HP has apparently finally released a calculator that can be entirely reprogrammed for custom applications, and the software development kit (SDK) includes comments suggesting that they’ll change what’s printed on the keyboard too, if you order enough of them.
HP’s erstwhile calculator division in Corvallis were actually talking about doing this back in the 1980s, when they mooted making a blank Pioneer model available to third-party developers, such as Zengrange, so that we could create niche-market calcs.
I don’t know why they didn’t do it then (since they had many willing and able third-party developers using the HP-41 and HP-71 as a platform for applications, and a custom Pioneer would have been cheaper to make), and I really don’t know why they have done it now. Perhaps some single individual on their dev team, such as Cyrille de Brébisson, made a really impassioned case to management to fly a kite on this; I’d love to know what the business case was that finally worked.
Anyway, despite not having done any serious calculator-related development for over fifteen years, I’m still tempted to get one, and play around with some ideas for custom calcs. I still think there are plausible market opportunities for specialized calculators, and the shirt-losing risk in pursuing them is in the up-front hardware design and manufacturing cost, which it looks like HP has just taken away.