PCalc Prevents iPhone Profanity

UPDATE: Yes, this was intended as satire.

Here at TLA Systems, we take our responsibility to protect innocent minds very seriously.

Have you, or somebody close to you, ever turned your calculator upside down and accidentally seen a mildly suggestive word? Have you ever been in a maths class, and had to put up with groups of giggling boys performing elaborate calculations that are not part of the lesson?

Yes, it’s one of the main problems affecting the calculator industry today, the so-called “calculator words”. These otherwise harmless devices can be made to display smut at the press of a few buttons. Added to that, the iPhone App Store is very strict about having inappropriate content in apps. Nobody wants their app to get a 17+ rating, or worse, to be rejected entirely.

Which is why we are happy to announce that the latest version of our PCalc scientific calculator for the iPhone contains a new patent-worthy profanity filter.

Simply enter a number such as “5318008”, turn the calculator upside down, and the offending word will be discreetly censored. Many common calculator words have been included as standard, and we plan to increase this over time via software updates.

This pioneering technology is available in both the full PCalc, as well as in the totally free PCalc Lite. Ideal for classroom settings, and for the very easily offended.

Some people might say that this is just a humourous attempt to drum up some publicity, and we should really be concentrating on the things that make PCalc one of the most popular calculators on the App Store. Like, for example, the intuitive user interface that takes full advantage of the iPhone, the optional RPN mode, or the wealth of powerful features.

Or, these same people might want us to point out that this new version comes with a coupon code that’s worth $9 off the price of PCalc for Mac OS X, effectively making PCalc for the iPhone a mere 99c if you were thinking of buying both.

But we think we know our audience.

You can find out more details at www.pcalc.com and download either of the iPhone applications here.

Author: James Thomson

Indie iOS / Mac developer, maker of PCalc and DragThing. Occasional writer, conference speaker, and podcast pundit.

62 thoughts on “PCalc Prevents iPhone Profanity”

  1. James – simply brilliant!
    Of course, I’m not a teenager, so they may have another word for it!
    WOnderful use of technology – but HP sales may go up now 🙂


  2. I love this! What a great feature for a calculator. Now we just need to get my TV to do the same thing when I turn it upside down.

    Keep the creativity flowin! : D

  3. Simply brilliant.

    Does it work on the Mac version if I turn my monitor upside down?

    Long before the “Dumb Books for Dummies” era I remember owning a book of calculator tricks as a teenager. It included several “now turn the calculator upside down and read the funny result” tricks. I amazed all my (nerd) friends with my digitary skills.

  4. I quite frankly am tired of being censored by Apple, my IT department and now my calculator “knows best” of what I should and shouldn’t see? This isn’t China (yet)! I think you could have found a better use of your abilities. I love this calculator app but I have a philosophical problem with this. It might be ok if one could turn this off because maybe I want to look at 8008135 on my iPhone. It’s not like they are shaking…

    @Roger: Nice one.

  5. It’s funny, but it’s also incredibly easily defeated. Switch to landscape (scientific) mode, then turn it around slowly. You should be able to read it, albeit at a small angle, until the accelerometer has decided that you did a full 180 🙂

  6. I think that’s a wise decision. The App store reviewers always stand on their head, if you somehow forgot to remove the “calculator words” they would probably find out and reject your app because it contains swear words! 😉

  7. I noticed in the screen shot that, because of the way they are shaded, the buttons on the calculater look concave when upright but convex when the calculator is inverted. I think the next enhancement you need to make is to dynamically change the shading on the buttons so that they look concave in all orientations.

  8. Don’t worry, they’ll never approve it into the App Store – it replicates core functionality, thus it would confuse all the users.

  9. This is a joke, right? I think we’re exactly as far away from April Fool’s day as possible, so, just thought I’d ask.

  10. It would be more effective to flip the entire interface when the device is turned upside down. Then you wouldn’t need a list of naughty calculator words. On the other hand, that might be less fun than seeing “censored”.

  11. It’s too bad you can’t make that calculator programmable.

    I remember not only did I use to program in lots of formulas, but also wrote a lot of notes as comments in a source file. So, I had access to all of my notes during tests.

    … Of course, the tedious work of programming all of that in was effective in getting me to learn it anyway, but that’s beside the point damn it! I was still pulling one over on the teachers.

  12. Hillarious! To anybody who doesn’t understand the thinking behind this, it’s a pretty blatant jab at Apple and their App store censoring and it’s also a great trick.

    It’s so much more fun to have a calculator that censors words than one that just shows them. If you want to see the word “BOOBIES” on your phone then just type it in Google and let the good times roll.

    Great idea James!

  13. “It’s funny, but it’s also incredibly easily defeated. Switch to landscape…”

    It can also be defeated by leaving the iPhone / iPod Touch on a level surface (such as a desk) and rotating it 180. Still, quite an amusing update.

  14. Apparently two groups of people need a kick.
    To one group: Hey! It is all a joke, playing off of Apple’s tendency to not approve an app for the smallest of reasons and society’s and Apple’s sensitivity to the silliest of words. If you despise either or both of these, you should appreciate the poke in their eye represented by this joke.
    To the other group: Hey! Didn’t you ever tell a joke that some others didn’t find funny. Give James Thomson a break! So, you didn’t find it humorous, but did that mean you had to respond negatively. Hint: You didn’t think it was humorous because you’re humorless!

  15. — BUG REPORT —

    Product: PCalc

    Version: 1.8 (iPhone)

    Severity: Major loss of function (regression)

    Summary: Certain numbers, based on author’s subjective assumption of end user’s known languages and sensibilities or lack thereof, are not viewable within a 180 degree arc of gravitational orientation.

    Replication: With program running and device orientation within arc in question in relation to gravitational pull, enter directly or perform a calculation resulting in one of the “blacklisted” numbers.

    Problem: The number is obscured by a static graphic and the entry or result is not visible. Usage in environments of nonstandard relative (to user) or absence of gravitational orientation is unnecessarily difficult or impossible depending on user’s cognitive (dis)abilities. User is not able to view blacklisted numbers if so desired based on preemptive assumption of intent (restriction of freedom without charge). Censoring of “naughty” numbers ensures awareness of their existence as such as defined by arbitrary tightness of publisher’s posterior orifice.

    Possible Affected Scenarios: Use of device on lap while leaning forward; use during suspension from scaffold or suitable structure; use aboard aircraft during steep decline or roll; use in orbit of planetary body or zero-g (the memo clearly stated that the future is now).

    Proposed Solution: 1, Remove head from 455; 2, Restore functionality for end users; 3, (In future) make satirical commentary in a way that doesn’t regress functionality of a real, shipping product; 4, (In future) incorporate morality when devising publicity campaigns.

    Comments: This is not China. (Is this China? This isn’t China, is it? I didn’t think so.) Capitulation regarding censorship, even implicitly via humor, will allow it to become as such. Humor tends to be purged from corporate and legal (little difference) processes along with other human characteristics (save error), and is rarely effective “bottom-up”. Proper methods for instillment of change include petition, boycott, judicial leverage, and mass public exposure or embarrassment. Tough love.

    Let this be an example to Apple of the hardship their unrealistic app policies impose on developers and their customers. In this case as taken seriously above, the developer is a victim doubly as much as their user base — once for the imposition, and twice for the inevitable backlash. All we want, every one of us, is a fair deal. However, I feel the public (developers included) should rediscover their ability to affect positive change and utilize it. You never lost it, you just forgot you were able. (Yes it’s hard work, so is life.)

  16. What if a decimal is included? (e.g., will 531.8008 be filtered as well? Or can impressionable young minds not see past the decimal?)

  17. I love it! I think some can’t see the humor/satire (or maybe have no sense of humor!) On top of it, this is way funnier than the words themselves (or maybe the words are less funny now that I am in my 40’s!)

  18. Funny and a smooth marketing move! Well played, sir!
    Unbelievable that people here seriously get upset about this bit of satire (/blog fodder).

  19. @duq
    “Capitulation regarding censorship, even implicitly via humor, will allow it to become as such.”
    Please look up “Satire” in your dictionary or Wikipedia. It is the exact opposite of capitulation and actually pretty effective. This post is an excellent example.

  20. This is hilarious and you made a sale.

    Lets hope this catches on so if I turn mail upside down all the nasty bits get censored. The list is endless.

    A little light has shone into an otherwsie dreay day.

  21. Brilliant piece of marketing James, but personally, I’m disappointed it’s a joke.
    It’s not that hard to implement is it? A little easter egg for the initiated? Just one word?
    Please take this comment as a feature request for 1.9.

  22. In 1982 with the aid of my Casio FX602P I was able to use exponentials and X-Y register swaps to spell out:

    “7734 40” “345 51” “55378008”

  23. @ Hendrik

    Of course i get that it’s satire. Did you get that my bug report was too?

    If not, that fact supports the sentence quoted in that satire will go over many heads. Also, sometimes humor can be a mechanism of acceptance, like when a patient jokes about their disease, curable or no. (I say this one is.)

  24. Tested on 3 different iphones but only works on two. Definitely version 1.8 on all of them, but the one that doesn’t work was an update. That shouldn’t make any difference though.

  25. was it not easier to CHANGE THE NUMBERS FONT? that would have also improved usability by readability.

    life is simple, it takes a person to complicate it.

  26. I am SO saddened by the community here.
    Are you offended folks the same ones that think we’re just picking on Roman Polanski?
    Are you that void of humor in your life?
    We are indeed at the end when this is the response to something so subtly witty.
    Kudos James, I’ve forwarded to a number of folks who have now purchased this product – not on the merits of the joke – but on the merits of a superb product and developer.


  27. hmmm… what kind of people would NOT want funny words spelled upside down! Seems you are taking away something fun about a calculator. And at £5.99 I think I will give it a miss!

  28. Oh sad times, yes censorship is a serious issue (especially these days) and many here seem offended that you would ‘stoop’ to censor your own material, but comedy has always been the most effective way to put a tricky point forward and have it acknowledged. Even if you had no higher purpose than making a few people chuckle you have succeeded in spades!

    If you got nothing but abuse for this for the rest of the app’s days, it would still be worth it for the smirk the apple rep vetting your update undoubtedly had when your file came across his desk(top). BOOBIES!

  29. This is so stupid, it’s easy to figure out what you are censoring so there’s no point to do that !!

  30. James,

    for a horrible few days I did not know that this was a joke. Until I saw your blog and realised that you were Scottish, I thought that you were part of some sort of American far right disneyland censoring group that was really trying to rid the world (that is east AND west coast) of rude words that were not in the bible. I nearly deleted PCalc.

    What a relief. This was too close to reality. Don’t scare us like that.

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