to be a better way, unfortunately I don't have it.

Long-term, it is education of realtors, mortgage companies and ourselves [that matters]! "One profession with many aspects" [Milton writes]; add educator to the list!

Kenneth Russell, PE, LS