I had the chance to have an early test drive of the HP-48SX during the late 1990. I was a young freelance journalist at the time – really just a lucky guy who met a cool guy few years earlier when my press adventures started –, and I recall the chief editor telling me: “coco: stop by xxx [a well-known Parisian HP dealer], pick-up this new graphing calculator they just received and write us a page or two”. I really enjoyed the 28 families, so this was a cool mission. I remember writing a dozen pages… To my surprise, the magazine published the entire thing! What I remember about the 48SX is that it was a real step-up compared to the 28. Sure, I disliked the orientation and keyboard and its layout – the 28’s folding keyboard was a blast –, but in the end, it turned out to be one of my most used and cherished graphing calculators. It was a great tool to do the math and computer science.
What the 48 really brought to the table was its expandability (two card slots), as well as a much better I/O (serial/Kermit). Even though it cost you an arm, you could substantially boost the memory of the machine. This was great because I was working on a 3D modeling and rendering application (following-up on my movie-making experience acquired with the 28). The HPs were really good at matrix operations and even if the screen was B&W (at least during the early days) it was cool to flyby 3D objects you just created out of polar equations. The only thing was that of course, it took the night to make 60 frames (so the “just” is an outrageous exaggeration)! Over the years, I really learned to appreciate my 48 and it became my go-to machine for anything about math or computing. My only real complaint was the keyboard, which had a membrane that after few years of use could shift and make a horrible crispy sound each time a key was depressed. It disappeared and came back occasionally. I had multiple 48SX, and all of them had this problem. A minor issue at the end of the day. The 48SX was the last great HP graphing calculator I had. All the follow-ups disappointed me. Even though, I acquired – and still, do – every new model. So when I write my disappointment, it is real. When the Prime came out, I had high hopes – but kept my expectations reasonable (this must be what we call maturity). And I was not disappointed in my disappointment. What really killed my mojo with the Prime was that it is not an RPL machine at its core. Nonetheless, I could not resist sharing the family picture of my graphing HP calculators. Enjoy!