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Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

Posted May 18, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: desmos graphing calculator

I recall that during my high school days, buying a graphing calculator was a rite of passage for incoming freshmen that sort of legitimized the whole “moving up from middle school” experience. I remember them being bulky and pricy, and compared to the basic calculators used in pre-algebra they had huge screens and tons of buttons. Plus, depending on who you knew, you could unlock Tetris or plot scandalous pictures on your axes.

Graphing calculators have barely changed since their introduction in the mid-1980s. They still rely on outdated tech that’s decades behind mid-range smartphones, and they still run about $120, the same price my parents were forced to shell out in 1999. While the first ones were developed by Casio and HP, Texas Instruments has pretty much dominated the field for over 25 years. But like most static technologies, there’s now an app to replace the bulk and cost of a graphing calculator.

Launched in 2011, tech startup Desmos has developed a free graphing calculator program usable on any smartphone, tablet or computer. According to Bloomberg, every month Desmos sees 300,000 hours of use by students in 146 countries. Desmos’s app is free for student use, and the company derives its revenue from commercial partnerships with educational company Pearson and Smarter Balanced, a standardized test consortium.

Desmos founder Eli Luberoff has implied that he had two goals in developing the app: to bring graphing calculator tech up to date after decades of stagnation, and to level the playing field and valiantly provide for those unable to shell out the $100 to purchase one. If the app or similar ones catch on, though, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to imagine the financial burden shifting to schools, who might be obligated to provide each student with a device to host the app. This might become necessary because a major issue with using a personal device on any test is potential cheating using a smartphone’s internet functions, although these could be locked somehow. But Desmos believes that as tests move to an online format, their app could follow and seamlessly integrate with the test itself.

Desmos’s app is breaking new ground, so it remains to be seen whether the clunky but simple graphing calculators will stick around. As of right now, it’s free, portable, and kind of fun to play around with.

Image credit: Kulmalukko / CC BY-SA 3.0

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#1

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 12:05 PM

Where was this app back when I was paying $395.00 for an HP45(?), with 4 registers and ten (count'em...) ten whole storage addresses...

(Oh, wait, that was back in the early '80's, and this is an internet app, and the Internet didn't emerge for (general public consumption) until after the late '90's (?)..., Never mind...)

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 1:46 PM

Actually, I got through engineering school with a slide rule strapped to my belt (late 60's).

I remember the first HP pocket calculator I ever saw. I was truly amazed and wanted one with a passion. I did finally spring for a TI when it came out for about 160 bucks after I consulted an older colleague who assured me that the prices for scientific calculators would probably bottom out at about $100.

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#4
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 2:32 PM

After over 20 years my calculator I used in college final puked out.

Not having one with me, made me feel,..... naked.

So I bought a new TI,... worse thing I ever did. The numbers were small, and I thought the contrast sucked.... I couldn't adjust it darker. What a disappointment.

I got an app for my iPad... called SymCalc HD. I love it.

Its been on all my iPads since.

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#5
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 2:38 PM

Interesting. My TI calculator shite the bed an hour before a Physics final, so I rushed over to the campus bookshop and bought an HP 33e. They didn't sell TI calculators. The HP's RPN (vs TI's algebraic) was so easy to learn that I had no trouble using the calculator on the test. I really liked those HP calculators.

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#6
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 2:44 PM

I loved the HP, when I was in college in the 80's, I couldn't afford them. When through (2) of them, a Radio Shack... (one of my friend broke it horsing)

And then a Sharp Graphing Calculator,... I like her alot,... I named her Betty....

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#7
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 4:55 PM

...hmmmm, I see, and did you have any sort of (mathematical relations) with ''Betty'' ?...

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#9
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 6:48 PM

Well, we did spend an awful lot of time together, but we were just good friends.

one time, I was running late for work, picked her up as I rushed out the door. And when I got to work, I found out, what I pick up was not Betty, but the tv remote, that's when I first realize how much she meant to me.

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#10
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 6:55 PM

That's not the story I heard

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#12
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 8:08 PM

Boop boop ba doop!...

Now that my ((rasberry geritol?) has worn off a little bit, I still remember marching some dozen blocks downtown (to Conroy-Lapointe...) to plunk down my preciously hoarded $400 for an HP35 in mid-74-ish... The sales person told me it was on-sale for (only? ) $295, thereby saving me a whopping $100. And, to a struggling student like me, that was a lot potential savings... But with only one memory, and relatively few math functions, I chose to bite-the-bullet, financially speaking, and get the HP45, still regretting that I just couldn't get the programmable HP65... The pain! The pain!...

What I did buy in the early 80's was an ''Apple II +'' desktop computer, maxing out all two of my credit cards... The good news is that it still(!) fires up. The bad news is that the (5") floppy disk drive has siezed-up... Oh, woe is me... It still has sentimental value, though...

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#16
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/19/2017 11:06 PM

I just may still have an Apple II 5 1/4" floppy drive or two out in the garage. Want me to look?

I definitely still have an Apple IIe and a few Apple II floppy disks out there; at the moment I have no idea what's on them...

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#27
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 12:12 PM

Thanks, I appreciate the offer, but my ''floppies'' from that era have lost too much of their (magnetic contents) to still work on a fully functioning floppy drive...

I doubt that they could still be copied on to CD or a DVD. Maybe yours still can...

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#39
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/23/2017 3:38 PM

Actually, I'm not sure I still have a monitor that can display the Apple II image. I do have an AIIe out there.

I did fairly recently look at an early (≈'85) Mac 3.5" floppy disk, and its data was entirely intact. I was able to read it on my old PowerBook 145. I have NOT tried any 5.25" disks for several years, but the last time I did try, there was no problem, with a good disk drive.

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#13
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/19/2017 7:03 AM

Julia,... What are you doing here?

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#19
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/21/2017 1:47 AM

"Mandelbrot me."

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#31
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 12:56 PM

... and, just who is this ''Julia''?...

... does ''Betty'' know about her ?...

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#32
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 1:21 PM

Who do you think you are?,... Captain Kirk?

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#33
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 1:39 PM

Not yet...

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#36
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 1:51 PM

just so you know, word has it that Captain Kirk has a antibiotic resistance alien STD so,.... just say no

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#34
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 1:43 PM

Captain Picard had one kid. Kirk? Millions - and half of them were green. The reason?

Hair.

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#37
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/23/2017 12:30 PM

... but, that's why it's (good to be the Captain)...

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#38
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/23/2017 1:31 PM

or maybe Picard shouldn't be molesting day old alien bread with active yeast?

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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/25/2017 5:18 PM

...Are you, then, personally rcommending day old alien bread with inactive yeast?...

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#3

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 2:29 PM

Gosh, after reading this article, one would think this was the first-ever graphing calculator available for portable devices. The only new thing it's doing is tying into standardised tests, but graphing-calculator apps have been available for years. Conventional graphing apps for computers have been available for decades; MathCad for instance, released in 1986.

The online version of this 'new' app has a horrible interface. Try it. For example, press the multiplication key a few times without entering numbers: it accepts it. The program does not recognise that no operands have yet been entered and so should ignore the action. That right there says this app is the work of amateurs who don't know how to implement a state-machine. CompSci 101.

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#8

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 5:09 PM

I remember getting one in high school and thinking it was really cool. Then in college They were banned. The best calculator I could use was a four function. it was probably for the better. Then again my degree was in Math so we didn't deal with actual numbers much.

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#11
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/18/2017 7:03 PM

And now look at you.... a mod stuck riding herd over a bunch of grumpy old geezers.

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#20
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/21/2017 7:51 PM

Hey now, I'm not old.

TI Voyage 200 user here. I've forgot how to use more function on it than most college students will ever learn on anything else.

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#21
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/21/2017 11:55 PM

"Old" is always a matter of opinion and attitude, in addition to years passed. When I was an early teenager, I remember thinking that a person who had lived 65 years was REALLY old. I passed that milestone well over a decade ago, but have difficulty thinking of myself as old, and I've got a long way to go before I'll think of myself as really old.

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#22
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 7:12 AM

There's was a saying but I don't believe it holds true anymore.

An old engineers would calculate it by hand, and verify it with a calculator, while a young engineer would do the work by calculator, and verify it by hand.

Maybe its the other way around.

All I know now is, I don't believe there is a young engineer that could do it by hand.

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#30
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 12:54 PM

I am not old, but I can be as immature as anybody... sometimes, when i'm not even tryin'...

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#14

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/19/2017 10:42 AM

So if they are $120 today, based on a 1989 dollar inflating to 2 dollars by 2017, that means they are selling for 1/2 of the 1989 price. Not nearly as impressive as the drop in CD players or VHS recorders were over half as many years, but, still reasonable. And, yes, they are probably headed the way of the CD and VHS decks.

I'll have to try that app out.

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#15

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/19/2017 10:43 PM

Would an Excel spreadsheet software running on a smart phone and using
the graphing capability of Excel come close?

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#17

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/20/2017 12:33 AM

Slightly off topic, but related to engineering calculators:

http://www.swissmicros.com/#DM41 / DM41L

Wipe your chin - you're drooling!

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#28
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 12:21 PM

Whoaaaa, Hewlett-Packard-style calculators the size of a (big) credit card!

Drool... Drool... Drool...

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#18

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/20/2017 8:33 AM

One thing I never understood was why web-based? I'd prefer an on-board stand-alone program that doesn't depend on the web. Web features would be ok, but not required for everything. That's just taking "traveling light" too far. It might sound good, but too unreliable. The more you have on-board, the less likely thinks will go missing/unaccessible. Maybe that's one reason I'm a grumpy old geezer. Slide-rules still work when the power goes off. There's nothing wrong with having an old-school back-up so you're not stuck up a creek without a paddle. But, I guess nobody travels by creek anymore, do they?

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#23

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 10:54 AM

I started with slide rule In India, I still have it. Came to US, used slide in University. When I started to work after graduation and had to learn use Smally's tables. Our employer bought first calculator which had square root function and multiplication hitting twice worked as square. I think it was Frieden with green LED display and on it % key had to be reprogrammed by special order to do square root and had to tape a sign of square root on it. Finally in 70's they stated to buy HP first one was I think 35's and then 45's and 11C. Learnt reverse polish notation and I wrote some routine on 45's. I still have 45s and 11c. 11c I use it now and than at work for repetitive calculation, I can programmed it quickly and works great. Before calculator I use time share for computer for programming in Basic and Fortran it was fun time to learn. Never got to use Graphic Calculator but ended up buying for my son in his high school year and it was TI and I think we still have it some where in our home.

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#24
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 11:15 AM

One of these? A Friden 1112? 507 transistors. Doubtful any of the 60's calculators used green LED displays. Vacuum-fluorescent perhaps or, more likely, electroluminescent. In the late 60's discrete IR & red LEDs were several hundred dollars apiece (per diode).

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#26
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 11:50 AM

I am sorry if I gave an impression that it was 60's. It is more like 1970. I do not remember was it orange number or green number. Number some time used to flicker.

I think they had to work through Montgomery Ward or Sear's to get a % key converted to square root till that point it was Smoley's table. I do not have photo of it even though I was photo buff, I could not effort camera of my own until 1975.

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#29
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 12:26 PM

Singer/Friden made later versions for a short time (actually built by Hitachi), but they were labelled 'Singer.' To my recollection they all used Nixie tubes.

Singer/Friden EC-1114:

-----

Singer/Friden EC-1117:

Do either of these look familiar?

The first electronic calculator I ever used was a Wang Model 360SE. The 'calculator' was actually just a display/keyboard terminal and did not actually do the calculations; those were done in a separate CPU module. Multiple terminals connected to the CPU via cables:

-----

The first calculator that I owned I built from a kit: the MITS 816. A Christmas present, 1971. It used individual vacuum-fluorescent tubes for its display (at that time 7-segment LED displays were about $50/digit).

Btw, MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) was the same company that later introduced the Altair-8800, the computer that prompted Bill Gates to say "It's here" (ie, the 'Microcomputer Revolution'), cobble together a version of BASIC for the machine, and eventually leave Harvard to form Microsoft.

I've been cursing MITS ever since.

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#35
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 1:47 PM

It was like black one. What a memory, four of us to share for engineers only.

My engineering work was not that complicated but the calculator came handy.

I could show my boss that efficiency will go up using calculators that is when they bought HPs. I had one and I learned RPN very well before boss bought for himself and others. My first computer was TI 99 and tape drive and slot for memory modules which

were loaded with games. Come to my mind Peckman was name. I use to leave message for some guys in California or some where on west coast on bulletin board to learn computer languages and subscribe to the mailed news letter.

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#25
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Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/22/2017 11:31 AM

The other Friden calculator with an electronic display was the EC-132 which used a CRT:

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#41

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

05/25/2017 7:08 PM

I miss my HP32S RPN. I got so used to RPN and 4 registers that it was very difficult to use a "regular" calculator.

There are lots and lots of virtual calculators out there. Some are good and some not so. I still prefer a handheld!

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#42

Re: Will Graphing Calculators Move Online?

07/04/2017 8:42 PM

Why is Texas Instraments allowed to charge 90 dollars for a Game Boy (TI-84), and 120 bucks for Game Boy Advanced (Nspire) technology in 2017?

Graphers are not even necessary for engineers or other professionals; I use either my simple two-line scientific Casio fx-115W, or my two-line TI-36X II scientific.

All the essential scientific functions can be had on a scientific calculator.

/Solve

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