July 14, 2003 by Allen George
Calculators in Waterloo
I hope the following information is useful for anyone who’s planning on joining Waterloo Engineering (especially Comp – cause I’m a CompE and what I’m saying will have the most relevance re the courses I know).
At any rate, at some point you’ll have to make a decision as to what calculator to buy (quiet in the back – no snickering). I know what you’re thinking – “I’m 1337, I’ll do everything I need on my trusty basic scientific calculator.” More power to you. However, if you are in need of a mathematical aid (like me) then there are basically two calculators to consider:
Sharp EL-546V (or greater)
Casio fx-991MS (or greater)
But unfortunate coincidence I happen to have both, so I know a bit of what I’m talking about. I _much_ prefer the Casio over the Sharp and I _highly_ recommend it to students who are just making their way in. BTW, I started off on a Sharp this term and have been using Sharps since high school… Here are some things I found immensely useful about the Casio and things I would appreciate having known when I had to buy a new calculator:
– Engineering units. You can enter commonly using units like “k”, “M” etc into the Casio directly. The Sharp OTOH requires you to enter 10^3 for k etc.
– Equation Solver. The Casio has a basic equation solver that works using the Newton Raphson method. Guess at the approximate root and the Casio will crunch at it and spit out the answer. There is no comparable feature for the Sharp.
– Engineering display. Instead of your units coming out as 10^xxx the Casio will display it in engineering units. This can be _extremely_ helpful on an exam and it helps simplify your equations (you can write units as opposed to exponentials). In addition, the Casio allows you to move from one unit to another. The Sharp has no comparable feature.
– Quadratic and Cubic equation solver. The reason why I bought this calculator (cubic equation solver). My ECE 241 MT Review had a question that had cubic roots. I could not remember the formula for getting cubic roots (who does?!) and was forced to slow down greatly. My friends using the Casio OTOH were able to chug through this stage with little difficulty.
– Extended matrix manipulation modes. Needless to say- can be quite useful if you have the time/inclination to check your work in the middle of a 3 hour final.
– Common operations easy to access. The Casio people placed the common operations as the first function on every key (with the exception of the exponential). This means minimum of 2nd fxn. This makes the difference when you’re going fast since there’s less chance of an error.
– No exposed LCD screen. This one is simply for toughness sake… At any rate I feel a bit more comfortable that the screen is covered. Though to be quite honest _I’ve_ never broken my calculator’s LCD screen. My sister’s broken hers twice.
Things I didn’t like about the Casio (aka why I like the Sharp better):
– Memory storage/recall is a lot more intuitive. When I press STO A on the Sharp, it stores what ever is on the screen into memory. The Casio on the other hand stores the result of the last operation into memory. This makes a big difference.
3/Ans = 1.5
On Sharp this will give you 1.5
On the Casio this will give you a 2. That _really_ screwed me up.
Also memory recall on the Sharp is better. I can simply press RCL A and have it inserted into my calculation. On the calculation I have to press 1 RCL A otherwise I might have problems.
– Exponential is a second function on the Casio. I think its used a lot more than ln. To be honest though, a lot of common functions (notably square root) on the Sharp are second functions.
– Inflexible modes. For example when I’m in normal mode on the Casio, I can’t change bases to Dec, Hex etc. This (I feel) is quite stupid. What if I (for the hell of it) wanted to change base? The Sharp allows me to do this and throws an error if its out of range. Why not the Casio? This is the second biggest drawback I see in the Casio (first being the mem manip). If I’m in Normal I can’t change my base etc…
At any rate – I hope this info helps.