I was in high school the first time I’ve seen the HP-71B. A friend of mine brought his dad’s brand new HP-71B in class during 1984. I remember how cautiously we were handling this wonder. From a price tag, the machine was definitively a Hewlett-Packard (~$600). Physically, however, this pocket computer was definitively not looking like a classic HP (just think about the HP-41). Even if the HP-75, released two years earlier, also had a horizontal orientation, we were more used to see such design form Sharp or Casio. Not HP. But what really impressed me, was the programming language: BASIC! And it was an impressive one with over 200 keywords. While it was using BASIC, HP also introduced an IEEE FP implementation for the first time. And that was impressive too. I recall reading the keywords list over and over in an advertising brochure (the only thing I could afford at that time – FYI, the technical documentation was priced over 4000 French Francs at La règle à calcul in Paris!).
So when I found one of these puppies for a reasonable price, I bought it without second thoughts. My HP-71B system is pretty basic. I have no modules (for example, I would love to have a FORTH & Assembler one), has no card reader, etc. 30 years later, I find the HP-71B really slow (in BASIC at least). The CPU is the first spin of the notorious Saturn that we all loved later on in the HP-28 & HP-48. Physically, the machine is pretty comparable to my all times favorite, the Sharp PC-1500. Comparable size, full graphic matrix LCD display (8 x 132), expandable (up to 4 modules vs. 1), etc. I shot some pics so you can enjoy it!