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I came of age just as calculators began to displace slide rules. I learned how to use one for simple arithmetic but even my gray-haired math teacher admitted it was more as a fun trick than a useful skill.

I’ve written a few times about New Hampshire members of the Oughtred Society, an organization of slide-rule fans whose website looks like it was built on Netscape, or maybe Lynx. And I have written about the world’s longest slide rule (320 feet!) built by students in Hudson. But I haven’t delved into the world of analog log-based calculating devices for a long time.

So I very much enjoyed this New York Times obituary of Walter Shawlee, who basically created slide-rule nostalgia in this country. It’s entertaining and worth a look:

His customers included a weather station in Antarctica, where many electronic gadgets could not take the cold; photo editors responsible for adjusting image sizes (they like slide rules for their clear displays of different values for the same ratio); an archaeologist who found that calculators got too dusty to work properly during digs; the drug company Pfizer, which gave away slide rules as gifts during a trade show; slide rule enthusiasts in Afghanistan and French Polynesia; and “guys from NASA,” Mr. Shawlee told Engineering Times in 2000.

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