How much do you want it to be?

Flashback to the 1970s, when companies that can't afford a mainframe send their computing jobs to a service bureau like the one that employs this pilot fish.

"We were a scientific bureau in the UK running Control Data hardware," says fish. "One of our customers, an economics think tank, were able to get a copy of the government's macroeconomic model, so they could also attempt to predict what the economy would do.

"It was written in Fortran for a Univac 1108 -- every manufacturer had its own version of Fortran -- but once we got rid of the compilation errors, we ran it with the test data provided.

"And it failed. The analysis of the problem: a divide-by-zero error.

"Back to the customer, who put us in touch with their contact at Univac. Much to our surprise, we learned that on the Univac machine used by the government, x divided by zero equaled x.

"The consternation at our end was mind blowing.

"After much head-scratching, we figured that trying to change the program would be too much work, so the only option was to do what is now called overloading. We redefined the divide operator accordingly and reran the test data.

"And the results exactly matched the test data results provided.

"Not surprisingly, I have been very skeptical of government economic forecasts ever since..."

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