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The HP-12C Business Calculator was introduced with the HP-11C on September 1st, 1981. The HP-12C and the slightly revised Platinum version are still on sale today. It is by far HP's most successful and best selling calculator. Indeed its continuing sales may be the main reason why HP still have a calculator operation and continue to make the technical models favoured by most HPCC members. For many years, despite huge sales of inkjet and laser cartridges, the HP-12C continued to be in the top 25 HP products sold by number per year.
The technology of the HP-12C is old enough that HP have several times wished to stop making it - by increasing the price and by introducing alternatives. Sales actually went up following one price rise, and the OmniGo 100 and 120, with a full HP-12C built into them, have been discontinued while the HP-12C continues to sell well. It is now made for HP by a subcontractor, with all the circuitry reduced to a single chip - but it is still made.
This is a remarkable success for what was considered to be a stopgap product - the 11C, 12C and other members of the "Voyager" series (or series 10) were intended to fill the gap between the older Series 30 models with LED displays, and the newer models with dot matrix displays which followed them. Yet this time gap was sufficiently long that customers came to know the HP-12C well, and to continue buying it even after new models with more features became available. It has just the right combination of HP's TVM (Time Value of Money) functions, date calculations, programmability - and yet looks not too complicated - and elegant looks. Its elegance has probably kept it on business users' desks as much as its functionality.
The HP-11C and HP-12C were designed in a horizontal shape, instead of HP's usual vertical format, and were given a metallic edge around the display area. On the HP-11C this metallic edge is silvery, but on the HP-12C it has a yellow-gold tinge, giving it an air of superiority - even opulence. The horizontal shape makes it look more like a tiny computer than a calculator and makes it an ideal object to be placed on desks of business users such as real estate agents or loan experts. Among financial users it is considered to be an "Industry Standard" - which means that it is the model to buy automatically - and that there is a large pool of experienced users who can easily show a new owner how to handle their new HP-12C. Sales of replacements to previous owners who have lost their HP-12C, or who have worn it out by years of continuous use, are probably as high as sales to new users. The HP-12C wears out not because it is cheaply made but because it is so well designed and made that it is heavily used and eventually just stops working.
A final interesting detail is that the horizontal layout and metallic edging came about because the display was found to break when prototype vertical Voyagers were dropped - so the display was placed horizontally - leading to a horizontal layout for the HP-12C - and giving HP their most successful stopgap product ever.
The HP-12C Platinum was introduced in 2003 and differs from the original HP-12C in a few ways. The metallic bezel is now platinum in colour rather than gold and there is four times the amount of memory for programs. There are a couple of new software features added, most notably the ability to use arithmetic mode rather than RPN and the somewhat more minor addition of x2.
More details of the HP-12C can be found in the HP Calculator Museum.
The HP-12C is so popular that emulators are available on many platforms including the HP48 series, PC and iOS.
Windows HP-12C Emulator
HP-12C Introduction-Discontinuation: 1981-still available
HP-12C Platinum Introduction-Discontinuation: 2003-still available
Due to its continued popularity many HP-12C books are available from Amazon and other good book stores. Official HP manuals the the HP-12C Platinum are available for download below.
Quantitative Analysis For Business: The Time Value of Money and Basic Business Statistics Using a Business Calculator, 3rd Edition by Gene Wright
This book is a great help to anyone studying for the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam or who desires to learn how to use their financial calculator effectively. It is available from amazon.com
HP-12C Platinum User Guide by HP
Official HP User Guide for the HP-12C Platinum. Download PDF
HP-12C Platinum Time Value of Money Basics by HP
Introduction to TVM calculations on the HP-12C Platinum. Download PDF
HP-12C Platinum Training Modules by HP
Thirty two training modules for the HP-12C Platinum covering TVM, loans, depreciation, programming, algebraic mode and much more. Download ZIP
|Annuities Galore on the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||N26N4P29|
|Bond Duration & Convexity on the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||V25N3P12|
|Bonds Galore on the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||V26N1P41|
|HP-12C Days Difference with European 30/360 outputs||Tony Hutchins||V25N2P9|
|Eight HP-12C Games||Tony Hutchins||V25N4P13|
|Geometric Annuities on the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||V25N2P10|
|Hunt the Wumpus on the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||V25N6P37|
|Investment Performance on the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||V26N3P15|
|Long live the HP-12C!||Valentin Albillo||V20N6P17|
|Solving for unknown CFj using the HP-12C NPV||Tony Hutchins||V25N2P15|
|Noe Tac Tic for the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||V27N1P8|
|HP-12C Tried & Tricky Trigonometrics||Valentin Albillo||V21N1P12|
|UK APR Examples on the HP-12C||Tony Hutchins||V24N3P36|
|HP-12C's Serendipitous Solver||Valentin Albillo||V21N2P35|
|HP-12C Platinum Basics||Gene Wright|
|HP-12C Games and Sorting||Gene Wright and Katie Wasserman|
Official HP12C Page
Bloomberg Review of HP12C Platinum (Putting New Shoes on an Old War Horse)
HP 12C emulator (zip file for Windows machines)
HP 12C Maya to Christian date translation program