Today’s wristwatches amaze me. The watch I wear is one that I purchased for only $10 at our local Wal-Mart store. It keeps time accurate to about two seconds a month, as checked by a shortwave receiver set for WWV, the international time station. Since there are 86,400 seconds in a day, we’re dealing with an accuracy of about one part in 1.3 million!

The time clock at work is far less accurate. It gains one second every other day, and my co-workers curse it for its “pathetic” inaccuracy, which amounts to only one part in 172,800.

Computers have to be TOTALLY accurate to ensure “error-free” transmission of data. It baffles me how a floppy disk, much less a cable modem, can transmit millions of bytes of data in a few minutes with no errors. Your CD-ROM and hard drives are even more impressive! But we still complain when something goes wrong and we lose something because a few bytes of data get “lost in the translation.”

At the other extreme, today’s scales are horribly inaccurate. Doctors’ scales can vary by a pound or two (some would say more than that) on a person weighing 200 pounds. That’s one part in 100 to 200. Bathroom scales can vary by as much as five pounds or more on the same person. That’s only one part in 40! If a clock was only this accurate, you could set it now and it would be off by 36 minutes at this time tomorrow!