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What will the Land Surveying industry do without the HP48GX?

Now that the HP48GX has been discontinued, and HP has announced the move toward the HP49G+ and the HP48Gii as its replacements, where does that leave surveyors?  We've all been relying on our COGO cards, from TDS, SMI, and RAMSS for years!  We use them for data collection, field calculations, and even balancing our checkbooks! How will the COGO card manufacturers move into the 21st century?  We've got the answers right from the source!  These answers were given to us in mid-2004.  If you have updates to this information, we're all ears!

Will the new calculators be compatible with my COGO card?

Listed below are the responses we received from the folks at HP, SMI, TDS, and RAMSS.

JSWeb: Will SMI upgrade to be compatible with the new HP48GII or HP49G+ now that the HP48GX is discontinued?

SMI:   SMI will not be compatible with the HP48GII or the HP49G+. This is why SMI running on the HP 48gx is distributed on 128KB program cards and the HP48gII only has 80KB of user memory available which doesn't provide enough room to load our applications and/or store collected data. Unless HP has changed the specs of the 48gII recently, it doesn't allow for memory expansion (what used to be the 'x' in HP 48gx) so program cards can't be inserted into it.

RAMSS Media Statement:

Hewlett Packard recently released a new calculator, the HP49G. We have been receiving a lot of questions about the HP49 so we will try to answer the most common ones here. We do not feel the HP49G is an upgrade from the HP48GX. The HP48GX offers many features which the HP49 does not.

We do not currently have any software for the HP49. We currently do not anticipate creating any HP49 products. We also do not know anyone who has surveying software for the HP49.

  • The HP49 does not have any card slots and is not expandable.
  • The HP49 includes 512K of RAM and 1M of flash RAM. This is roughly equivalent to an HP48GX with a 1M RAM card installed.
  • The HP49 programming language, processor and speed are comparable.
  • The HP49 does not use the same cable as the HP48,the 49 requires a 10 pin cable, where the HP48 requires a 4 pin cable. Unfortunately, while they changed the format of the cable they did not make the connection any more durable.
  • The HP49 does not support infrared transfers like the HP48.
  • The HP49 has been through numerous operating system ROM updates recently and does not appear to be extremely stable. This is the first HP calculator product where the operating system ROM could be updated by the user and HP seems to have released the HP49 without very extensive testing.

We considered porting some or all of our 48 products to the 49. However, we hoped to see the OS become more stable before getting too far into this project.

JSWeb:  I read your blurb about not making software for the HP49. Did you know that the HP49G+ (not the HP49G) has expansion slots? I just wonder,  now that HP has annoyingly discontinued the HP48GX if RAMSS will  upgrade their software to work with the current models, including the HP48GII?  Some software manufacturers, such as http://www.geocalc.net are starting to update their software. I get this question all the time, as I'm sure you do too. Just wonder how you plan on addressing this issue as the HP48GX dies out.

RAMSS:  The 48Gii does not have enough memory for our applications, while the 49G+'s main weakness is the lack of a serial port. We are deciding whether to support our non-communicating software such as Student COGO with the 49G+, but lack of the serial port limits interfacing with total stations which currently do not support USB. Most if not all USB<=>RS232 converters require Windows driver support and are not HP compatible. If you are aware of any devices which handle this issue we would be interested.

JSWeb:  Now that the HP48GX is out of production, replaced by the HP49G+, are there any plans to upgrade COGO or SurveyPro to work with the new hardware?  What about the HP48GII?

TDS:  There are no plans at this point to modify our software to work with the 48 software to work with the newer HP48s.  However, we are always seeking to upgrade and improve our products, so this could change in the near future. Keep reading your TDS Pathways newsletters for the latest happenings.

JSWeb: I'm sure you've had this question before, but as a Land Surveyor, we all generally use a HP48GX for our surveying, especially due to its ability to house data cards for products such as Tripod Data Systems (TDS), RAMSS, and SMI. Will those same cards work with the new HP48GII and HP49G+? Are there even expansion slots to put in additional memory or these cards? Would the programming language be the same, or would the programs have to be upgraded to work with the newer calculators? I've had this question so many times, and I'm just never sure how to answer.

HP:  The 49g+ is the new expandable calculator, however it does use different type of memory then the old 48gx calculators. The 49g+ use Secure Digital memory, up to 512+ MBs, instead of proprietary memory. We do not know if the TDS, RAMSS, and SMI software will work on the new calculator. We would suspect it would probably have to be altered to make it work correctly.

JSWeb: As I'm sure you know, the surveying industry is one of the primary audiences for the HP48GX. It seems that HP has made little if any effort to continue the compatibility with surveying instrumentation and add-on cards with the new models.  Used HP48GX's are selling on the internet for upward of $300 apiece, as everyone is scrounging to be able to continue working.  After talking to TDS, RAMSS, and SMI, they do not plan to change their software to fit the new hardware, as the HP49s do not have the serial ports necessary to communicate with surveying instruments even if they did. The big draws for the HP48GX were the expandable memory, ability to add programmable data cards, and the serial interface. It seems that the latter of these two have been completely dropped from any of the currently marketed calculators. Does HP plan on restarting production of the 48GX until a suitable replacement is found? This is a core piece of hardware for our industry. The HP49 seems great, faster, more memory, etc., but if  it can't take data cards, and can't interface with our instruments, then it is pretty much useless for us as an industry. Please let me know what, if any, steps we can expect HP to take to accommodate our needs. It would be great if you could post some FAQs on your website about this. I get e-mails daily from surveyors asking me these questions, and I have nowhere to send them to get this information directly from HP. 

HP:  Unfortunately, we are not part of the decision making on the development of HP calculator. However, as a guess, we do not see HP putting out a calculator that is compatible with the old cards. We stopped selling the expansion cards about 4 or 5 years ago. The technology for the old calculators is obsolete and has been for may years. Also many computer manufactures are starting to remove serial ports from there computes and are almost non-existent in laptops.

Here is some information on the two calculators and how they work. The 48gx port one, the data port, only expands the built in memory from 128k to 256k, not needed to run programs unless they are larger then 128k. The data port was integrated in to the 49g+, so it does not need to expand the built in memory, and has 1.13 megs of internal memory that you can run programs in. The SD slot is used like port two on the 48gx. So if the TDS, RAMSS, and SMI software, possibly altered for compatibility, was put directly on the calculator it should function just like the 48gx as a data collector. There are people currently work, non-HP, in adapting a IR to serial connection to the surveying unit. So you can see that the calculators are actually very similar in how the memory works on the calculator. There are companies out there that write programs that work on both 48 and 49 calculator, but they pre-load the software to the 49g series calculators. It is very possible to get the 49g+ to work with the current surveying units.

You can find information at the following newsgroup on the work people are doing for the IR to serial connection.
comp.sys.hp48 (go to google.com under groups)

For more information, visit the other pages of our site below:

Which Calculator is Right for Me?

HP48GX Books, Programs, and Accessories

HP49G+ Books, Programs, and Accessories

HP33S, the Choice for the NCEES Exams

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HP48 Series Calculators


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