I recently completed Casio's ClassPad training program, and throughout the program, got a good feel for the ClassPad 330 graphing calculator via the company's emulator. Now that I have a physical ClassPad in my hand, I'd like to share a few thoughts about this calculator, CAS calculators in general, and how it fares compared to the TI-Nspire and the TI-89.

If (like me) you are or were not that familiar with Casio's offerings, having been brainwashed by decades of Texas Instruments' PR, the ClassPad is a touchscreen CAS graphing calculator. This means it can perform symbolic math, taking equations and simplifying them without needing numeric values for variables. It has a stylus for its vertically-oriented (portrait) monochrome LCD, although you can also use your finger. It can do symbolic integration and differentiation, just like the TI-89 and the TI-Nspire CX CAS, and as befits a graphing calculator, can breeze through 2D and 3D graphing. Casio Education is particularly proud of their eActivity feature, which lets you combine notes, math, geometry, graphs, and other pieces together in a single document. I suspect, in fact, that their eActivity format might easily have been the inspiration for Texas Instruments' document-centric design for the TI-Nspire. As far as the ClassPad's features, the single feature that blew me away the most was the 3D graphing application. It clearly has a huge amount of work put into it, and can graph cartesian, spherical, cylindrical, and even parametric 3D equations with ease. As I mentioned, the ClassPad has a touchscreen and a stylus, so you can full-screen a 3D graph and drag it with your finger or the stylus to rotate it. I'm a bit surprised that it needs to spend a few seconds calculating the points of the graph before displaying it, but I'll chalk that up to the complexity of their CAS.

From a teacher point of view, I like that I could put together eActivities to match up to lessons I was teaching; from a student point of view, I believe the ClassPad at least equals the TI-89 in symbolic CAS capabilities. For an "underdog" device, I find it to be surprisingly polished. If I had to come up with some criticisms, I might say that the abbreviated physical keypad with lack of QWERTY keys is unfortunate, especially since the touchscreen already disqualifies it from standardized testing and a QWERTY keyboard therefore wouldn't be a big deal. Of course, if there was a keyboard, it would have to be tiny, or the excellently massive screen would have to be cut down a bit. As a programmer, I find the built-in BASIC language very easy to learn, and it certainly doesn't start out as a crippled device. It takes two too many clicks to run a program from the editor, but that's a minor complaint. Since the calculator I received had been pre-loaded with two extra Add-Ins, one of which is a game, I can only assume that given enough programmers looking to work with the ClassPad, a C/C++ toolchain could easily be written, if it hasn't already. The bottom line is that I am quite impressed with the ClassPad as a general-purpose calculator and teaching tool, despite a few scattered flaws, and am frankly surprised that it hasn't gained more inroads into classrooms. I suppose a combination of TI marketing and market presence and a lot of focus on using calculators for standardized testing explains much of that.

I remember this calc used to not have ASM/C support like the TI-Nspire when it came out in 2003. Pressure from the Casio community eventually led Casio to finally add C++ support via an SDK in 2005, though. We have yet to see TI answer the TI community's wishes.

I would get a Classpad, but it's way too expensive on the Canadian Ebay site and extremely rare.
May I have a free one?
I got one already.
KermMartian wrote:
Since the calculator I received had been pre-loaded with two extra Add-Ins, one of which is a game, I can only assume that given enough programmers looking to work with the ClassPad, a C/C++ toolchain could easily be written, if it hasn't already.


I received my ClassPad a few days ago and had no addins installed...
The game is made by Casio?
helder7: I believe that it is; it is a math game.
krazy: And what do you think about it? How does it compare with other calculators you own or have used?
Caleb: You may not.
DJ_O: Yes, I have seen that SDK available on Casio's website, now that you mention it. I might have to check it out.
Shock Casio making games... wow. (even math games)
I am impressed with the graphing features you listed, especially the 3D parametric graphing! ... You can do almost ANYTHING that way! I made a Java program that does 3D parametric graphing for rectangular, cylindrical, and toroidal graphs, but you can choose any variable to be tied to any axis (or "angle") so that you can really look at whatever aspects you want. So far, this is the most similar thing I've heard of for such a device. ... And I'm shocked that it came out in 2003 -- It should have dominated by now! This device is to the NSpire what the Sega Saturn is to the Playstation!
shkaboinka wrote:
... And I'm shocked that it came out in 2003 -- It should have dominated by now! This device is to the NSpire what the Sega Saturn is to the Playstation!

Two words: standardized testing. The 3D parametric is interesting though. Not even my 89 can do that!
@Kerm: I LOVE the drag-n-drop between applications, and I find it very easy to use like the prizm.
Shkaboinka, and from thinking about adding parametric graphing to Graph3DP, I too know what an ordeal it will be to implement. Blue_bear: I don't understand why there's such a focus on standardized testing. Especially for engineers and engineering students, it's silly to get a crippled calculator, as the constraints of standardized testing no longer apply. Krazy: Same here!
Those of you who have used the classpad, how do you feel about the stylus operation? I know I really dislike the "little hand" on the nspire, think it's tacky and clumsy. The TI-86 and 89 spoiled me (I think they're both pretty easy interfaces), but maybe the stylus thing is o.k., just want to hear more opinions about it.
For me, the stylus is a decent solution to an annoying problem: namely, navigating a high-resolution calculator display. It's amazing for selecting, copying, pasting, and as I said in the article, especially for dragging 3D graphs around. It's less amazing for tapping out notes to myself on the on-screen QWERTY keyboard, but shy of putting a full keyboard somewhere on the device, I can't really think of a better solution.
Can you at least use the hardware keyboard like if it were a cell phone keyboard? It would help people used to the later write faster Smile
You might I really haven't tried yet. but it could possibbly work seeing as the keyboard is about the same size as a cell phone's.
krazylegodrummer56 wrote:
You might I really haven't tried yet. but it could possibbly work seeing as the keyboard is about the same size as a cell phone's.
I just gave it a try, and unfortunately my fingers are too big for it to work. I just can't get the precision on keys of that size with something as big as my finger, especially considering I can't exactly see where I'm putting my finger once I put it down.
But is it possible, and the "problem" is just your fingers, or it isn't possible at all?
gbl08ma wrote:
But is it possible, and the "problem" is just your fingers, or it isn't possible at all?
It's possible in the sense that the screen reacts to my finger. I can press keys with my finger; I just can't do so with great accuracy. If someone were to make a bigger, simplified onscreen keyboard with fewer and larger keys, it might be much more useable. A landscape-oriented keyboard with a small text-viewing area above might also work nicely.
I meant to ask if the physical keyboard could also work as an alphanumeric keyboard Smile
Still, you're right, the on screen keyboard could be improved. But see, that calc is from the era of e.g. Windows Mobile 2003, where the concept of "touching the screen with your finger" wasn't widely adopted, and touch user interfaces were pretty similar to those for big, mouse-controlled UIs.
Indeed, and don't get me wrong, I think Casio did a great job with the technology as it is. No, the keyboard is numeric-only, although I suppose someone clever could remap it. T9 mode for the number keys, anyone? Smile
  
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