Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Pinker Calculator

A CALCLIST reference to the Greener Calculator (nothing to do with better colour or better environmental credentials) reminded me of this photo I took recently of this pair of Casio FX-83GT Plus calculators. Gender stereotypes are still with us, it seems. If I needed one, I think I'd get the pink out of sheer perversity; and it'd be far more findable in my office, which is full of gloomy black hardware. I already have a very nice pink geometry set, one of a number of Helix maths sets that come in pink and blue gendered versions.

Addendum: I also feel that JML Dryer Balls are gendered. Whose idea was it to have a pink ball with rounded protrusions, and a blue one with angular? But as described in QI - Series G - Girls And Boys - the pink/blue female/male convention is very recent - and in fact reversed - historically.

Addendum 2: I find that the pink Casio FX-83GT Plus isn't entirely unprecedented. Texas Instruments have done a dark pink special edition of their TI-84 Graphing Calculator, and there's also a Canon pink scientific calculator.  TI do scientific calculators in various nice colours, such as the blue-cyan TI-34 MultiView. They come in lime green too, such as this Canon one. And there's a serious side beyond aesthetics: this Sci-Plus Scientific Calculator range for visually impaired users has casing in colours including ruby red, blueberry, bumblebee yellow and lime green to improve keyboard visibility.

On balance, knowing that pink scientific calculators are part of a wider continuum of colours makes me less bothered about the stereotyping angle. Anything that makes mathematical tools more accessible - especially at school and student level - can't be bad.

- Ray


  1. And a seriously crap pair of compasses that set contains, too, regardless of colour!

  2. Yes: the graduated scale correlates rather poorly with the gap between point and pencil; and the can't-stab-yourself point is completely nesh! Did you ever do this with compasses at school?

  3. Ummm ... no, I never did that at school!!! :-)

    Nearest I got to it was a weak's class sickness covered by Sister Mary John Baptist, when I was ten ... we were seated wound a square; she wandered around behind us and, if she thought we were out of line, would poke us in the bum with a compass through the gap in the back of the school chair. Ah, the good old days [not]...

  4. But - returning to earlier topic - I do actually like my pink Helix set. It's distinctive - which is good in a "Why did you take my ruler?" household. Clare and I both use these things for our graphics-y pursuits) - people commonly ask us, independently, if we can do posters. Clare is better artistically; I'm better graphics-computing-y. We collaborate.

  5. At first I thought this would have something to do with Steven Pinker...

    And here's another calculator: http://www.red5.co.uk/wrongulator.aspx

  6. Ray: yes, I too use paper and pencil design quite often ... mostly for the hands on pleasure of it, recapturing the joys of O-level TD [grin].

    My dislike of that compass (and the 150mm ruler) comes from seeing the kids of friends and neighbours struggling to do their homework accurately with it...

    Back to your original point, however ... three big cheers to you for bucking the gender stereotyping trend :-)

    Wouldn't it be nice if calculators were available in a full rainbow of saturated (and perhaps also pastel) colours? I really rather fance a bright red or blue one insead of the endless black.

  7. Emily: thanks for the Wrongulator, which was a revelation — though it probably shouldn't have been.

    Sadly, one part of the blurb is likely true: "the chances are, without being told, they’ll probably never guess". It astonishes me the extent to which people trust their calculation results (even with a normal calculator, or on paper) when the briefest application of common sense would tell them they've gone wrong.

    I once knew a systems manager who was considering a change to his pension plan. He ended up with a cost for the new plan which was on the order of a hundred million times greater than the existing one. He abandoned the idea without thinking that there simply must be something wrong with his result.