Design

Slide Rule

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I’ve had this knocking around for a while now and recently rediscovered it! A nice bit of vintage drawing equipment. Actually, it’s a slide rule –  the precursor to the calculator and computer – in its day it was an indispensable tool in everything from architecture to engineering and required accuracy on a level that modern, machine-made equipment would be proud of. This was a precision instrument which made it expensive – many slide rules were passed down from father to son as they progressed into the workforce. Heirlooms of a kind I guess.

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I’m glad they did, or they would not be around for us to marvel at now (I should get out more.) Well, I think this stuff needs to be reconsidered – after all, it has something not often found with modern technology – longevity. Ok, I know it is obsolete in modern terms, but I think it still has some relevance – even visually. Just look at the corners, bezels, thin lines and mix of materials? – Apple’s current design ethos works along the same principles I believe…

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There is another similarity too. Anyone who owns an iPhone/iPod/iPad will tell you why they prefer Apple products to other brands (whether you want to know or not!) and more often than not, they will cite the look and feel, the smoothness of a moving button, say, or the weight/proportions/functionality/intuitiveness etc – whatever detail they have recently discovered – almost with evangelical zeal!

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This has the same qualities about it. It has a reassuring heft. Its moving parts are tightly fitting, but glide smoothly and stay put once it place. It feels good in the hand – its body is made of a dense hardwood giving it a weight and rigidity not found outside of an adult movie! The plastic (now elegantly yellowed on the outside) is very finely marked, but clear and sharp leaving no room for error.

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On the back, printed in tiny type are all the standard conversion tables – tiny yes, but very clear. This must have been like carrying around a little Wikipedia back in the day!

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The number 35 stamped into the wood indicates the year it was made – 1935! How very thoughtful of them. And it comes in its own two part case…

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There is a fair bit of interest in this sort of thing, with lots of people sharing information and research on all kinds of obsolete tools and instruments. I found much information about slide rules and Faber Castell here, but have found myself very distracted here, here, and here.

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2 thoughts on “Slide Rule

  1. Thank you for the poignant comments about the slide rule. You are not alone in your feelings. I have been attracted to slide rules for many of the same reasons. You may see some real pieces of art at my website drsliderule.blogspot.com. The Oughtred Society dedicated to the study and preservation of slide rules and related devices. They have a website (oughtred.org), a Journal that is published twice yearly that is very interesting, and have annual meetings on both the West and East Coasts every year.
    Newly interested parties are always welcomed. There is also a bulletin board for slide rule enthusiasts and a variety of stores that specialize in selling slide rules. Ebay is a great place to find a slide rule if you wish to find one inexpensively, as well as for the more advanced collector

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