Feature: A Modest Proposal
Posted by Nick on 5 May 2000, 01:24 GMT
Our next somewhat late (*g*) feature is written by Ben Kalafut. It talks about what TI should include in their next calculator (or calculator update :P). In my opinion, he makes some good points and some I don't quite agree with (or they aren't vital to the functionality of said calculator), but it's still worth a read and some frank discussion of opinions. So let's do just that. Many (many) people have complained about TI's "actions," especially since after Hardware 2.00 and AMS v2.03 came out for the 68K calculators. Talk amongst yourselves  as usual, I'll try to offer any input I can. I have owned three different TI calculators, and I have run into frustrating "brick walls" in the use and programming of each one. I use my calculator for math and sciences; I have no real interest in gaming or getting my calculator to make sound or bitmapped graphics. Yet sometimes, the calculators are just as useful as a Gameboy. Even the "powerful" TI89 and 92 don't contain what I would like to see in a graphics calculator/computer algebra system. Symbolic manipulation is a nice feature, certainly, but programming all but the most elementary routines becomes timeconsuming or impossible. Texas Instruments should probably put out programs to perform Fourier, Laplace, and Z transforms, partial fraction decomposition, tensor mathematics, functional analysis, etc, but they do not do so, and apparently, no third parties are interested. The problem, in my opinion, is that Texas Instruments considers the graphics calculator to be merely an educational tool. This is evident in the software applications which are written, and the nature of their press releases and advertisements. TI does not seem to recognize the (potential) utility of their calculators to researchers, college students, mathematicians, and professionals. Some improvements which I would like to see on a hypothetical calculator which TI would put out to replace the 89 are: 1) True updates. I expected a boost in functionality between AMS 1 and 2.03, and all that seemed to occur was an improvement in memory allocation. Extending the function library from time to time would be nice. 2) A faster processor. The 68000 can certainly handle numerics well, but seems to bog down on all but the simplest symbolic operations. 3) Ability to define a function with multiple outputs. For example, a Gaussian elimination decomposition should return both the reduced matrix and the "O" matrix by which one may multiply the original to change it to the reduced form. 4) A true 3D engine. It is nice to be able to enter functions of two variables, but one should be able to view threedimensional plots obtained from numerical methods of problem solving, view threedimensional data plots, or plot space curves parametrically. 5) Vector field plots, Poincar‚ return maps, improved slope and direction field applications. 6) LaPlace and inverse LaPlace transforms. 7) Partial fraction decomposition. 8) Improved ability to program new symbolic functions. The "part" function is a step in the correct direction but is neither sophisticated nor specific enough to be truly useful. 9) Ability to handle tensors. 10) Ability to enter strings, matrices, lists, etc as elements of lists or cell arrays 11) Ability to overload userdefined functions, so that they may return either symbolic or numeric answers, for example. Also, the ability to input fewer than the specified number of parameters to a function and not get errors. These are just a few suggestions. I'm sure that those who are more advanced in mathematics than I have many more. I don't expect TI to come out with a calculator that does everything that Maple or Mathematica do, but by focusing too much on secondary education it is neglecting a potential market. TI or a third party should also put out a compiled language for the calculators. I'm impressed with TIGCC, but TI, having a team of professional programmers, could probably develop the standard libraries and even more powerful interaction with the calculator's builtin features. TI also has the muLisp language, and could possibly release a version for graphics calculators. Another thing that has struck me is the poor quality of programs in the math and science archives. A lot of the programs do things that the calculators already do! Additionally, many have poor documentation and terse interfaces. Userfriendliness is not a major concern. Neither is standardization or development of syntaxes which make sense to anybody but the user. For the sake of consistency I have been writing my programs so that they either state, clearly, what should be input (rather than specifying a variable name), or in the case of those for the 89 which take inputs from the command line, do so in an order and syntax which follows that of TI's built in libraries. The graphics calculator has great potential as a mathematical tool in the classroom, the lab, and even in the professional world, but it will never realize that potential until Texas Instruments chooses not to focus strictly on the secondary education market and programmers (perhaps at the expense of gaming) develop better, more powerful, more consistent mathematics and science software.



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Re: Feature: A Modest Proposal

Akira_of_HLC
(Web Page)

Please, all(or at least most) of those suggestions have almost no use in a calculator. Think about it. Why would you need a "true" 3D engine? Or a faster processor? I see no point. Calculators were not made for games. Sure they may be fun to program, but if you want to play games on a handheld system, buy a freaking gameboy, not a calculator. You referred to the gameboy as being an "advanced" peice of machinery, but true as that may be, there is not much aof a point to advancing a calculator just so some halfbaked programmers can waste time with one.
Akira


5 May 2000, 23:26 GMT





Re: Re: Feature: A Modest Proposal

BLAlien

Well, that's not entirely true. See, my principal banned all electronic gaming (Game Boys, Virtual pets, etc...) since she has some weird grudge against harmless fun. Except, let me say that again, EXCEPT, graphing calculators. We need them for math class, and it would be illegal for them to delete all the games on all of our calcs. So they just let us play them during lunch hour and stuff. Sure, Sqrxz may be no substitute for Super Mario Bros DX, but if it's the best I can get, then I'm satisfied.


6 May 2000, 01:58 GMT


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