My calculator broke so I had to buy another one.
Now, I don’t need much from a calculator. Some basic statistics, so I need square-root, maybe sine, cosine, tangent, log etc, just in case. So I’m not in the PDA league here (I have one because it’s a gadget but I don’t use much of it. It’s a Palm 3, frowned upon by real geeks because it has a monochrome screen and little memory, but it does all I need and more).
My old calculator had many buttons, half of which I never felt the need to press. Some I had no idea what they’d do. For a new one, I visited the local supermarket. They, I thought, will have a cheap one that’ll do what I need.
At the bottom end of the scale are calculators I could never have afforded twenty years ago. Now they’re on sale for pocket change. A desktop calculator, a chunky one, would have set me back four pounds (about eight dollars). It didn’t have the buttons I needed so I moved up the rack.
Aha, I thought, here’s just the thing. All the buttons I need and another whole bunch of buttons I’ll never press. Plus a ‘shift’ function so there are buttons I’ll never press, twice.
This was just under eight pounds. About sixteen dollars or less. It won’t even register on my budget. I thought it was just what I needed—simple to operate and covered every function I needed. Plus a couple of dozen I didn’t need and a few I don’t believe anyone needs.
Cheap and simple? Ha! It took me twenty minutes to get the little swine to answer the most basic of calculations.
What’s (2/3)*0.253? According to this damn machine it’s 253/1500.
What the hell use is that? Do I need another calculator to work out what this one’s telling me?
I waded through the documentation. As with all modern technology, the instruction book is four times the size of the gadget. It took a while.
Press shift-this and shift-that and select from the menu and it finally acts like a real calculator.
It has a text display. It can find errors in formulae and display them. It can adjust and correct entries.
I don’t want this electronic nanny telling me it knows best all the time. Yet it’s one of the cheapest calculators out there. It’s so damn complex it could probably take me to the Moon. If I press the wrong button, it might yet do that.
It cost eight pounds. I’m very, very glad I didn’t move along the rack to the more expensive models. They might prove to me, mathematically and unarguably, that I’m a badger with warts. In case you’re wondering, I don’t have warts and I’ve never badged.
I remember, years ago when I was at school—in the days when schools taught some useful things—learning how to work out square roots on paper. I wish I could remember the method, then I could bin this thing.
It won’t happen. I’m stuck with the electro-nagger until it breaks. Then I’ll have to buy another new one.
By then, the cheapest calculators will probably be speaking to me.