Sat, 03 Mar 2001

Dear Mr Wonderful,

Why don't people who use calculators learn how they actually do the calculations? Isn't it dangerous when such important and broadly-used tools are treated as magical blackboxes?


Math Boy


Dear Newton On The Block,

Your query assumes an intellectually elitist stance which I am not prepared to support, especially since the tiny man in the fire box said it would be bad to anger the number-making imps.

I'm not so sure it's important to know how a calculator actually works, electrons and binary calculations and whatnot. After all, I'm not really well-versed on the mechanics of the average Vibra-Glide Gel Form Feminine Pleasure Product, but I know if it's working.

If a calculator has gone wonky, giving silly answers to simple problems, you will notice rather quickly. For example, if you attempt to add 5 and 2 and 3 and do not receive the answer "10" but instead get the number of a phone sex line in Sweden where the busty underage girls really get it on, you know that your calculator is connected to the Internet.

It is important to know the basics of completing the mathematical process on your own, which may be what you were asking. Otherwise, you could not know that 2+3+5 does not equal 0092468979, and your tax return will be laughingly faxed all over the IRS before you are incarcerated alongside Sean "Fish Hook" Finnegan and Jimmy "The Widener" O'Malley.

There might be a problem if some evil genius decided to design a calculator that gave the right answers to simple equations, but really fucked with you on stuff like square roots. But I'd like to say right now that Mister Dark sold off that Texas Instruments stock years ago.

We need to learn to trust technology. I mean, when you pick up a book, you trust that it has the words the author intended, even if you don't know how the modern publishing industry works, or indeed, how to write the book yourself. Which is why Mister Dark does still have stock in the Gideon Bible Company.