Saturday, September 27, 2014

HHC 2014 Conference - To Reno and Back!

Hello everyone!

Me and many of my close friends!

This is a summary of the HHC 2014 that took place in Reno, Nevada from September 20 to September 21, 2014.  HHC stands for HP Handheld Conference, which one takes place around the third weekend of September.  If you get a chance - GO!  The cost of the conference is reasonably low and often you get a special rate at the hotel.  

The website for this year's conference is here:

I have been attending HHCs for four years straight, and have been to six overall since 2003.

Getting There

I drove from Azusa, CA, where I live, to Reno, NV.  I honestly did not want to fly and deal with TSA security.  Also, I have never been to Bishop, let alone through the Eastern Sierras before. Driving there presented the perfect opportunity to do so.  I drove on U.S. Highway 395, starts in Hesperia, CA.    The route is in three sections:  (1) never ending high desert where small towns pop up on the side of the road every now and then, (2) the eastern valley of the Sierras where each patch of civilization is marked with trees - and in those towns Route 395 became "Main Street" where we had to drive at slow speeds such as 30 MPH, and (3) once I got north of Bishop, a drive through the mountains.  Including quiche and coffee at the Black Sheep Coffee Shop in Bishop and several short pit stops, it took me 11 hours to my destination.  

Welcome to Nevada!


I will give a summary of each of the talks here, accompanied by a YouTube video produced by  The website is run by Eric Rechlin.  I am under a non-disclosure agreement, which means that I will not be able to discuss certain details of the conference due to confidentiality.

DAY 1 - September 20, 2014

A fun tradition is that the attendees sign a box lid.  Bill Butler collects the signatures.  Also, we also go to dinner and just enjoy each other's company. 

On with the presentations!

Namir Shammas - Bisection Plus Algorithms, Remembering Jack Stout


Shammas describes methods of improving and speeding up the bisection method.  In general, the "bisection-plus" method involves additional analysis per loop to refine subsequent guesses, while retaining the guarantee the root will be found.  The function to be solved is assumed to be continuous.

Jack Stout was a longtime coordinator of CHIP, which was a sponsor of a lot of HP Handheld conferences in years past.  Stout passed away on July 30, 2014.  More information of Stout can be found here:

Bob Prosperi - Virtual Loops, PILs, LIFs; An Update on HP-IL


What is HP-IL?  The HP-IL is a 1980's communication device that allowed Hewlett Packard calculators and printers to "talk" to each other.  This is before the USB ports.  Some calculators that communicated with the HP-IL include the HP 41 series (41C, 41CV), HP 71B, and HP 75.  The HP-IL also services HP mini-desktop models 80, 110, and 150.  

A LIF file (pronounced "lif" or "life") is a 1980's version of the zip file. 

One can imagine that it is difficult for the 1980's HP calculators and desktops to talk to other devices because of connections. Here Propseri presents a PIL-Box, which was invented in 2009.  The PIL-Box is a unit that connects the HP-IL cable and a USB cable that allows users to connect the 1980's calculators directly to a computer with a USB port.  Propseri comments that the HP-IL cable is a challenge to find.  This something that fans and enthusiasts of the 41C, 71B, and 75 may want to look into. 

Richard Nelson - Solving sans Computer, Calculator, or Slide Rule


What do you do when you are not able to use a calculator, computer, or a slide rule to execute mathematical calculations?  Nelson, who states that he has an efficiency gene (and I disagree with him, I don't think that's a deficient gene), uses nomograph to solve math problems.  Basically, a monograph, also known as nomograms, consists of scales, which include linear and non-linear, that aid in solving math problems.  Just pick the scale that represents your input, line up your ruler or draw a line in the required way, and you get your output.  There are many kinds of nomographs, and they are still used in the medical field, piloting, and engineering.  This is one of my most favorite topics of the conference.

You can see some examples of Nomographs (Nonograms) on this Wikipedia article:

A Google image search will also provide examples.

Geoff Quickfall - Cloud fed: Sprinkle and Strew


Quickfall describes his 1984 thesis paper, and how he used his HP 41C in his project.  

Jake Schwartz - Calculator Odds and Ends


Odds:  Over the last few conferences, Schwartz and several others including Jackie Woldering, thousands of HP calculator documents, which every attendant received as part of the conference materials.  The updated the HPCC Datafile Index for Volumes 1-6 (from 1982 to 1987) which primarily covers articles of HP 41 including programs.  I could easily spend days going through all the material provided - special thanks to Schwartz, Woldering, and crew for putting this together!  

If you would like to get DVD for yourself, please visit to order a DVD.  

Ends:  The WP 31S, which operates on a re purposed HP 20b and HP 30b calculator.  The WP 31S is a scientific calculator It is a two-line alphanumeric display which runs quickly.  The WP-31S is has an RPN, non-programmable calculator based on the popular WP-34S calculator (Walter Bonin, Paul Dale, Marcus von Cube).  The WP 31S software was developed by Sanjeev Visvanatha and Jonathan Cameron. 

Some features of the WP 31S include:

  • RPN with a 4-level or 8-level stack
  • Fraction Conversion
  • Distributions 
  • 23 memory registers
  • An extensive library of physical constants and conversions

To get either a WP 31S or WP 34S complete, you can order one from this website:   Supplies may be limited because HP stopped manufacturing the HP 20b and 30b, the bases on which these calculators run.

David Ramsey - Something, Something, Something Dark Side


Ramsey brought his HP 9810 and HP 9820 to the conference.  They are huge, desktop calculators, which are definitely collector's items.  In this presentation, Ramsey shows the internal components of the HP 9810 and 9820, which include five memory cards, CPU unit, two single card controllers for the printer, and power supply.  The five memory cards, each the size of a large handheld, act like a kit which was sent back to Hewlett Packard should any problems occur.  Specifically, each of the memory cards each had a different function:

(1)  51 memory registers
(2)  Memory Subsystem with an Intel 1103 DRAM
(3)  Control "Ass'y" - not many details are known about the "Ass'y"
(4)  A board dedicated to an independent "M" register
(5)  A board dedicated to an independent "T" register

The main differences between the HP 9810 and HP 9820 are:

  • The HP 9810 is an RPN calculator with a 3 level stack.  The weirdest thing with the stack is that binary operations (sin, cos, e^x, etc..) returned results to the Y stack, not the X stack. There is no stack lift or drop when operations are completed.  
  • The HP 9820 runs on an algebraic operating system.
  •  Both are programmable.  The 9820 had a more expansive set of programming commands than the 9810.  Also, the 9820 had a nicer program interface.

Namir Shammas - Trisection Algorithms


If the Bisection algorithm isn't enough for finding roots to functions, consider a Trisection algorithm.  Simply put, a Trisection algorithm divides the given interval into three parts and decides which sub-interval should be used to generate the next guess.  Using test functions, Shammas shows that the Trisection and Trisection Plus methods are faster than Bisection method, and on par with the Newton's Method.

More details of Shammas' Trisection Method can be found here:

Eric Smith - Scaled Reptiles from (Silicon) Laboratories

Smith makes RPN calculators from scratch, and has wonderful prototypes that he showed the group.  One case is made of Mylar and the other is made with a 3-D printer.  The calculator operates Free42 or HP-41C emulator software, both the software is made from third parties.  You really need to see this video to see the prototypes look like; and if you come to a HHC conference, you get a chance to test one out for yourself.

Joe Horn - Hailstone Numbers:  A Pattern Has Been Found

Based on the Ulam Conjecture (also known as the Collatz Conjecture), which states:  

You have an integer n.  

If n is odd, multiply n by 3 and add 1.  If n is even, divide n by 2.  Eventually, we will reach 1.  
While Ulam's Conjecture has not been proven, each positive integer tested from 1 to integers that of billions, reached 1 without a counter-example.  

According to Horn, the reason while such integers are called Hailstone numbers, is that during the sequence, the number reaches a height (or several heights) after repeated iterations, and eventually "falls" down to 1.

Horn describes a modified sequence as such, known as the Syracuse Algorithm:

Let x be a positive integer.  Let n be the original integer.  At first, x = n.  For each iteration:
If x is odd, x = (3x + 1)/2
If x is even, x = x/2
If x < n, stop.  Else, repeat the odd vs. even test.

Example:  n = 5
x = (3 * 5 + 1)/2 = 8 (even, 8 > 5, next iteration)
x = 8/2 = 4  (4 < 5, stop)
Pattern:  odd, even

Horn noticed a pattern of how the number is even or odd after each iteration.  For example, for positive integers of the form 5 + 4k will have such pattern odd, even.  You will get x below n in two steps.

n = 5 + 4 * 2 = 13  (odd)
x = (3 * 13 + 1)/ 2 = 20 (even)
x = 20 / 2 = 10 (10 < 13, stop)

n = 5 + 4 * 67 = 273 (odd)
x = (3 * 273 + 1)/2 = 410  (even)
x = 410/2 = 205 (205 < 273, stop)

Horn describes additional patterns.

Joe Horn - The Online-LIF Disc Project

Horn converted all the LIF discs that contain programs for the HP 71B, 75, and 41C; and converted them to LIF files, which can be downloaded to the calculator by using the ILPer software.  Also, this web page, put together by Horn, contains text files of many programs of various files coming from swap disks.  Swap disks were traded by HP enthusiasts during the 1980s and 1990s.  All the files are here:  

Geoff Quickfall - HP 41 Card Wheel Replacement

This is a (incomplete) demo of how a card wheel of a card reader accessory of the HP 41C is replaced.  It gets humorous.  The repair was finished after this video ended, and did not include the moment where half of us were looking for a black part that was thought to be dropped.  It turned out that the part flew in Geoff's case in front the of 41C.  I am happy to report that the 41C's card reader was repaired.   

Geoff Quickfall really knows his calculators, inside and out. 

The first day started at 7:30 AM for registration and it goes all the way to 10:00 PM at night (including lunch and dinner).  No one cared about the time since we all had such fun discussing math, calculators, and being among friends.  Basically the first day ends when we have to drag ourselves to bed!  No joke.

DAY 2 - September 21, 2014

The second day's session started at 10:00 AM.  We started with a Q&A session.  Again, I am under a non-disclosure agreement, therefore there are certain details I cannot disclose.  

Continuing on with the presentations:

Namir Shammas - HP 41C Regression Program Generator - A Surprise

Shammas takes his knowledge and programming skill to the next level.  Here Shammas demonstrates his multiple linear regression for the 41C and an Excel Spreadsheet (found here - see the MLR Coding link:,%2011,%2012,%20Namir%20Shammas/)  where 11 different regression models are calculated, which include:

  • Linear Regression for 1, 2, or 3 variables
  • Power Fit for 1, 2, or 3 variables
  • y^p = a + b*x^q
  • z^p = a + b*x^q + c*y^r
  • t^p + a + b*x^q + c*y^r + d*z^w
  • Polynomial Regressions of Orders 2 and 3
Eric Rechlin - General Projects Update

Rechlin gives updates regarding his website,, the sales of WP 34s and WP 31s, and the HP 16C calculator.  The HP 16C is a programming specialist calculator, where the focus is on integer arithmetic, manipulation of bits, and Boolean algebra.  

Richard Schwartz - Book Binding 2.0

If you want an affordable and reliable way to bind books and how to set up UFO shots, see this video. Schwartz also tells how he gets through the actuarial exam with the TI-30XS Multiview and shows why Six Sigma does not always describe reality.

Benoit Maag - RPN-1200

Maag, who was attending his first HHC conference, was invited to demonstrate his TI-1200-turned-RPN scientific calculator.  What he is able to do with very limited keys is amazing.

Joe Horn - Programming the Same Task:  HP 41C, HP 71B, HP 50g, HP Prime

A short presentation of how the methods of programming the HP calculators have varied throughout the years.  This is also one of my favorite talks.

Bob Prosperi - HHC Ebay Topics

This discussion covers the pros and cons of buying calculators through the ebay website. So ebay evil or awesome?

Personally, I tend to primarily shop other websites such as Amazon and  Most of all, my favorite way of looking for older calculators is to shop pawn shops and swap meets.  

We get to the door prizes - and they are good.  Prizes are separated into the two categories: premium and regular.  Winners of programming contests and whoever is voted Best Speaker get first choice of the regular prizes.  After that, everyone gets tickets which are drawn at random.

Even the regular door prizes, which are donated by the attendees, are really good.  Usually, all attendees get at least two regular door prizes.  This year, most got three. 

The premium prizes are held for last and every attendee has a shot at them.  The premium prize include two HP Primes, one HP 41-CV, one SwissMicros running HP 15C operating system, an HP 15C+ prototype, and two HP-71B calculators.  What is unique about SwissMicros is that their calculators are credit card size.  

I donated an HP Prime, which became a premium prize.  It will become a door prize for a future conference in the UK.  Thank you Geoff Quickfall as I know the HP Prime will find a very good home.  I also donated a small Casio fx-78, and I do not know who got it.  The three regular prizes I got was an HP 33E (special thanks to David Hayden!) and two much needed calculator cases (thanks Bob Patton!). 

You can see my retro blog post of the HP 33E here:  Yes, I plan (hope) to talk about more about the 33E in the future.

The Trip Home

On Monday morning, I left the hotel about 5:00 AM on the way home on U.S. 395, stopping by in Bishop, Lone Pine, and Boron along the way.  Weather ranged from freezing cold (as low as 30°F) to super hot (90°).  I did not hit me how fast the weekend went until I was back at work the next Tuesday.

If you get a chance to attend an HHC, do it!  


This blog is property of Edward Shore.  2014

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