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Honored Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

mid 60's-------------my teens.

 

Parents were afraid we would not learn math if we used an advanced calculator.  But a slide rule was encouraged more and, if you spent enough time with one, was pretty fast.  In our advanced math classes we had regular contests to see which was faster.  If the right guy was running the rule he was hard to beat.

New technology always gets a fear factor.  The spin was smart folks used slide rules and a calculator might be a crutch.

 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

"Making change" the old-fashioned way, before the cash egister did the subtraction for you, was an art unto itself.  My mother taught me to do it as a kid, since she had clerked in a general mercantile as a teenager. 

 

You laid the customer's bill across (or, set their change onto) the drawer ledge, and counted from the amount owed "up to" that bill(or change).  There was no actual "math" involved, just coiunting from one point  ( amount due) to the other (amount tendered).  

 

My father once told my youngest, when she was about three or four, that she "could have all the money she could count" out of his pockets.    She accurately counted every cent of several dollars in loose change he kept in his big bib overall pockets.  I told her to tell him to break out that fat wallet from his front shirt pocket...he always carried a few thousand dollars there. 

 

He wisely declined.  She could have picked him clean.  Of all my kids, that one was the most entertaining compulsive counter, which is a trait in that side of the family.  He should have known better. 

 

Funny, but I never remember teaching the klds to count money, as in schoolwork.  They just did it as part of living.  Maybe I taught the first one, and he taught the other two.  Long time ago. 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Slide Rule

A fellow classmate used a slide rule in HS.  Class Valedictorian but a horrible athlete and what we would call a real nerd today.  Everyone but perhaps the teachers, thought using a slide rule was the uncoolest and prevailing opinion that it suited Robert very well.  The pioneering HP calculators models 35 and 45 were still a few years away and "cutting edge" was the elusive Wang desktop which likely only Robert and the math teacher knew existed. Things suddenly changed.  That fall's first quarter classes included engineering graphics and mastering the slide rule.   Soon determined that the slide rule was an engineer's best friend and absolutely necessary to go further in that curriculum.  So easy to master and incredibly powerful.  In retrospect the nerdish classmate was the real trend setter and undoubtedly an incredibly wise one.   Didn't do much for his social life or physical prowess, but can't have everything.  Really wanted a bamboo one with leather case which was nearly $50, but could only afford a plastic model with a vinyl pouch.   A few HP 35's and one HP 45 did appear the end of my junior year and the price of slide rules began to plummet.   At graduation could purchase a new bamboo or aluminum one with leather case at the bookstore for less than $15.  Couldn't afford the $295 HP 35 or $395 HP 45, but finally got an advance on my graduation present and purchased the newly released $189 TI model SR 50 that spring. 

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Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

I can identify with you regarding your grandson.  My youngest son was about 8 or 9 when I was struggling to decide what to give him for Christmas.  My math skills were not super by any means.  I knew he was a quick learner, able to figure out complex problems as a small child.  I went to the Best Buy store and while looking at calculators, decided he might just be smart enough to figure out a scientific calculator that could also be programmed with simple computer code.

 

He took it, taught himself everything featured in the owner's manual in a couple weeks, and mastered everything it was capable of doing.  I was astonished his mind was that deep into equations and programing languages.  In junior high, he bought a C++ programming manual and by his sophomore year became a certified sysco systems programmer.  Two other whiz kids at his school took the certification tests and failed.  Majored in mathematics and philosophy in college, including a stint at a Hungarian university in Budapest.  Learned the linux system as well.  Now is an IT programer and has written software for a number of clients, including a major health care provider. 

 

Who knew that a $50(might have been more than that, they were expensive back then) Christmas gift would start him on the road towards a career of a lifetime.

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Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

cool story smokey. We think we are exporting corn and beans, but our biggest export(from farm communities) is intelligent children that know how to work.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

Mathematics as a "talent" is probably more of a combination of nature and nurture than many other abilities, although there are so many variables in human growth and development, it is hard to assign cause to any effect in outcomes.  It's not surprising to find a lot of farm kids who are extremely accomplished in math, because it appears in research that the physical brain structures necessary for it are developed by hands-on activities. 

 

Farms are one big site-specific problem solving activity, aren't they?  I always say people learn what they need to know....

 

Then, we are posed the issue of who has survived in agriculture to this point in time in this place.  What in our genes and upbringing conspired to make us able to cope and adapt, where others did not?  Surely, we passed some of this in our DNA to our offspring, and also provided them with experiences that  further bent the twig, so to speak. 

 

Our older daughter has better horse sense than anyone I've ever known, which neither of us could have ever taught her, and riding was one thing which she would not have experienced until after age 21. Still, she has an innate knowledge of what the animal will do next...which amazes me.  We had an interesting conversation about this only yesterday, and concluded that she channels her PaPa (Mike's father) who had similar animal insight.  

I've watched our son do things with tools that very few people can do.  Maybe not surprising, since that was all he wanted from Santa when he was two.  The younger daughter is such a different egg from her siblings.  She is blessed with a memory capacity that is scary comprehensive, and a sense of color and design that seemed to jump a generation and sideways, over me from an aunt on my father's side. 

 

We never know what will strike a spark in a child's heart and mind.  My philosophy is that a kid would rather work alongside a parent, or other caring adult, than play any day.  Toys used to be miniature versions of adult tools, and some still are, fortunately.   

 

I think almost every successful adult can trace a story in some way similar to Smokey's son.  His is just an extraordinarily illustrative case, that traced a clearly progressive path. 

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Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

Thanks.  You are right about exporting people who know how to work. 

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Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

With all my kids, they liked being with us parents and working alongside when it was safe for them to do so.  Countless hours of riding combines, etc. and observing what we were doing that they were too young to do.  But we also encouraged exploring and expanding their minds with kid activities.  My youngest loved building rockets and firing them off.  I can't count the times I would watch him and then scour the landscape for signs of the rocket so we could retrieve them and do it all over again.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

Rocketry is fun...my crowd went through a spell of it, too.  Did you ever watch the movie October Sky?  It is very inspirational, and as a true story, better than any fiction. 

 

Our kids' science fair projects every year usually had some origins in the farm operation.  Applied knowledge is the best kind....

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Advisor

Re: Slide Rule

Yes, watched it with our entire family.  This is a great story and a good one to watch with family. 

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