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Always interested in offers/projects/new ideas. Eclectic experience in fields like: numerical computing; Python web; Java enterprise; functional languages; GPGPU; SQL databases; etc. Based in Santiago, Chile; telecommute worldwide. CV; email.

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QAMA Calculator - Review

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2012 19:19:30 -0400

I just received my QAMA calculator.  A big thanks to the creators for shipping
to Chile - I know not everyone from the USA will.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about - the QAMA is a calculator that
won't give you the answer to a calculation until you guess "close enough".

The main positive is that it does exactly what it's supposed to do: it
requires a guess; the guess has to be close; "close" depends on the
calculation and seems relatively fair (given I am not so great at logs or

The negatives are generally small UI details, and probably not too surprising
in a "first release":

 - The buttons are not so sensitive / positive.  Sometimes I am not sure if
   I've pressed something or not; sometimes I'm surprised to find a digit
   missing (and the buttons are not the grey rubber you might expect from the
   photo on the site, but a harder, textured plastic).

 - There's a battery "bulge" along the top of the back.  This makes it easier
   to use (raising the back slightly and making the display - which is not as
   contrasty as some - easier to read).  So maybe it's not a negative.

 - The "del" button deletes where the cursor is.  Perhaps this is normal in
   modern calculators (my old things, that I have had for 20+ years, don't
   display the entire expression and have no way of editing), but it means
   that backspacing on an error takes two key-presses (now that I write this
   it seems so odd I wonder if I have missed something - please post a
   correction if so).

 - The button labelled "1/x" is actually "^-1".  That's not a tautology - it
   requires a different order (1/2 is "2" then "^-1", not "1/x" then "2").
   And while talking of button labels - they are kind of ungainly, or poorly
   spaced, in a way I can't describe, but which reminds me of old web pages
   (something like this blog, except Helvetica...)

 - The "0" and "." are swapped for me (the two calculators I have to hand both
   have the "." to the right of the "0", while the QAMA has the "." to the
   left).  This may be a UK/USA thing.  It is annoying.

And one more "philosophical" objection, which I guess most people will feel is
a positive: if you enable the "cheat" mode (no need to guess) then red lights
on the keyboard flash.  At four different points.  In a random order.  In
locations obviously designed to be difficult to cover if you are an
embarrassed child.

Which, to me, is trying a little too hard.

Now, I don't have kids.  And the people I know with kids all thought this was
a marvellous idea (I guess they don't trust their little darlings any more
than I do).  But - and I know it may sound daft - it changed completely how I
felt about the device: it switched from "fun" to a machine designed to
"improve" the "target" (whether they want improving or not).

Fair enough, I guess.  Hopefully my resentment will fall back and the fun will
return.  Then, if I can find a way to make the buttons press reliably, I hope
to use it more.  It certainly looks cool in a low-tech hi-tech way.


PS The screen *is* covered by a plastic peel-off.  It felt very much like I
might be trying to remove an integral part of the display.  Persevere and you
get a scratch-free window...

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