Hewlett-Packard HP-41CV

Date of introduction:  December 15, 1980 Display technology:  LCD 14-segment
New price:  $325.00 (SRP 1980) Display size:  10 + 2 
Size:  5.1" x 3.1" x 1.20"
 144 x 79 x 31 mm3
Weight:  5.8 ounces, 144 grams Serial No:  2219S40917
Batteries:  4*N Alkaline Date of manufacture:  wk 19 year 1982
AC-Adapter:   Origin of manufacture:  Singapore
Precision:  10 Integrated circuits:  
Memories:  0-319    
Program steps:  2233-0 Courtesy of:  Ken H. Meine

The HP-41C could be called a small revolution in the pocket. Following the path of Programmable Pocket Calculators like the HP-67 or TI-59 it overcame the limitations of their simple men-machine interface possible with a numerical keypad and a 7-segment display. The HP-41C added alphanumeric capabilities to both the display and keyboard using 14-segments and an ALPHA-key. In addition the memory capacity was enhanced and uses non-volatile integrated circuits (RAM) like the TI-58C.

A total of 4 slots allowed further expansion of either RAM capacity, pre-programmed ROM-modules or peripheral devices like a card reader or printer modules. A clever mechanism allows for snap-in keyboard overlays to further customize the HP-41C.

The HP-41C still uses the Reverse Polish Notation with the [ENTER] key instead the usual [=] key.

Understanding the game of cat and mouse with Hewlett Packard, Texas Instruments initiated already in Summer 1977 the "Project X" with clear objectives in mind:

To provide upgrade leadership product to replace TI-59
Expand concepts of problem solving via calculator device
   - State-of-the-art Technologies
   - System Design
   - System Expansion
To simplify ease of use and provide market expansion among professionals and end users:
   - Technical Professionals
   - Non-Technical Professionals

The ambitious requirements for "Project X" were finalized in January 1978:

Equation Operating System (EOS)
   - Equation can be entered without execution
   - Display will scroll when full
   - Equation can be edited (Backstep, Insert, Delete)
   - Equation is saved to be executed or repeated with new data
16 Character 5*7 dot matrix display
   - Full alphanumeric display
   - Equation trace and prompting in the display
More flexible user memory
   - Basic memory is 1,000 program steps or 125 data registers with partitioning by the user
   - Solid State Software approach (CROM) has been expanded to include Drop-in RAM (CRAM).
   - CROMs and CRAMs are interchangeable and two slots are available on the calculator
   - Basic memory can be expanded to 3,000 steps of 375 data registers
   - CROMs will be 15k program steps, up to 99 programs per CROM, up to 10k steps per program

Hewlett Packard took Texas Instruments by surprise when they introduced with the HP-41C already in July 1979 a Programmable Pocket Calculator almost matching the requirements of their "Project X" - planned for an introduction earliest in Spring 1981! History tells us that TI announced the TI Programmable 88 with CRAM/CROM modules and its peripherals on May 26, 1982 ahead of the Summer Consumer Electronic Show CES, knowing that the polysilicon gate CMOS process used with the TP0485 microcontroller was finally in good shape but the design of the chip still needed some fixes requiring one or two additional manufacturing runs. Consequently the small printed read: "Availability expected late 4th Quarter" and TI cancelled the TI-88 on September 10, 1982 with only a few devices manufactured.

Learn more about the demanding "Project X" initiated already in Summer 1977 and leading not only to the (failed) TI Programmable 88, but the TI-66 PROGRAMMABLE, failed TI-76 PROGRAMMABLE, Compact Computer CC 40, (failed Compact Computer CC 70) and last but not least the successful TI-74 BASICALC and TI-95 PROCALC.

It took some time before Texas Instruments took the leadership again with the introduction of their first Graphing calculator TI-81 in 1990.

For Hewlett Packard the HP-41C was a massive success and its upgrade successors HP-41CV with "V" being the Roman Numeral for 5-times the memory capacity and HP-41CX with CV specs plus Time module, were manufactured till November 1990. Even today, more than 40 years after its introduction, the HP-41C family of keystroke Programmable Calculators receives an incredible support from its die-hard community.

The featured HP-41CV with Date code 2219S manufactured in April 1982 by Hewlett Packard in its Singapore facility is powered by 4 N-size batteries. This HP-41CV was provided by fellow collector Ken H. Meine and we decided not to disassemble it.


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If you have additions to the above article please email:

Joerg Woerner, October 29, 2009. No reprints without written permission.