And while I’m on calculators, Chris Stevenson has been writing about the inconsistencies of calculators. The inconsistency in different PC-based calculators is interesting, but I find it even more interesting that all these calculators exist at all. They are 1975 devices simulated in their 2-dimensional glory on 2005 monitors.

I assume the main reason they are still used is familiarity, availability (every new GUI comes with one) and lack of any well-known substitutes. Still, the idea of mouse-clicking on buttons appeals about as much as trying to turn a dial on a funky skinz-based MP3 player. You can use a keyboard too, but then why show the numeric buttons at all? I’d rather use a text-based interface like google, where you can easily backtrack and clear up any ambiguity with

Of course, a small enhancement would be to make it dynamic, so you can see the current result as you type. It could even be done over the web, via Javascript or some intelligent networking as demonstrated by Google Suggest.

Actually, a “calculator” would be nice in a desktop toolbar. Type the problem in the textbox, see the answer beside it. It would need some way to pop up for longer queries (TSR’s coming back, baby!), but would work quite nicely in the typical case. That would work for other queries too.