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HP 9830

HP 9830

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The HP 9800 was a family of what were initially called programmable calculator
An electronic calculator is a small, portable, usually inexpensive electronic device used to perform the basic operations of arithmetic. Modern calculators are more portable than most computers, though most PDAs are comparable in size to handheld calculators.The first solid-state electronic...

s and later desktop computer
Desktop computer
A desktop computer is a personal computer in a form intended for regular use at a single location, as opposed to a mobile laptop or portable computer. Early desktop computers are designed to lay flat on the desk, while modern towers stand upright...

s made by Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard Company or HP is an American multinational information technology corporation headquartered in Palo Alto, California, USA that provides products, technologies, softwares, solutions and services to consumers, small- and medium-sized businesses and large enterprises, including...

, replacing their first HP 9100 calculator. The 9830 and its successors were true computers in the modern sense of the term, complete with a powerful BASIC language interpreter.


Chronologically, the models of the family were:
  • HP 9810A, a keystroke programmable computer with magnetic cards and LED display, introduced in 1971,
  • HP 9820A, introduced in 1972, featured language later named high performance language (HPL),
  • HP 9821A, similar to the HP 9820A, however, with a tape drive instead of using magnetic cards. Tapes created on the HP 9821A could be read by the HP 9830A.
  • HP 9830A, introduced in 1972, was the top of the 9800 line; having BASIC
    BASIC is a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use - the name is an acronym from Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code....

     interpreter in read-only memory
    Read-only memory
    Read-only memory is a class of storage medium used in computers and other electronic devices. Data stored in ROM cannot be modified, or can be modified only slowly or with difficulty, so it is mainly used to distribute firmware .In its strictest sense, ROM refers only...


All 98x0 and 9821 systems used the same I/O interfaces. A 400 line per minute 80-column thermal line printer
Thermal paper
Thermal paper is a special fine paper that is coated with a chemical that changes color when exposed to heat. It is used in thermal printers and particularly in inexpensive or lightweight devices such as adding machines, cash registers, and credit card terminals.The surface of the paper is coated...

 was designed to fit on top of the 9820 and 9830.

The success of the HP9830 led to a next generation with faster logic:
  • HP 9805A, the least expensive model using the same chassis as the HP46 (scientific) and HP81 (business) calculators. This was a Programmable Calculator and had plug-in personality modules.
  • HP 9815A/S, The HP 9815A was HP's third generation high end RPN desktop. It was much smaller, lighter and less expensive than its predecessor. It provided only a single line display but replaced the earlier card drives with a tape drive.
  • HP 9825A/B, featured HPL, a single-line display, and optional thermal printer,
  • HP 9831, an HP9825 with BASIC instead of HPL,
  • HP 9835, featured BASIC. There were two models, the A and B. The A had a CRT, and the B had a single-line display,
  • HP 9845 introduced first as a monochrome (9845A/S), then a high-performance monochrome (9845B/T) and a high performance color (9845C/T) model. The 9845 came with one tape drive, and optional second tape drive and 80 column wide thermal printer.

All the 98x5, with the exception of the 9805, used DC200 cartridge tapes, instead of cassette tapes. The 9825, 9831, 9835, and 9845 all used the same I/O interfaces. the 9815 had a unique I/O interface.

HPL description

In HPL instead of variables such as A1 and J2, there were numbered registers r1, r2, up to r199999. This HPL program for the HP 9825 generates a list of prime numbers:

0: fxd 0
1: prt 1
2: prt 2
3: 1→P
4: for C=2 to 1000000
5: P+2→P
6: for N=3 to P/3
7: if int(P/N)*N = P; gto 4
8: next N
9: prt P
10: next C

Another unique characteristic of HPL was the right arrow (shown with ASCII characters as -> , however it was a single character). This arrow was known as the gazinta (slang for "goes into"). The statement 1→P would be pronounced "One gazinta P".

HP 9830 description

9830s were built with a processor similar in architecture to the HP 1000/2100
HP 2100
The HP 2100 was a series of minicomputers produced by Hewlett-Packard from the mid-1960s to early 1990s. The 2100 was also a specific model in this series. The series was renamed HP 1000 by the 1970s and sold as real-time computers, complementing the more complex IT-oriented HP 3000, and would be...

 series minicomputer
A minicomputer is a class of multi-user computers that lies in the middle range of the computing spectrum, in between the largest multi-user systems and the smallest single-user systems...

 with 16-bit memory address, and an AX and BX general processor register
Processor register
In computer architecture, a processor register is a small amount of storage available as part of a CPU or other digital processor. Such registers are addressed by mechanisms other than main memory and can be accessed more quickly...

. They ran at a speed comparable to the first IBM PCs. They could draw a mesh of a 3D SIN(X)/X function with no hidden lines over the course of several minutes, a technological breakthrough for the time.

Because programs were designed to run from ROM (read only memory) the call subroutine instruction had to be changed because in the HP211x the return location was written in the first location of the subroutine. Instead, another register was created to keep track of return locations on a separate stack area, like more modern processors.

Some models (e.g. 9835B) used a 32-character 1 line uppercase LED
LEd is a TeX/LaTeX editing software working under Microsoft Windows. It is a freeware product....

 display, which on the one hand might seem limiting, but on the other hand had the same effect as one-line window into a full screen editor which did not become common until the 1980s, with controls to go up or down a line, and cursor left and right, inserting or deleting characters. They powered on ready to do math in "immediate mode", where you would type in an expression such as PRINT 2 + 3, and you would get an answer when you hit enter, without the complication of logging in, or the overhead of maintaining a big computer room and operator.

A computer controlled cassette drive using audio cassettes with clear leaders was used for storage, with random access to file by number, but a hard drive could also be attached.

The matching line thermal printer
Thermal printer
A thermal printer produces a printed image by selectively heating coated thermochromic paper, or thermal paper as it is commonly known, when the paper passes over the thermal print head. The coating turns black in the areas where it is heated, producing an image...

 was quite fast, printing one horizontal line of dots at once. The speed of a page was faster than later dot matrix printers, and not much worse than modern ink jet printers. HP incorporated thermal printers into many plotting and terminal products later.


Compared with modern computers which typically require programmers to define calculations by means of complicated programming languages, these were designed for direct algebraic entry, so as to not distract the intended users (scientists and engineers) from the task at hand. Although the processor used was only a slight adaptation from that used on HP minicomputers, the system software would be completely redesigned for a computer with its operating system and language system built into read-only memory. BASIC
BASIC is a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use - the name is an acronym from Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code....

 was similar to FORTRAN
Fortran is a general-purpose, procedural, imperative programming language that is especially suited to numeric computation and scientific computing...

 used by engineers on the HP 1000 minicomputer, but much simpler to use as an interpreted language. Arrow cursor keys were provided which could scroll up and down lines, and interactively insert or delete characters which was unheard of with most CRT or printing terminals until the advent of the screen editor in the late 1970s, and the programmer could single-step or check values of variables.

Two rows of user defined function keys with paper labels were some of the earliest implementation of general function keys. They would be the basis for later screen labeled function keys
Screen labeled function keys
Screen-labeled function keys are a special case of function keys where keys are placed near a screen, which provides labels for them. These are most commonly found in kiosk applications, such as automated teller machines and gas pumps. These were first developed by Hewlett-Packard in the 1970s...

 used in later Hewlett Packard (and IBM) terminals and computers, and now widely adopted in calculators, bank terminals, and gas pumps.

It was programmable in BASIC which could be extended with ROMs
Read-only memory
Read-only memory is a class of storage medium used in computers and other electronic devices. Data stored in ROM cannot be modified, or can be modified only slowly or with difficulty, so it is mainly used to distribute firmware .In its strictest sense, ROM refers only...

 to do graphics plotting, matrix math and string variables. The ROM cartridges were designed to extend the BASIC language, and were very similar to the cartridges later used by video game consoles.

The Plotter ROM added commands which made creating a chart much more simply that is possible with C++ or C#, and used user or world coordinates rather than integer plotter units. These commands would later become the basis for the device independent HP AGL graphics language standard implemented on other HP computers such as the HP 1000 minicomputer and HP 2647 intelligent graphics terminal.

20 SCALE -1.0, 1.0, -1.0, 1.0
30 FOR X = -1.0 TO 1.0 STEP 0.10
40 PLOT X, X*X
60 END

Also available for programming the HP 9800 series was a bootable development environment based on UCSD Pascal, but with a compiler which would generate fast, native Motorola 68000 object code, instead of the slower p-code typical of most UCSD Pascal implementations. This performance was very valuable for scientific and technical programming applications.


HP 9830s were commonly employed at aerospace companies such as Boeing
The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace and defense corporation, founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has expanded over the years, merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing Corporate headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois since 2001...

. They were also used by some schools such as Renton, Washington
Renton, Washington
Renton is an Eastside edge city in King County, Washington, United States. Situated 11 miles southeast of Seattle, Washington, Renton straddles the southeast shore of Lake Washington. Founded in the 1860s, Renton became a supply town for the Newcastle coal fields...

, which used pencil mark-sense cards with card readers to accommodate classroom use. The U.S. Coast Guard devised a teletype message-forwarding system based on 9825As which were deployed as a working prototype for a subsequent purpose-built system, and also used them in the coordination of LORAN radionavigation transmitter chains. HP9825s were used in conjunction with Oscor software to score one design yachting regattas in remote locations, such as the 1976 World Fireball championships in Nova Scotia, the World Windsurfing
Windsurfing or sailboarding is a surface water sport that combines elements of surfing and sailing. It consists of a board usually two to four metres long, powered by the orthogonal effect of the wind on a sail. The rig is connected to the board by a free-rotating universal joint and comprises a...

 championships in 1976/1977 in Cancún and Bahamas, and also Laser championships. The HP9825 was selected because it was portable - the only alternatives were phone access to time sharing computers which was not reliable from these locations.

Other BASIC computers

The Data Terminals Division also produced a BASIC programmable version of the HP2640 series terminal, the HP 2647a which also featured AGL, which was an HP standardization of the HP 9830 plotter commands. The HP 2647 BASIC was basically Microsoft BASIC with HP 9830-style plotting commands added, and was one of Microsoft's first big contracts with a mainstream major computer company. HP also produced a series of handheld pocket computers with a one-line display such as the HP-75, though such devices were not popular for long. The HP 9835 was also used as the basis for a business computing system, and later the HP 250
HP 250
The HP 250 was a multiuser business computer by Hewlett Packard running HP250 BASIC language as its OS with access to HP's IMAGE database management. It was produced by the General Systems Division , but was a major repackaging of desktop workstation HP 9835 which had been sold in small business...

 which lives on as an application platform.

In 1979 the 85, the first of the 80 series of personal desktop scientific computers, was produced. It had a powerful BASIC interpreter, and was affordable by individuals whose employers might have expensive 9845s.

That division evolved to produce UNIX
Unix is a multitasking, multi-user computer operating system originally developed in 1969 by a group of AT&T employees at Bell Labs, including Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, Douglas McIlroy, and Joe Ossanna...

 HP 9000
HP 9000
HP 9000 is the name for a line of workstation and server computer systems produced by the Hewlett-Packard Company . The native operating system for almost all HP 9000 systems is HP-UX, a derivative of Unix. The HP 9000 brand was introduced in 1984 to encompass several existing technical...

 series workstations, also acquiring the Apollo Computer Company
Apollo Computer
Apollo Computer, Inc., founded 1980 in Chelmsford, Massachusetts by William Poduska and others, developed and produced Apollo/Domain workstations in the 1980s. Along with Symbolics and Sun Microsystems, Apollo was one of the first vendors of graphical workstations in the 1980s...

. HP Basic would later evolve into Rocky Mountain BASIC
Rocky Mountain BASIC
Rocky Mountain BASIC is a dialect of the BASIC programming language created by Hewlett-Packard. It was especially popular for control of automatic test equipment using GPIB...

 for workstations, which is still in use today to support legacy applications.

An ancestor of modern personal computers

The HP 9800 series were developed by HP's Loveland
Loveland, Colorado
Loveland is a Home Rule Municipality that is the second most populous city in Larimer County, Colorado, United States. Loveland is situated north of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. Loveland is the 14th most populous city in Colorado. The United States Census Bureau that in 2010 the...

 division (Calculator Products Division), and later Fort Collins
Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins is a Home Rule Municipality situated on the Cache La Poudre River along the Colorado Front Range, and is the county seat and most populous city of Larimer County, Colorado, United States. Fort Collins is located north of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. With a 2010 census...

 division (Desktop Computer Division). Early desktop computers were marketed as "Calculators" to make purchasing easier. At the time, some companies had different procedures for purchasing "Computers".

They spawned development of HP series 80, namely HP 85 and HP 87, that were smaller BASIC language computers with CRT displays. They came from HP's Advanced Products Division based in Corvallis
Corvallis, Oregon
Corvallis is a city located in central western Oregon, United States. It is the county seat of Benton County and the principal city of the Corvallis, Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Benton County. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 54,462....


The HP 9800 series later gave rise to the class of desktop computers, including the Tektronix 4051, IBM 5100
IBM 5100
The IBM 5100 Portable Computer was a portable computer introduced in September 1975, six years before the IBM PC. It was the evolution of a prototype called the SCAMP that was developed at the IBM Palo Alto Scientific Center in 1973. In January 1978 IBM announced the IBM 5110, its larger cousin,...

 and Wang 2200
Wang 2200
Wang 2200, appeared in May 1973, was Wang Laboratories' first minicomputer that could perform data processing in a common computer language. Unlike some other desktop computers, such as the HP 9830, it had a cathode ray tube in a cabinet that also included an integrated computer controlled...

. Over time, they would be replaced in the marketplace by personal computer
Personal computer
A personal computer is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator...

s such as the Apple and IBM PC which were inspired by this first generation of desktop computers. They would be created from standard microcomputer components and became favored by household and office uses.

By the 21st century, Hewlett Packard would become the largest producer of personal computers. Today, most households and offices have a desktop or portable computers with an integrated keyboard and display attached to high speed printers with communication capabilities.

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