HP 12C Platinum Financial Calculator [ Review + Tutorial]

We cannot even begin to describe how technology has changed in the past 30 years.

However, one gadget has remained the same — the HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator.

This low-key but extremely functional financial gadget has sat on desks, exam rooms, and on the field for over three decades.

Even as all current digital devices carry a built-in calculator, what makes the HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator still one of the best financial calculator to have by your side?

HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator Features

To understand why this bad boy has been popular for decades, here is a breakdown of its most outstanding features.

Durability and Energy Efficiency

For one, this baby came out on September 1st, 1981. Some people still use their HP 12c from this era. It remains unchanged and highly functional.

Two, this calculator is built for shock-resistance. It was extensively tested and can handle long drops onto concrete surfaces. Most modern calculators would crack the screen, or their keys would begin to stick.

Three, the original HP 12c used three button-sized camera batteries. The newer model uses a single CR2032 lithium battery. Both of these batteries last for years without ever needing replacement. Some people have never changed their batteries despite having used their HP 12c for decades.

Pre-Programmed with Crucial Computational Formulas

The HP 12c Platinum Financial calculator comes pre-programmed with all the essential financial formulas.

Since this is a broad appeal gadget, it is used by accountants and auditors, controllers, financial students, corporate treasurers, risk managers, management scientists, and financial analysts.

These are just a few mentions. The list covers pretty much anyone who does math for a living.

Pre-existing formulas include Discount Cash Flow, Lease vs Buy, Time-Value-Of-Money, and Mortgage Amortization with or without balloon payments.

You can also save your custom programs in the calculator. This feature is especially useful for cumbersome, complicated formulas. Once you save it, you can retrieve it at any time and apply it to your calculations.

Reverse Polish Notation (RPN)

The HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator uses Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) and Algebraic Data Input System to run its computational functions.

RPN is a form of computer code that cuts calculation time by half.


You see, RPN reduces the number of times you have to type in the Operator (subtraction, addition, multiplication or division). Instead of keying-in the Operator after every digit you want to compute, RPN dictates that you key it in at the end of the formula.

For instance, a 3+3 math problem would go in as


This feature allows you to put in as many numbers as you need as fast as possible without having to go back to the operator sign.

Additionally, you don’t have to use the Equals (=) sign. Immediately your mathematical sequence is done, the answer will be displayed on the screen.

If you want to begin a new math sequence, key-in ENTER to clear the slate. Leaving the result of the previous math computation on the screen means the next sequence will be built on it.

The HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator can perform up to 100 functions. Each function is programmable with up to 400 steps. This feature means that this bad boy can perform complex math calculations without extensive parentheses.

Display and Ease of Use

The HP 12c features a single 10-digit LCD screen. It is a pretty simple-looking calculator about the size of a deck of cards.

The LCD screen is light-adjustable. You can brighten the screen when working in poorly lit areas or dim it in brightly lit areas. This feature prevents eye strain and helps you to see the digits clearly.

Further, the HP 12c has extremely tactile buttons with a sound function. The keys are very responsive, which means you never have to look at the screen to confirm if the characters you keyed-in have taken.

Even with extended use, the HP 12c never loses its responsiveness or computing speed.

This bad boy only weighs 3.68 ounces and comes with its carrying case. You can take this calculator with you anywhere you go because it fits comfortably in your pocket.

HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator Parts

Perhaps you may wonder why a small gadget such as the HP 12c can perform all those complex computations and outlast all your other devices.

Well, for one, this calculator only has three parts; the Processor, the RAM ROM Display Driver Chip (R2D2), and a Digital Clock.

The Processor calculates in Decimal, not Binary. This feature is why the HP 12c is so accurate and fast.

Two, HP 12c uses a 10-digit register as its memory and CMOS for its circuit board. These features are why the HP 12c can stay for extended times running on a CR2032 lithium battery. Some reviewers say they have used their HP 12c for ten years without ever replacing the battery.

HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator Popularity

We just had to touch on this.

The success of the HP 12c has been nothing short of spectacular.

It is HP’s longest-running calculator in terms of age and the biggest seller in terms of units.

When HP released the HP 12c in 1981, they only expected to sell a few million units. To date, the HP 12c is still used by over 100 million people.

Nothing else in the digital world has stood the test of time and continues to be relevant to this day.

Recently, HP launched the 35th Anniversary for this beloved piece of computational genius. It is the only HP product to be in perpetual production for over three decades.

Wrapping Up

They say the HP 12c internal clock can handle dates up to 11/16/4096. Whether or not the world will still be using this bad boy remains to be seen.

We certainly hope so, mainly because classic financial math never really changes. Plus, this bad boy does algebraic calculationsbetter and faster than actual algebraic calculators.

We love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Please share with us what your experiences have been with the HP 12c Platinum Financial Calculator.

Also check :- How to choose financial calculator and how to use financial calculator

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Hi, this is James. I'm a professional Finance Lecturer who finished college at Santa Clara University. I’m here to help you choose the perfect calculator for your financial needs. 

1 thought on “HP 12C Platinum Financial Calculator [ Review + Tutorial]”

  1. The RPN example 3 ENTER 3 ENTER + is incorrect. 3 ENTER 3 + is correct. The ENTER after keying in the second 3 copies the second 3 into the calculator AND the display the + operator adds the second 3 to itself. 4 ENTER 3 ENTER + equals 6, not 7


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