25 August, 2010

Bugging out!

I'm in the throes of writing a feature article on computer bugs at the moment. It gave me the chance to revisit an old favorite of mine from 1994. The Pentium floating point flaw was in the news at the time, and it overshadowed this little snippet.

Windows Mis-Calculator

In the four years leading up to the great Pentium flaw scandal, the not-so-great Windows Calculator scandal was flying under the horizon. It came to light in 1994, but it had been kicking around since Windows 3.x first appeared in 1990. CALC.EXE came up with a joke answer that was even funnier than punching 07734 into a handheld calculator, turning it upside down, and saying "hello" to people in leetspeak.

Propeller-heads tried the following math exercise instead:

0 - 2.11

Windows Calculator got the right answer: -2.11. But adding 2.1 to the result yielded an interesting result that broke new ground in mathematics. Instead of -0.01, it introduced the baffling concept of -0.00. We're not entirely sure what minus zero to two decimal places means, but it was fun to geek out to back in 1994.

Yeah, we know how lame that sounds. Remember that this was six years before the millennium. Even geek entertainment was simple back then.

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