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Online Calculators – Working Things Out

When you need to perform calculations which do you prefer?  Handheld desktop calculators or online calculators?  Personally I tend to use both; the former for the quick multiplication and division calculations and the latter for more complex calculations like mortgages.

When you need to perform calculations which do you prefer? Handheld desktop calculators or online calculators?
Navigational Computer / Circular Slide Rule

I suspect many do likewise because we never learned to use handheld calculators to their full potential.  Like slide rules (remember them?) desktop calculators are, I would imagine, selling less often each year as most people switch to calculators on their smartphones and to online calculators that are built for a specific purpose.

The navigational computer is the cousin of the slide rule and it too has been largely replaced by electronic calculators in the form of apps and online tools.  It’s easy to be nostalgic about old technology but there is some merit in being able to use such tools. It wires your neural networks differently and I would guess, more strongly.  Tapping figures into an app just isn’t the same but what it lacks in a mental workout it compensates for with speed and ease.

Online Calculators For Mortgages

Recently I was trying to figure out how to pay off the mortgage more quickly. Aside from lottery wins and exceptional pay rises things will not change much on that front unless the mortgage is rearranged.  For such a calculation the obvious place to look is for an online mortgage calculator that has all the relevant fields and variables. 

Working in IT as a network engineer requires knowledge of IP routing protocols and network numbering.  It’s basic stuff that stays with you throughout your career.  Some people can calculate the number of subnets and hosts for any given network in their heads, others turn to pencil and paper, while the rest of us use online calculators like the TunnelsUp calculator.  It’s been online for years and it’s still the only one I use when, for example, I want to check the network address when I have an IP address and mask.

Designing Sites For Calculators

Online calculators have to be accurate but they also have to be well designed.  It requires a certain amount of effort in order to put together a web page that is free of distracting clutter and on which the relevant fields are clear and unambiguous.  So the coding for the calculator needs to be flawless and the design of the web page on which the calculator resides has to be immaculate too.

There are thousands of such pages and sites now.  Some, the aforementioned TunnelsUP calculator, are designed specifically for a particular niche audience while others are collections of calculators that many people would use at various times in their lives and for all kinds of purposes. There are a number of sites that cater for aviators who want to perform weight and balance calculations prior to flights.

To design such a site that captivates users to the extent that they keep returning to it and think of it first before any other of the many alternatives takes considerable skill.  

Other calculators  I use from time to time are those you’ll find on the MoneySavingExpert.com site.  Again, this is one that’s been around for years and has therefore evolved into a trustworthy site with a large number of followers.   It’s now a multi million pound business that generates revenue from the affiliations it has embedded in the site.  

The site was launched in 2003 and in 2012 its founder, Martin Lewis, sold the business for a package worth £87m.  That’s a very healthy pay day for a website that was only nine years old at the time.  However, sites like that only gain such a loyal following if they are accurate – and that includes the calculators they contain.  

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