Sunday, June 22, 2008

More Calculator Follies

I’ve spent an hour this morning taking apart a calculator I bought at Walgreen’s today. Nice, but one fatal flaw. It’s a 7 segment display and the exponent in scientific notation is so far to the right that the two rightmost (vertical) segments are hidden under the front bezel, so you can’t tell if you have a 6 or 8, (so you can make a mistake of 2 orders of magnitude). Worse, a hapless 1 in the LSB location is completely missing. So here you could make a mistake of 82 orders of magnitude if you read 10^91 as 10^9. If you work it out it’s like thinking you have something the size of a quark when actually you’re dealing with something which is 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 ( sadly, this is the right number of zeros, using today's estimates) times as large as the observable Universe. If I’m not mistaken, this is the biggest error humans are capable of other than Bush. It's amazing that it can FIT onto this modest calculator.

Went back to see if the other calculators on the rack had same flaw. They did. So, I took mine apart, removed the display, filed away some of the bracket holding it, slid it to the left, re-affixed with hot-glue and Voila! The calculator was 11 bucks. At $40/hour, it wasn’t worth it, but then I realized I was at home where my rate is $ZERO per hour. Now it seems like it was a deal. Resounding in my head was the Mantra of the Maker. “If you haven’t taken it apart, you don’t own it.”