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    Re: Celestial Calculator Comparisons
    From: Richard B. Emerson
    Date: 2000 Mar 09, 8:18 AM

    Harjit Singh writes:
     > Can anyone, give me some information on the PC Sightmaster, as compared to
     > the other calculators?
    While I haven't used PC Sightmaster, I'll offer a couple of comments
    about "other calculators", specifically the Celesticomp V and
    StarPilot.  I own both although I just bought the StarPilot about two
    weeks ago.
    The main advantage over these calculators is they don't live on a PC
    (although StarPilot, through its host TI-86 can make some use of a PC
    for updates and printing output).  Celesticomp uses a programable
    Sharp calculator with long-life lithium batteries (I haven't had to
    change mine in over two years) while StarPilot uses a TI-86 which uses
    AAA alkaline batteries (projected life is about a year) and a lithium
    backup battery.
    The basic sight reduction process is common to all three products; the
    difference is the user interface and added features (e.g., sight
    planning, set and drift calculations).  StarPilot is loaded with
    options and uses a larger screen to display prompts.  Celesticomp fits
    all prompts into one line and can, on occasion, be a little cryptic
    (but a little practice smooths over this wrinkle).  It doesn't have as
    many "chrome" features (for example, StarPilot can do lunars and uses
    its screen to give a rough map of stars).  On balance, the added
    "chrome" can actually impede usefulness (for example, if data is input
    on one for air temperature and pressure and then forgotten in another
    day's work, it could be a problem).
    Documantation for both products is, I think, a triffle thin.  While
    each product has examples demonstrating the calculators' functions, I
    came away with the feeling that I wasn't quite ready to go to sea
    based solely on what I'd learned from the manuals.  Now, in all
    fairness, there is the very real issue, for the writers, of drawing
    the line between "this is how to use this product" and "how to
    navigate, coincidentally using this product".  One demonstration of
    what I'm referring to is the short dip option.  StarPilot can use
    Short Dip (where the horizon used for a sight is closer than the
    visual horizon - this is useful when practicing sights on a small bay
    or lake, for example) and this option is described to some extent
    (page 19 or section 10.11, for those reading along [g]) but, aside
    from knowing the option exists, I still don't know where the actual
    distance to the horizon is entered.  Also, there are a few typos
    (e.g., "Resale" for "Rescale") which seem to plague Starpath products
    in general.  Nevertheless, I think StarPilot, bcause of its connection
    with Starpath and their navigation training courses, gets a slight nod
    for its manual.
    On the question which is easier to learn, I think it's a draw.
    Celesticomp's inputs are a little easier to get to and check (for
    example, date, fix time, DR data can be inspected at the start of each
    sight reduction or skipped over with one key stroke).  The prompts are
    short and based learned by using the calculator in some practice runs.
    StarPilot, once all the options are understood, can be set up a little
    more easily because most prompts aren't as brief ("WT" for watch time
    still bothers me but that's a personal quirk) as the Celesticomp's.
    Remembering all of the options, however, is a slightly larger chore.
    On the matter of price, the Celesticomp V (list price is about US$250)
    is available from a limited number of sources but, with a little
    effort, can be found at a discount.  StarPilot lists for the same
    price but is sold both with the calculator and on a CD-ROM or via
    Internet download (along with the documentation which is supplied in
    PDF format and can be read without a license).  I bought a brand new
    TI-86 on eBay for US$65 (discounted prices vary from about US$100 to
    US$130).  The GraphLink adapter (one time purchase to connect the
    TI-86 to a PC) sells for US$20 or, in a couple of cases, US$19.95.  I
    ordered it and the software download license ($119) from StarPath.
    When asked to recommend the Celesticomp or the StarPath to a friend, I
    said that the Celesticomp is a little less complex and better for the
    person who says "all I want is to just reduce sights and do my own
    plotting".  StarPilot is for the person who wants the option to use
    more of the lesser known navigation techniques (e.g., meridian
    transits, latitude from the altitude of Polaris, or GMT from lunar
    distances).  There is no clear-cut "A is better than B" in this
    comparision; each product is very good and the decision will have to
    be made on what fits individual needs.  It's easier to fit either (or
    both! [g]) in my nav bag than it is to fit in my laptop.
    DISCLAIMER: As stated above, I own the products mentioned but have no
    other connection with either Celesticomp or Starpath, save as a
    S/V One With The Wind, Baba 35

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