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Trasher][

Cold and Calculating

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The guys at Omnimaga, a community based around coding games for those scientific Calculators you probably played Dope Wars on in Maths class, bring word of a sourceport of Doom (yes, an actual port, not a Wolfenstein-style clone) by Mraklopaz for Texas Instruments' TI-Nspire calculator. It's greyscale and still a little unstable, but it's certainly a cool technical feat. You can see a video of it in action here.

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So, finally a calculator port that is the real deal? :-p

I wasn't aware that a scientific calculator with that many usable computrons was available. I thought those things were at the same level with a C-64 or Speccy under the hood, but this beast is actually based around a 90 MHz microcontroller and has 32 MB of SDRAM to play with, plus a 320 x 240 display. Quite a different beast than that old TI that was supposed to play a maze war clone with "Doom" slapped on it ;-)

Still, the screen is only 16 shades of gray. That's actually better than an original gameboy, but short of the original Doom. I wonder if it uses unmodified resources or if they pre-processed them in order to save space and RAM, or simply map them to 16 colors with a palette hack (the latter sounds the easiest to do).

Edit: yup, it runs off unmodified IWAD resources.

Also, this proves my point that as long as a platform can digest ANSI C and has enough computrons (CPU, RAM) it's possible to do almost "straight" ports of Doom. Remove any of these requirements, and things get ugly ;-)

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I saw this yesterday, pretty cool stuff! Boy would I love to have had that on my calculator back in high school.

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The "Things that would have caused me to not get good grades in high school had they been present at the time" list expands yet again, and this time to an instrument of learning!

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Jimmy91 said:

So... this must be where a calculator officially becomes a computer. :O


Well, they were full-fledged computers even before that, depending on your definition of a real computer. This particular model has effectively the computing power of an early Pentium, but with more RAM and shittier graphics along the line. Think of a low-clocked Pentium with an EGA card that somehow could play Doom, if someone ever did code such a thing.

This list is interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Texas_Instruments_Graphing_Calculators

Older models were perhaps comparable to a Spectrum or C64, and were also fully programmable. The best model before this one was based on the 68000, while this one has an ARM CPU, just like many other controller boards able to run Doom.

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Maes said:

I wasn't aware that a scientific calculator with that many usable computrons was available. I thought those things were at the same level with a C-64 or Speccy under the hood, but this beast is actually based around a 90 MHz microcontroller and has 32 MB of SDRAM to play with, plus a 320 x 240 display. Quite a different beast than that old TI that was supposed to play a maze war clone with "Doom" slapped on it ;-)

That is nothing compared to what is in the HP-49G+/50G.

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Snakes said:

an instrument of learning

Heh - in my day, having a calculator (if you could afford one) in class or an exam was considered to be cheating and you'd be marked accordingly. OTOH, you could usually get away with using a slide rule.

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exp(x) said:

That is nothing compared to what is in the HP-49G+/50G.


Yeah, it has a faster ARM CPU, but what prevents that one from having a proper port of Doom is the display resolution ( a dismal 131 x 80 display, which gets even lower (!) on the 50 model) and a grand total of 512 KB or user RAM. Unless tweaked to use Flash RAM or SD storage in a console-like fashion, impementing straight Doom within those limitations would be almost impossible.

The more recent TI calculator on the other hand meets both the CPU horsepower (386+ performance) AND the minimum RAM requirements (>4 MB) by a huge margin. What impressed me the most was the performance jump from the previous, 68k-based models. It's like going from an Amiga 500 to a Pentium in terms of CPU power.

GreyGhost said:

Heh - in my day, having a calculator (if you could afford one) in class or an exam was considered to be cheating and you'd be marked accordingly. OTOH, you could usually get away with using a slide rule.


In primary and secondary education we were discouraged from using computers or even simple calculators too -the rationale was that for what regards pure arithmetics, we had to develop our own number-crunching skills.

For the latter courses of physics, geometry and calculus, the problems either had responses that were not arithmetic in nature or where the actual numeric response was only one small, almost unnecessary part of the problem, or where any actual calculations were predictable enough to be carried out by hand e.g. sine or cosine of 30 degrees or by using identities e.g. sine of 22.5 could be computed by knowing the sine and cosine of 45, which we were expected to know.

Once in university however, nobody gives a shit anymore if you use rational calculus or a 'dumb' calculator to provide an answer. Actually, you're supposed to use one in courses where numeric answers are important -which means most applied sciences in engineering. Even so, there are some restrictions e.g. you can't use programmable calculators in CS courses during exams, and in some cases not even in calculus. Simple scientific ones are acceptable though.

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Graphing calculators, another device doomed to obsolescence by the rise of the smartphone.

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Unless there is some sort of free matlab- or mathematika- like environment with persistent storage of variables, function recall, scriptability etc. that I am not aware of and that can run with reasonable usability on a touchscreen or a limited keyboard, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Yet these are all part of what makes traditional scientific/graphing/programmable calculators actually usable -drudging through the clumsy controls of an oily touch screen to input an equation, especially during exam or work pressure, doesn't sound very appealing. And then there are other considerations such as battery life etc.

Let alone that no university worth a damn would let you use a smartphone as a "computing aid", simply for the fact that it's primarily a communication device. They might as well give you a fucking phone line, at that point.

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While I find myself using my graphing and scientific calculators less and less, I still like having my HP-16C next to me when I'm programming or debugging embedded systems.

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Ha, wicked! I was expecting black-and-white with no texture or flat rendering like those ports of Wolf 3D on Youtube, but this thing seems to have a pretty wide monochrome scale. A respectable port for sure.

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hervoheebo said:

Ha, wicked! I was expecting black-and-white with no texture or flat rendering like those ports of Wolf 3D on Youtube, but this thing seems to have a pretty wide monochrome scale. A respectable port for sure.


It has 16 scales of gray ;-) However, due to motion blur and all, and due to the shapes and textures being all there, it looks quite acceptable. Compare it e.g.to the older WinCE port when running on a near monochrome (2-bit) display: it has height variations, but everything is dithered down to 2 bit.

http://revolution.cx/DoomCE.htm

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Heh, yeah, not like Doom needs any more. Everyone's been spoiled by the 100-color grey and brown palette.

Looks like colormap changing isn't implemented (yet). I'd imagine picking up items in a fight would be confusing, what with damage and pick-up both inverting the colors.

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It does seem to have a "palette shifting" of sorts in there, e.g. when you pick up stuff everything whitens up (makes sense, since luma is dominated by the green and red component), while getting hit would result in a slight darkening. Distance colormaps seem implemented, so I don't see why invulnerability shouldn't be. Of course, it will result in an awkward negative effect.

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Maes said:

Unless there is some sort of free matlab- or mathematika- like environment with persistent storage of variables, function recall, scriptability etc. that I am not aware of and that can run with reasonable usability on a touchscreen or a limited keyboard, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Yet these are all part of what makes traditional scientific/graphing/programmable calculators actually usable -drudging through the clumsy controls of an oily touch screen to input an equation, especially during exam or work pressure, doesn't sound very appealing. And then there are other considerations such as battery life etc.

Aren't these basically the exact same objections that people had to touch screen phones when they first appeared a few years ago?

Let alone that no university worth a damn would let you use a smartphone as a "computing aid", simply for the fact that it's primarily a communication device. They might as well give you a fucking phone line, at that point.

When I was at school, graphing calculators were already banned from the exam hall anyway, because you could use them to store information.

exp(x) said:

While I find myself using my graphing and scientific calculators less and less, I still like having my HP-16C next to me when I'm programming or debugging embedded systems.

Heh, that actually looks kind of nice and makes me wish that I had one too. But it looks like they command ridiculous prices on eBay (>$300!)

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fraggle said:

Aren't these basically the exact same objections that people had to touch screen phones when they first appeared a few years ago?


And they are still valid, AFAIK. They still do get sticky and oily, and if you have larger fingers than normal or if they are not top-notch for what regards hit detection (e.g. bad resolution, resistive technology), they suck ass in comparison with a dedicated keyboard. A simple fact: my SHARP EL-5120 has a total key area of at least 8 x 10 cm. That's larger than most smarthphone screens, and often larger than the WHOLE
smartphone. How could there ever be a comparison?

Somehow I can't picture someone punching in equations and long numbers faster with a touchscreen than with a tactile keyboard. Don't forget that smartphones and calculators have quite different usage patterns and end applications: smartphones need screen real estate for allowing more fancy multimedia and applications, and a GUI-like usability. Perhaps usability for smartphones is benchmarked in entering SMS texts vs a numeric keypad or somesuch, but a calculator only needs to enter number....and symbols. A LOT of symbols.

A graphing calculator (or even a normal scientific one) needs good tactile feedback, input precision, and easily memorizable shortcuts, while the screen output needs to be as concise, minimal and informative as possible.

Already using a desktop calculator is slower and clumsier than using a real one you can hold in your hands. If you don't feel that this is a requirement for usability, then probably you don't have to use a calculator as frequently as I, or as any engineering type needs.

However, I'd like to see an actual benchmark: someone struggling with a desktop or touchscreen calculator, vs a seasoned engineer using a good calculator: It'll be like comparing playing Doom with a gamepad vs an expert mouse + kayboard DMer on ZDaemon: no chance in hell ;-)

There's also another consideration in favor of calculators: battery life. A standard scientific calculator can get a year or more of life out of a lithium battery with typical usage patterns, or can stay in a drawer for 3 years before being used again, with no power loss. No smartphone or tablet PC can come even close to that. It's simply a matter of different tools for different jobs. Sure, I can drive nails with a stone or a shovel, but I'll prefer using a hammer.

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Maes said:

FUD


Touch keyboards are fine once you get used to them. The 21st century is waiting for you!

I think for most people (students etc.) who aren't professionals would be able to get a lot better CBR out of a free iPhone app than a $100+ graphing calculator.

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Mr. T said:

Touch keyboards are fine once you get used to them.


So are crutches, but you can't run with them. You can't replace a superior control and input scheme with an inferior one, period. The single most important parameter for any keyboard is size, accuracy, and finger positioning and sensory feedback, and as of now touch screens lack in all of these sectors.

Sure, if you make a touchscreen as large as my standard desktop keyboard, it probably won't lack in finger positioning and size, but the lack of push-in feedback will make it feel like smashing your fingers on a plank of wood. Not good, even if you manage to lay it out flat on a table.

It will require extra effort to balance the -counterintuitive- lack of a key's giving-in and thus 'registering' it as a valid keypress at a mental level. Idem, not good. Imagine trying to drive a car or pilot a n airplane with no other feedback than pure visuals, not even that of a stick in your hands: not good.

No physical keys also means that you can't type without looking at the keys. That's the single most important factor, apart from size.

Mr. T said:

The 21st century is waiting for you!


If that's what the "21st century" has to offer, I remind you that it also offers Calvin Tucker's Redneck Jamboree and the non-multitasking iPad ;-)

A bad, inefficient and half-assed idea is still a bad, inefficient and half-assed idea no matter what century you implement it in or how many corporate buzzwords you can throw at it (at least if you're not an iConsumer).

With that logic, I could sell aluminum-foil wrapped turds, and since none did it before, pass it on as a 21st century "NEW and ENHANCHED!!!! NEVER SEEN BEFORE!!!" novelty, and "pwn" any naysayers by calling them luddites. There has to be a limit, and for me that's when novelty overrides convenience and practical value. Graphing calculators are tools, not iGay toys to be sold to dumb blond bimbos, so you can't have the same standards for both.

Mr. T said:

I think for most people (students etc.) who aren't professionals would be able to get a lot better CBR out of a free iPhone app than a $100+ graphing calculator.


Sorry, but students are going to be professionals one day, and I for one can't imagine an engineering student that doesn't have at least a standard scientific calculator (I made do with a non-graphical programmable one, the Sharp EL-5120) or doesn't consider getting one.

OK, someone who is e.g. a literature graduate and doesn't want to pay $100 just to try plotting some equations, that makes sense. But could you imagine a professional chef buying a Barbie plastic kitchenware set instead of proper cookware?

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The lack of feedback is actually helpful once your muscle memory remembers where the keys "should" be, as it makes it possible to type a lot more without getting fatigued esp. on a cellphone.

More FUD from a non-user :rolleyes

/e obviously I would never replace a full size keyboard with a touchscreen (it is retarded on the iPad), but by that token I hate laptop keyboards too.

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Mr. T said:

The lack of feedback is actually helpful once your muscle memory remembers where the keys "should" be


Nice fallacy there, Joe. If anything, the lack of feedback forces you to use muscle memory, requiring an extra effort and slowing you down.

On a physical keyboard, you can sense where each key is and whether you are too far off the center just by sensing its shape. It's also easy to distinguish some special keys like Enter, Space etc. due to their shape and contrours, and the F and J keys thanks to their guidance notches (AND EVEN MAC KEYBOARDS HAVE THEM!!! ZOMG!!11).

On a purely virtual keyboard on any kind, including projected and even cheap rubber ones, everything feels the the same, and you are going to miss and make a LOT of mistakes.

Sure, like a three-legged cat, you can learn to adapt for your (self-imposed) handicap, but you're never going to beat a full-health four-legged cat, no matter how hard you try. Just like a pure keyboarder can't beast a mouse+kb player in Doom DM.

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You missed my edit, of course I wouldn't replace a REAL keyboard with anything, but on a phone or whatever touchscreens are awesome.

I also like how easy it is to switch from a real QWERTY keyboard to a phone 1 = ABC...2 = DEF one, or even to Japanese.

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This study is interesting:

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/hfes/hfproc/2008/00000052/00000006/art00006;jsessionid=s1h0o892e91d.alexandra

Typing on a laser VPK is up to a third slower.

For mobile devices however, it's not as easy a choice: a miniature keyboard is not always better than an on-screen one. However the keyboards of calculators are typically much better than most folding keyboards you'll find on PDAs and the likes, and definitively more optimized for the task at hand.

You can think of it this way: most of the surface of a calculator goes to making it rapidly usable by providing it with a relatively good keyboard and shortcuts for the tasks it's going to perform (even though not all layouts or makes are equally good, by any means), while the display can be left to the point where it's just about about readable.

On a general-purpose device OTOH, especially one that's "all screen", usability for a specific task is neither guaranteed, nor desirable.

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fraggle said:

Graphing calculators, another device doomed to obsolescence by the rise of the smartphone.


Just what we need, another device that is reduced to an app with shitty documentation on a new shiny device with no buttons. No thank you.

Yes, I have used Andy-83 for ipad/pod and android, it sucks. As of now I don't see HP, CASIO or TI going out of business over a phone anytime soon, or later for that matter.

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Just like any other field where buzzwords are flung by the imperial shitload, actual feasibility/usability/suitability/practicality concerns take a dive out of the window, in the name of whatever NEW and ENHANCED!!11!! (TM) shit is spewed out by the marketroids.

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GreyGhost said:

Heh - in my day, having a calculator (if you could afford one) in class or an exam was considered to be cheating and you'd be marked accordingly. OTOH, you could usually get away with using a slide rule.


That's actually true for most classes. In college though, when I took calc. and physics, a calculator was essential. Mostly for what would be tedious division and multiplication. It just allowed for more accuracy in shorter time... I can't imagine doing that shit without one.

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Snakes said:

That's actually true for most classes. In college though, when I took calc. and physics, a calculator was essential. Mostly for what would be tedious division and multiplication. It just allowed for more accuracy in shorter time... I can't imagine doing that shit without one.


I once got an ancient physics exercises book (with commented solutions), which had unusually long solutions even for what should be relatively short problems. After reading the first two, I understood why: whenever it stumbled upon a calculation such as e.g. sin(23.457 degrees), the proposed way of proceeding was making the McLaurin series of sin(x)...and dutifully computing everything by hand up to the 5th or 7th power -_-

Of course I just pulled out my calculator, punched in "sin(23.457)", wrote the result down and skipped that crap.

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