Mechanical Calculator Loses its Shit Trying to Divide By Zero

mechanical calculator
Old Fashioned Typewriter (Mekanisk Raknemaskin) (Old Fashioned Typewriter

You may not realise that you need to see an old mechanical calculator wig out — but you do. Here’s what happens when someone tries to make one divide by zero.

This mechanical calculator video was uploaded to YouTube a couple of years ago, but it resurfaced on Reddit this week. Its a neat physical representation of something most of us learned in early math classes – you can’t divide something by zero.

Electronic Products Magazine, the account that uploaded the video, also has a good explanation as to why this doesn’t work.

“Division is based on subtraction; that is, if you want to divide a number by a second number, you just subtract second number from the first number over and over again. So, 20 divided by 5 would be 20 minus 5, which equals 15, minus 5 which equals 10, minus 5 which equals 5, minus 5 which equals 0. Since it took four subtractions to get to zero, the answer is 4.”

“It’s a bit of a convoluted way of explaining division, but it helps us understand the video below. You see, when you divide 20 by 0, you’ll end up subtracting 0 from 20 an infinite amount of times. And in the case of the Facit ESA-01 mechanical calculator, what winds up happening is the machine attempts to complete the infinite number of operations it believes is necessary to complete the division.”

Now, please enjoy the extremely satisfying clicking of a frustrated mechanical calculator trying to achieve the impossible.