Mental Floss

Brain Game: ON, M+, CE, et al


Back in the 1970s, LED calculators weren't cheap. Salesmen worked hard to make pitches to people whose jobs were math-related (like my dad, who was a land surveyor). If you ask any of those salesmen, they'd tell you that there were two numbers that they always had to keep in their heads to dazzle would-be customers. Here are those two numbers... but why were they important?

710.77345 58008.918

Here is the ANSWER.


They were used in sales pitches.

The salesman would go through an elaborate series of "calculations" while telling a story. (The tale varied greatly... it may have been about anything from gas prices to Dolly Parton, depending on the audience.) When finished, the salesman would turn the calculator around 180 degrees and announce the "answer" to all the figuring he was doing. When viewed that way, certain combinations of numbers could spell what looked like words. "SHELL OIL" was a common one for the PG-rated crowd, while "BIG BOOBS" got a guffaw out of typically hip 70s businessmen.

Here's an image of each (the number in red, then the same number upside-down in white).