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Categories: Technology
Added: Fri Oct 06 06:33:00 -0600 2006Views: 27,099
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  • The word “calculator” is occasionally used as a pejorative term to describe an inadequately capable general-purpose microcomputer. The synonym of this meaning is “bitty box”, as discussed in the Jargon File.
  • A curious episode of the mid 1970s involved the Melcor 635, a scientific calculator with a bug in its trigonometric functions. Because the CORDIC algorithms used in most calculators cannot compute the inverse trigonometric functions of zero, these need to be hardcoded — and some engineer at Melcor got it wrong. For any input other than exactly zero, even for instance 1.0E-99, the calculator worked correctly; the user simply had to remember not to compute the arc-cosine of zero. The company discovered this after making 50,000 calculators. The upshot was an advertisement in Summer and Fall 1975 issues of such publications as Scientific American and the MIT alumni magazine headlined ‘Somebody Goofed’, offering these calculators, for which a typical retail price at the time would have been around 100 dollars, for $59.99.
  • As many schoolchildren and students know, some words and simple phrases can be written using an ordinary seven-segment display calculator; this involves entering certain numbers and then viewing the resulting words by turning the calculator display upside-down. For example, entering 0.7734 and then turning the display upside-down will form the word ‘hello’. See List of calculator words.

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