Written by Harry Porter

Sunday, 3 April 2005

image for Calculator flaw blamed for all mechanical failures
Just a simple error of calculation...

All structural and mechanical failures in the world over the past 32 years have been traced to a fault in the multiplication feature on calculators.

The original master chip, from which all calculators across the globe were developed, shows 29.90 x 19.560 = 584.844. The answer is, of course, 584.484. And the disturbing news is that there may be many more errors hidden on every calculator's functions.

While these few decimal points may not seem too significant, when applied to the laws of physics, engineering, mechanics etc, the results can be, and have been, catastrophic.

Professor Sefton Delmer of Beijing Technical Academy, who headed the investigating project team, said: "Basically, any equation that involves, somewhere along the line, the multiplication of these two numbers will give you a wrong answer.

"That's maybe not too significant if you're calculating how many rolls of wallpaper to buy but if you're designing an aeroplane wing or a heart valve then… oops!"

The investigating team, comprising technical and scientific experts from every imaginable field, is confident that all so-called ‘mechanical failures' can be attributed to this computing flaw.

The original multiplication chip, which became the ‘master' for all subsequent chips, was developed by a small Japanese firm, Xena Logistics, in 1968. Although the company ceased trading in '72, one former worker, Haruki Asahara (73), remembers being part of the original development team.

"Kanezane Matsukata was in charge of the multiplication feature," Mr Asahara recalled. "He died many years ago in a tragic accident when the wheels came off his car and he slid into a de-railed train.

"I think he checked most of the multiplication options but there are so many numbers, you can understand how one was missed. In fact, I'd be surprised if calculators aren't riddled with errors."

Mr Ashara said the initial development of the calculator was aimed at the educational toy market.

"We saw it as something that could help children with their math studies, maybe make their homework a little bit less stressful," he said. "We certainly were very careful with whole numbers up to a 100.

"We had no idea it would catch on and become so widespread. You'd have thought people would have checked the numbers before building their rockets, aeroplanes, bridges…

"You don't really trust a barometer do you? Well it's the same thing - most of the answers you get on a calculator are nearly right."

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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