image: 12c Platinum
HP's new 12c Platinum financial calculator can perform 130 functions once you learn how to operate its 39 multi-function keys.

Before there were Palms, Pocket PCs, Psions or even Sharp Wizards, there were calculators. Not big mechanical adding machines, but portable models made by Hewlett-Packard that everyone from grade schoolers to college students to working professionals used. I’m happy to report they’ve never really gone away. In fact, they’re getting better.

InsertArt(1914401)Yes, Hewlett-Packard still makes calculators: scientific, financial, graphing, you name it. And the company’s latest model, the H-P 12c Platinum financial, is simply amazing.

The Platinum is the latest version of the 12c financial calculator, which was first introduced in 1981 and, according to H-P, is the company’s best-seller. The calculator is designed for people who need to perform heavy-duty calculations in real estate, banking and finance. According to H-P, the new 12c can easily calculate loan and mortgage payments, convert interest rates, figure bond prices and yields and a whole lot more.

All that power comes in a mere wisp of a handheld: at 5 by 3.1 by 0.6 inches the Platinum weighs in at 3.9 ounces. The processor inside the calculator is an H-P SPLB20D2; the exact amount of memory is not stated, although the brochure claims its “four times” as much as earlier models. The LCD display is only one line and 10-digits long, but this is just fine for a financial calculator. The calculator runs on one CR2032 button battery which, if you use your 12c an hour a day, is said to last 3 years.

Suggested retail price is $104.99.

Without getting into minute detail (the user manuals run 218 pages) the Platinum is the first of H-P’s financial designs to include two new modes: ALG (Algebraic) and RPN (Reverse Polish Notation, a way of writing mathematical expressions without using parentheses and brackets) in addition to financial, statistic and PRGM (Programming) modes. And as for programming, the new 12c allows you to enter a series of up to 400 steps/keystrokes in memory, then execute them with the push of a button.

Among the 130 functions the Platinum can help with are: TVM (loans, savings and leasing), amortization, bond prices and yield to maturity, cumulative statistical analysis, standard deviation (mean and weighted mean), linear regression, forecasting, correlation coefficient, etc. If any of these things sound vaguely familiar to you, then the 12c Platinum should be right up your alley.

I’ve been playing with a Platinum for a few weeks now, and I can tell you that it really does work exactly as promised. Not that I usually do anything that really requires a Platinum; for my tests, I followed some of the examples on the back of the device and in the problem solving guide. I’ve used the calculator to determine exactly how many days I’ve been alive (too large a number to be publicly revealed) and also to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Yes, it can still do that, too!

The 12c Platinum is the latest in a long line of H-P calculators that people buy and use — and the precursors to H-P’s 95lx and 100lx line of DOS-based handheld computers — the forerunners of today’s PDAs. It’s great to see that H-P is not only still producing these little handheld calculators, but actually updating and improving them as well.

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