*New Yorker*article that celebrates the 100th birthday and achievements of Claude Shannon (1916 -2001) -- often referred to as "the father of the information age." Most of the important information in that article I leave for you to read for yourself, but I call to your attention to one of Shannon's accomplishments featured therein -- Claude Shannon built a machine for doing arithmetic with Roman numerals. This connects to poetry via a poem by Ron Padgett, below.

The Roman numeral system has largely been abandoned

because arithmetic is less cumbersome with a place-value system.

Here is a link to a site that exhibits procedures for Roman numeral arithmetic.

**The Roman Numerals**by Ron Padgett

It must have been hard

for the Romans to multiply

—I don’t mean reproduce,

but to do that computation.

Step inside a roman numeral

for a moment, a long one

such as MDCCLIX. Look

at the columns and pediments

and architraves: you cannot move them,

but how beautiful they are

and august! However, try to multiply

MDCCCLXIV times MCCLVIII.

How did they do it?

I asked this question some years ago

and never found an answer

because I never looked for one,

but it is pleasant,

living with this question.

Perhaps the Romans weren’t good at math,

unlike the Arabs, who arrived

with baskets of numerals, plenty

for everyone. We still have

more than we need today.

I have a 6 and a 7 that,

when put side by side, form my age.

Come to think of it,

I’d rather be LXVII.

“The Roman Numerals” is used by permission from

*Alone and Not Alone*(Coffee House Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ron Padgett.

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