Friday, April 30, 2010

Why a Slide Rule is Better than a PC

First of all, do you even know what I'm talking about? If you went to school when dinosaurs like Mike and I did, you are probably familiar with the good old trusty, frustrating, guaranteed-to-make-you-look-like-a-geek Slide Rule.

This is a traditional Slide Rule:

This is a fancy circular Slide Rule:

You can go here to read everything you ever wanted to know about Slide Rules.

If you are of a certain age, you learned how to use a Slide Rule, rather than a calculator, to do your scientific and mathematical calculations. It was accurate enough for your routine needs, required no power, was lightweight and easy to carry, and was relatively cheap. It didn't have a memory, but if you needed to record your data, you used the only required peripheral device, the Paper Pad.

Today, few people use a Slide Rule because we have expensive graphing calculators and PCs. These are far more accurate than the good old slide rule and Paper Pad, but have their own problems. Here are a few of the many reasons Slide Rules are better than PCs...

1. A Slide Rule doesn't shut down abruptly when it gets too hot.

2. One hundred people all using Slide Rules and Paper Pads do not start wailing and screaming due to a single-point failure.

3. A Slide Rule doesn't smoke whenever the power supply hiccups.

4. A Slide Rule doesn't care if you eat or drink while using it.

5. You can spill coffee or a soft drink on a Slide Rule and keep on computing.

6. A Slide Rule never sends you snarky system messages about upgrades, reboots, and damaged files.

7. A Slide Rule and Paper Pad fit in a briefcase with space left over for lunch or a change of underwear.

8. You don't get junk mail offering pricey upgrades for your Slide Rule that fix current old errors while introducing new ones.

9. A Slide Rule doesn't need scheduled hardware maintenance, an IT staff, and a 24/7 help desk outsourced to a team of geeks in Carjackistan who barely speak English.

10. A Paper Pad supports text and graphics images easily, and can be easily upgraded from monochrome to color.

11. Slide Rules are designed to a standardized, open architecture.

12. You can use a Slide Rule to hit the obnoxious person in the next cubicle.

13. Nobody can steal your identity by hacking your Slide Rule.

14. You can upgrade your memory without limits by simply adding additional Paper Pads. No need to reconfigure anything, change any settings, or do any backups. "Backing up your data" consists of putting the old Paper Pad away in a drawer.

15. Nobody will make you feel bad by introducing a smaller, faster, cheaper Slide Rule next month.

Slide Rules. Don't leave home without them.

Have a good, low-tech day. More thoughts tomorrow, on Cartoon Saturday.



KKTSews said...

I work in a building full of engineers. Every Winter they have a huge auction to raise money to give needy kids gifts. And every year there are a couple *pristine* name-brand slide rules offered, and purchased. A few people do cherish these, even if no one actually uses them any more except a pilot who loses all onboard computer systems (that's the round slide rule).

Amanda said...

I've learned something new today! I honestly had not heard of it before.

John A Hill said...

Holy crap! I'm old. I've been lumped into the same category as Bilbo and Mike! The shame of having to admit it is more than I can bear on this day. Yes, I too, learned to use a slide rule in school.

Personally, I still find that the design of this device is remarkable. Even with the technology that is available, this low tech device is still pretty much a golly-gee-whiz device if you ask a young dinosaur like me.

Mike said...

I still have my Pickett.

Leslie David said...

A slide rule means you have to understand math. :(

Anonymous said...

I did a crossword puzzle yesterday that had the following clue:

Obsolete mathematical device.

Of course the answer was: (drumroll)


Thanks, Bilbo, for refreshing my memory. Especially the part about my undiagnosed astigmatism that made me get all the answers wrong on my slide rule (even with, or maybe because of, the special magnifying device I paid extra for).
Eminence Grise

Speaking of Grise: Ever sent the new kid in class out to buy some slide rule grease?

Bilbo said...

Eminence - no, but we did send new kids out for 50 feet of flight line, or some cloud eradicator to make the aerial reconnaissance photos more useful. We also used to send them out for five-gallon cans of propwash, but that's not as funny any more as it used to be...

Unknown said...

When my son went to Field Artillery school, about 6 years ago, they issued him a couple of slide rules (once for each type of gun or ammunition, I'll have to ask) because you need to be able to keep firing when your fancy computer decides to take a break