Antique, if not ancient, technology

Slide rule, gifted to Art Hunt in December 2010 by his children - photo by Art Hunt

You could slide through the physics final with this device, at one time.

This is the device used to put humans on the Moon.

Have you ever used one?

It’s a slide ruleNice story about Art Hunt’s kids listening to tales from the olden days, and bringing back a little piece of the olden days for him.  He now claims to be ready for a power outage at his lab.

How does anyone understand a logarithmic scale anymore without a slide rule?  Does anyone make good slide rules anymore?



12 Responses to Antique, if not ancient, technology

  1. John Mashey says:

    I owned one of these. We have a good collection of them at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
    We also have abici, keypunches and paper tape.

    When I’ve taken college students around, they whisper to each other “they actually used this junk?”

    Come visit sometime after the new permanent exhibition opens next week. We’ve worked very hard on this 25,000-sq-ft collection and display. Computing history evaporates really quickly.


  2. jd2718 says:

    If you know that one, you might like to think about why 31^2 = 961. I like the flutter of real interest that gem is usually good for.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Jonathan, I never did figure out how to do square roots, and I’m jealous of those who can.

    Fortunately for me, the only square root question on the SAT when I took it was the square root of 169. I had memorized the multiplication table for 13 earlier in the year, for the heck of it.


  4. jd2718 says:

    They are not produced; they are salvaged.

    I think I’m just a bit younger than Bryan, but from a more old-fashioned district. There were kids in high school with TIs with that red LED. If you pushed 4 keys at once, it would turn on (maybe the four functions?)

    But most of us did not have them – I don’t know if they were banned in math, or just not used.

    In physics we were only allowed to use calculators if we first demonstrated proficiency on the sliderule. I think I would be disciplined if I tried to enforce that in my class today. I think, by the way, that almost all of us passed the test, but only about half of us got calculators.

    Me? Neither. I passed the test (on my step-father’s very cool circular slide-thingie) and proceeded to continue doing multiplication and division and taking square roots as we were intended to: with pencil and paper.



  5. Use one? I’ve never *seen* one. Then again, I’m not as much of an old fart as you guys :p


  6. mark says:

    I have an old one, but I guess it probably needs new batteries by now.
    I remember how excited over the new calculators the engineering students were, because they could get oodles of decimal places in their answers.


  7. LIsa says:

    My experience is just like Bryan’s. I remember always carrying a slide rule as well as a TI scientific calculator when I was a freshman engineering student. The calculator had a tendency to just die right in the middle of an exam. It always amazes me that my little TI solar scientific calculator today (cost about $15) is far more reliable than that $300 clunker in the mid-1970’s.


  8. george.w says:

    Oh, I’d love to have a Curta. It’s first on my list of “things to buy if I win the lottery” because they’re going for about a grand now. Alas, using a Curta one could calculate that the chance of winning the lottery is not materially different between buying a ticket and not buying one.

    The Curta story is stone-cold amazing.


  9. Bryan says:

    We learned to use slide rules in JHS/HS, just as the original TI calculators were becoming more affordable. By the time I got to college, slide rules were out and calculators were commonplace. On the other hand, my first college exposure to computers was from keypunching Fortran code onto punch cards, running them through the card reader and waiting for my print-out at the printer desk.


  10. wintermute says:

    Yeah, that looks like the ThinkGeek sliderule to me.

    If there are others still in production, I’m not aware of them.

    I have that one, and a couple of others (including , but I really can’t afford to start a serious collection.

    Besides, I really want a Curta ;)


  11. george.w says:

    The only one I know of currently available is from ThinkGeek and I’ve heard it’s not a real good one. But a wide variety is available used (and some unused) at Sphere Research, and quite less expensively on eBay.

    I still use them – a boon to the aging dyslexic who has difficulty reading digital displays. Besides I just like them.


  12. Kate says:

    LOL I remember using one of those. I was a sophomore in college before I could afford one of those expensive, nearly lunchbox sized TI calculators. Have I dated myself?


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