Casio Algebra FX 2.0

Datasheet legend
Ab/c: Fractions calculation
AC: Alternating current
BaseN: Number base calculations
Card: Magnetic card storage
Cmem: Continuous memory
Cond: Conditional execution
Const: Scientific constants
Cplx: Complex number arithmetic
DC: Direct current
Eqlib: Equation library
Exp: Exponential/logarithmic functions
Fin: Financial functions
Grph: Graphing capability
Hyp: Hyperbolic functions
Ind: Indirect addressing
Intg: Numerical integration
Jump: Unconditional jump (GOTO)
Lbl: Program labels
LCD: Liquid Crystal Display
LED: Light-Emitting Diode
Li-ion: Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Lreg: Linear regression (2-variable statistics)
mA: Milliamperes of current
Mtrx: Matrix support
NiCd: Nickel-Cadmium rechargeable battery
NiMH: Nickel-metal-hydrite rechargeable battery
Prnt: Printer
RTC: Real-time clock
Sdev: Standard deviation (1-variable statistics)
Solv: Equation solver
Subr: Subroutine call capability
Symb: Symbolic computing
Tape: Magnetic tape storage
Trig: Trigonometric functions
Units: Unit conversions
VAC: Volts AC
VDC: Volts DC
Years of production: 1999-2001 Display type: Graphical display  
New price:   Display color: Black  
    Display technology: Liquid crystal display 
Size: 7"×3½"×½" Display size:  pixels
Weight: 10 oz    
    Entry method: Formula entry 
Batteries: 4×"AAA" alkaline + 1×"CR-2032" Lithium Advanced functions: Trig Exp Hyp Lreg Grph Solv Intg Ab/c Cplx Symb Cmem Mtrx BaseN 
External power:   Memory functions:  
    Programming model: Formula programming 
Precision: digits Program functions: Jump Cond Subr Lbl Ind  
Memories: 144(0) kilobytes Program display: Formula display  
Program memory: 144 kilobytes and 768 kilobytes Program editing: Formula entry  
Chipset:   Forensic result:  

fx2.0.jpg (27511 bytes)One of the newest members of Casio's graphing calculator family, the Algebra FX 2.0 is certainly a notable machine. Behind a pleasant keyboard and a crisp monochrome display is a fairly capable graphing calculator with symbolic algebra capability.

"Fairly", I said, and with reason. The Algebra FX 2.0 certainly has most, if not all, the features one would expect from a multifunction graphing scientific calculator. Yet I feel somewhat uninspired after spending a few hours playing with this device. Here is why.

The Algebra FX 2.0, like Casio's other graphing calculator products, is obviously an education-oriented device. And it shows (and no, I don't mean that as a compliment.) When you first turn on the machine, you'll be presented with a bewildering set of menu options: "RUN", STAT", "RECUR", "CONIC", "EQUA", "CAS", just to name a few examples. Selecting any one of these options activates the corresponding calculator mode, where you can perform the appropriate functions.

What is missing is functional integration. This is where HP's graphing calculators continue to excel (and with the possible exception of the TI-89 and TI-92, remain in a class of their own.) The idea is simple: a multifunction calculator should let me manipulate a symbol the same as a number. It should let me perform arithmetic functions on numbers as well as vectors, matrices, algebraic expressions, indeed any object for which the function is defined. Apart from convenience, there's a significant pedagogical aspect to this: the beauty of mathematics is not that it consists of dozens of unrelated topics, but that everything is interrelated.

In this respect, the Algebra FX 2.0 is better than most of its predecessors; for instance, complex number support is nicely integrated with the rest of the calculator's functions. But it's still nowhere close to what the HP-48 family or the TI-89 have to offer in terms of feature integration.

Of course if your idea of "education" is standardized tests, if what you're teaching is not mathematics but multiple choice skills, calculators like the Algebra FX 2.0 may indeed be the ideal classroom tools. And I should probably count my blessings that when I was in high school, mathematics was still taught with pencil and paper, or chalk and blackboard. I never thought I'd one day hear myself argue against the use of calculators in the classroom but then again, there was a time when I never would have thought that one day, there'll be calculators whose sole apparent purpose is to help students obtain the highest score in braindead tests. Oh well.

The actual programming model of the Algebra FX 2.0 is not that different from its predecessors. Some changes make the resulting programs appear more like "structured" programs: for instance, conditional statements now appear inside If-Then-Else-IfEnd blocks, and loop constructs (For, While) are also available. While it makes programs more readable, I think I found the old programming model more practical, yet again proving that easy-to-learn is not the same as easy-to-use.

The following example utilizes the calculator's 15-digit internal precision to compute the logarithm of the Gamma function to a high degree of accuracy. In complex mode, the program correctly computes its result for any argument that is not zero or a negative integer, for which the Gamma function remains undefined.

If ReP X<0
  -Conjg X->X
ln (2.5066282756348+225.525584619175/X-268.295973841305/(X+1)+
    1.14684895434781/(100X+400))+(X-.5)ln (X+4.65)-X-4.65->G
If S<0
  ln (-π/X/sin πX)-G->G