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On my cheap "dollar store" scientific calculator, it has a 2nd function button named "CPLX". When you press it, the calculator displays some text similar to the "DEG, RAD, GRAD" that says "CPLX". When in this mode, you can't add, subtract, multiply, or divide. The equals button doesn't even work.

What is this and how is it used? I'm wondering if maybe it's for complex numbers, seeing that there's also a "a" and a "b" button next to it.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

This is for complex numbers, ones of the form $a+bi$ where $a,b$ are real and $i$ satisfies $i^2 = -1$.

Which calculator is it - you need the manual to learn to manipulate it.

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+1 for the rtfm hint – Hagen von Eitzen Oct 22 '13 at 18:07
More correctly $i$ is such that $i^2 = -1$ – user88595 Oct 22 '13 at 18:08
@user88595 fixed. – gt6989b Oct 22 '13 at 22:16
Thanks for your answer. It's a cheap dollar store calculator. Damin-locky KK-107A, to be exact. I can't find any manual for it online. – Daniel Pendergast Dec 27 '13 at 23:28
@DantheMan here is a brief summary in Russian if it helps (…). They do agree that CPLX means a register of complex numbers... – gt6989b Dec 30 '13 at 16:54

I know that this is an old question, but I bought a similar calculator and had the same question. The manual that comes with the calculator is a joke and doesn't actually say how to use the a and b buttons.

The calculator that I bought is a 'Jot Scientific Calcultor' from Dollar Tree.

The relevant buttons are:
'a' (with second function '->r<theta>')
'b' (with second function '->xy')
'->' (with second function 'CPLX')

'a' and 'b' are used to enter the first and second values of a paired number, or to switch between the display for a paired number.

For example, to convert from rectangular to polar coordinates:
enter the X coordinate and press 'a'  there will be no apparent change on the screen.
enter the Y coordinate and press 'b'
press '2ndF' and '->r<theta>' and the screen will blank during the calculation
the r value will be displayed.  press 'b' to see the theta value.

To convert from polar to rectangular:
enter the r coordinate and press 'a'
enter the theta coordinate and press 'b'
press '2ndF' and '->xy' and the screen will blank during the calculation
the X value will be displayed.  press 'b' to see the Y value.

The 'CPLX' button toggles the system into complex mode. In complex mode you use the 'a' and 'b' buttons to enter the real and imaginary components of the number, and then the +-*/ functions can be used to operate on the complex values. None of the other functions work (eg no complex exponentials)

The key sequence:
'2ndF' 'CPLX' enters complex mode
'2' 'sqrt' 'a' (puts square root of 2 into the real part of the operand)
'2' 'b' ( puts 2 into the imaginary part of the operand)
'X' (multiplication)  (screen changes to 0, waiting for next operand)
'2' 'a'
'2' 'sqrt' 'b'
displays 0
press 'b' displays 6

(1.4142 + 2i) * (2 + 1.4142i) = (0+ 6i)


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