Created By: SonicLover on August 4, 2011 Last Edited By: SonicLover on August 27, 2014

Upside-Down Digits

LCD digits look like letters when turned upside-down.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Hello to you too, calculator. How are you today?
Seen It a Million Times. Needs a Better Name (maybe). Needs a Better Description. Rolling Updates. Could seriously use some discussion; I'm sick of making irrelevant edits just to bump.

It's a classic trick known by anyone who's ever been bored with a calculator: enter a number, turn the display upside-down, and read it like it's a set of letters. 0.7734 becomes "HELLO", 58008 becomes "BOOBS", 312217 becomes "LIZZIE"... the possibilities go on and on.

This trick of turning numbers upside-down to form letters (or vice-versa) has been incorporated in many ways, in many different forms of media. Apparently a lot of people have been bored while in possession of calculators (and if you've ever taken a high school or college math class you can't really blame them).

See also Letters 2 Numbers. Will go under Number Tropes.

Examples

Literature
  • Used without an actual calculator in the Warhammer novel Beasts In Velvet. One of the characters gets fatally stabbed but sees the killer. When he is found, his body is stuck in a barrel, with his dying message scrawled on the inside of the lid. It looks like a string of numbers which don't make sense until the climax, where the heroes realize they have read it upside down.

Music
  • The Hollies released an album called 5317704. Think about it.

Video Games
  • Telltale's Sam & Max: Freelance Police series, Episode 204 (Chariots of the Dogs): When Sam inspects the keypad for the door, Max tells him to "make it say BOOBIES". The code turns out to be 5318008, "BOOBIES" upside-down. Strange Minds Think Alike, apparently.
  • In Riddle School 3, Phil has to find the combination for Richy's locker. When he finds it it says "BLOBBLES". Of course, it's actually 53788078.
  • At least one puzzle in the Professor Layton series has made good use of this trope.

Web Original

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • When Karen got turned into a calculator in one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, she displayed the "HELLO" trick across her screen.
Community Feedback Replies: 49
  • August 4, 2011
    doubleyouteeeff
    • Homestar Runner:
      Strong Bad: Look! I can make mine say, "OBOE SHOES"!

      • Also, they somehow manage to do this trick with "BUTT X 2"

    I think the name is fine.
  • August 4, 2011
    thegrenekni3t
  • August 4, 2011
    katiek
    Pretty sure Progressive Flo does this in one ad, and Bart or Lisa Simpson do it at one point.
  • August 4, 2011
    cityofmist
    I think there's a The Big Bang Theory episode where they discuss their favourite numbers, and Raj's is 58,008 for this reason.
  • August 4, 2011
    fluffything
    • One episode of Extras had Darren Lamb being rather amused that he could spell out the word "BOOBS" (IE: 50080 upside-down) on a calculator.
  • August 4, 2011
    KamenZero
    In one episode of Family Guy, Quagmire is staying with the Griffins for a while and he teaches Chris the "8008" number.
    Chris: What if we get another calculator and put them together?
    Quagmire: Yes. Yes! Find one! Yes!
  • August 4, 2011
    CaveCat
    • When Karen got turned into a calculator in one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, she displayed the "HELLO" trick across her screen.
  • August 4, 2011
    benjamminsam
    I don't remember the (extremely contrived) joke, maybe someone else can jog my memory, but the idea was that you add some arbitrary string of numbers related to some story and you wind up with "55318008"; that is, "BOOBLESS." (Edited the number, which was mistyped.)
  • August 4, 2011
    bbofun
    Sorry, wrong number
  • August 4, 2011
    TonyG
    On The Simpsons, Moe mentions that he moved to Springfield because the zip code spells "BOOBS". Just one more clue for figuring out Where The Hell Is Springfield.
  • August 4, 2011
    dogfish44
    In Detective Conan, one case is solved by the victim leaving a message in a Calculator.
  • August 4, 2011
    FaxModem1
    In Superman comics, this is how Lois figures out her father is still alive and running a top secret government agency that is trying to kill Superman, because its called Project 7734. Which was a trick Sam Lane taught Lois and Lucy at a young age.
  • August 5, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Could use some title suggestions, as it's always about the upside-down LCD spelling out messages. The Progressive ad called it "calculator humor", but that wouldn't make a good title. LCD LOL? Calculator Speak? I'm short on ideas.
  • August 5, 2011
    LeeM
    Music: the album 5317704 by The Hollies. Spoilered for those who want to work it out for themselves.
  • August 5, 2011
    randomsurfer
    .
  • August 5, 2011
    madelinemary
    Truth In Television because this was the only way to make math class bearable.
  • August 6, 2011
    TBTabby
    Another SB Email, "what i want," has a homemade Decemberween gift consisting of a seashell with office supplied glued to it, including a calculator with "040404" displayed.
  • August 6, 2011
    No9
    Anime and Manga

    • Rave Master A girl with amnesia finds the numbers 3173 tattooed to her arm which she initially reads upside-down and comes to the conclusion it was her name ELIE.
  • August 6, 2011
    randomsurfer
    @Tony G's example: it comes up with Moe again - or earlier, since this ep was first - when Homer is Guest Hosting the Krusty the Clown show while Krusty is studying for his Bar Mitzvah. Moe's topic of discussion on the show is "words you can spell on a calculater" including BOOBS.
  • August 6, 2011
    Ryusui
    The Rave Master example is a partial subversion, as it's eventually revealed it was meant to be read both ways: ELIE-3173 is the coordinates she was found at. (IIRC. It's been a while since I read that part.)
  • August 6, 2011
    ArtyMorty
    In the video game Trespasser a keycode is written on a wall: The words Big LIE, if flipped upside down give you the numbers 317618.
  • August 6, 2011
    Unknown Troper
    @katiek: Yea, Flo does the "hello" bit in a Progressive commercial.
  • August 6, 2011
    LobsterMagnus
    A German Language example: 7353 --> ESEL (donkey).
  • August 9, 2011
    jbrecken
    Would cases where someone reads a display upside-down and sees a different number rather than a word apply to this trope? It seems to happen most often with people seeing a bizarre time on a digital clock.
  • August 9, 2011
    SonicLover
    ^ No, I don't think so...
  • August 11, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Used without an actual calculator in the Warhammer novel Beasts In Velvet. One of the characters gets fatally stabbed but sees the killer. When he is found, his body is stuck in a barrel, with his dying message scrawled on the inside of the lid. It looks like a string of numbers which don't make sense until the climax, where the heroes realise they have read it upside down.
  • August 11, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In the Round Robin comic DC Challenge a Cliff Hanger clue - a series of numbers - in the first issue was never properly resolved until the penultimate issue: add them all up and turn the caluclator upside down, it spells out the name ELI ELLIS, a minor character in the first issue. If the Letter Column is to be believed, several readers figured it out; but some of those didn't notice the character named Eli Ellis in issue #1 so they still didn't know who he was.
  • August 23, 2011
    Jhimmibhob
    Music The MC Frontalot song "80085" is a nostalgic retelling of his high-school algebra days.
  • August 23, 2011
    SonicLover
    ^ Technically that's not upside-down.
  • August 23, 2011
    cocoy0
    Too bad, but this is limited by language:

    10 years ago (type 10), when I was 14 years old (type 14) in 1970 (type 1970), my girlfriend and I broke up (divide by 2) because of (turn around the calc) SELOS (Tagalog word for jealousy.
  • August 1, 2014
    XFllo
    Bumping, it could be a fun page. Up For Grabs.

    TV
    • In episode "Blood" The X Files, the guy who suffers from blood phobia is already freaked out, but slips even more when a small calculator drops onto the floor and he then reads "blood". In this episode, more machines seem to communicate with him and other victims.

    web
    • SF Debris: In his review of "Blood" from The X-Files, Chuck jokes that the guy is freked because his culculators spells "BLOOD". Normally it only spells "BOOBIES".
  • August 1, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    I'm not so sure this is a trope. If it is, it's no more of a trope than rubber pencils, or if you fold a twenty dollar bill a certain way you get the WTC on 9-11.

    But...

    Webcomics
    • IDGet. In one strip, Kevin says he wishes he could appear on Jeopardy just so he can wager $0.7734 in the final round; when IDGet asks why, we're then treated to an Imagine Spot, where Kevin looks down at his screen and says, "Why, hello to you too!"
  • August 1, 2014
    XFllo
    Well, we have lots of pages on comedy bits. But it's someting we need to consider, so I'll add "tropeworthy?" tag.
  • August 1, 2014
    DAN004
    Tis a comedy trope, Y not?
  • August 1, 2014
    Alvin
    Live Action Television : In an episode of Matlock a guy murdered at a TV station cues up a tape to a place that shows Matlock's client. Matlock eventually realizes that the LED counter reads 337, reading upside down as 'Lee', the name of the real killer. Edited to add. Some of the stuff in Dying Clue is similar to this.
  • August 1, 2014
    DAN004
    Maybe add "gag" to the title.
  • August 2, 2014
    Omeganian
    There is an old joke on the subject; 337 Israelis are fighting 337 Arabs on an area of 8,424 square kilometers. Who wins? Answer: 337*337+8424^2=71,077,345=Shell Oil.
  • August 2, 2014
    DaibhidC
    Comic Book
    • Played For Drama in the "World Against S" storyline in Superman when Jimmy is trying to learn the significance of the military's Area 7734, and Steve Lombard points out it's "hELL" upside down.

    Webcomic
  • August 2, 2014
    henke37
    Many displays have been enhanced by adding additional line segments, allowing for freeform text.

    Electrical engineers have gotten creative when they have direct access to individual line segments, especially with the enhanced displays. See Pinball machines for examples of animations done this way.
  • August 2, 2014
    Omeganian
    • In Batman The Animated Series episode "Riddler's Reform", the supposedly reformed titular villain shows an advertisement on TV with the digits "31753701". At first, Batman believes these are map coordinates (for the First National Bank), but then realizes Riddler flipped over the blackboard, and it actually means "10 Leslie" - an address of a jewelry store.
  • August 2, 2014
    Antigone3
    A reverse (sorry) example in one of the Lord Darcy stories. The victim leaves a dying clue by carving three letters into an earthen bluff. No one realizes until later that he was hanging over the edge of the bluff — flipped around to his viewpoint, the message is the code number of the dangerous Polish spy who killed him.
  • August 2, 2014
    ParanoiaAgent
    the usual term for this is Calculator spelling
  • August 3, 2014
    Arivne
  • August 11, 2014
    XFllo
    I like Calculator Spelling too.
  • August 11, 2014
    SKJAM
    • Shutterbug Follies: Bee is trapped in the apartment of a killer, and he can override the voice on her cellphone. So she sends a numberical message to a cabbie's pager...338 505. It takes him dropping the pager and picking it up upside down to get the idea.
  • August 26, 2014
    jormis29
  • August 27, 2014
    JustaUsername
    I'm the fourth person for Calculator Spelling!
  • August 27, 2014
    Astaroth
    Does this count? It's about numbers looking like other numbers rather than letters:

    • In one episode of Futurama, Professor Farnsworth constructs a bomb for the purpose of destroying a meteor made of trash that's on a collision course with earth. He intends to program it with a 25 minute (25:00) timer, but attaches the LCD screen upside down and accidently sets the timer to 52 seconds (00:52) instead.
  • August 27, 2014
    Tiiba
    Used by the Progressive Insurance girl in one ad. I can't find it, could someone?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=g0df9p809jt1f2iido53h2pa