Slide Rules and Log Tables

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Xollob | 10:59 Mon 06th Jun 2005 | Science
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I'm 44 and remember using a slide rule and log tables at school. Are these things still in use anywhere? Does anybody under 30 know what I'm talking about?


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I know what you're talking about, but no, afaik not used anymore. We use calculators instread ;)

I was taught to use them in my first year of secondary school 1976/77.

We were the last year, those who followed us used calculators as it was decided that they were then cheap enough to be accessible to all.

Personally I think that on the whole it was a good thing because it allowed a lot more people to look at actual mathematics without getting too bogged down in tedius mechanical arithmetic. Mind you there were (and still are) the mindless abusers who insist on doing things like quoting answers to 9 decimal places in inapproprite circumstances and writing down whatever appeared in the box without thinking about whether it made sense.

Probably went on to become statisticians

I was in high school 1981-1985 and we used the log tables. Never used slide rules though.

nope, it's calculators all the way these days. i've seen log tables printed as an illustration in a book, but not for actual use. and i've still never seen a real slide rule...
When I attended University here in U.S., the slide rules used by the engineering students were about 18 inches long and carried in a leather holster on their belt.  It was their way of saying size matters, I guess...
A Level Maths we were shown how to use log tables. That was the first time I'd come across natural logs. I think I done base 10 logs at GCSE, but only using a calculator. That was in 1992.

The constipated mathematician,

Worked it out with a slide rule?

Worked it out in logs?

no, the constipated mathematician worked it out with a pencil.

pH values use logs to base 10

and when I worked one out in my head people looked at me like I was really freaky.

I still have my log tables and slide rule which I sort of furtively take out and look at......

In 1992 I was doing exams at the end of my first year at Uni.  My subject was politics and economics, but we did one exam concerning statistical stuff and surveys etc.  We had to take a calculator to the exam, but I forgot.  The exam location was some distance away from my roo, so I didn't have time to go back to my room to get it.  But log-tables were provided and I used them instead.  It is only because I am such an anorak that I knew how to use them.  Many of the other people in my group wouldn't have known enough about logs to be able to, so it was just as well that I happened to be the one without as calculator.
My maths teacher used to refer to slide rules as 'Guessing Sticks'.  I don't know if that was because he considered them to be inaccurate, or whether he thought we were too incompetent to use them correctly!
It's a shame they are gone, such an ingenious "instrument". Few years back I found a young lady from Alaska whose business was selling them over Internet. Nostalgic images of Faber Castell, Nestler, Staedtler...My father taught me to use it and I still prefer it over calculator.
The venerable slide rule may have been discarded for most uses, however, in aviation, each new student is still taught to use the E6B computer.  This is a circular slide rule used to make speed, distance and fuel computations and conversions.  There are electronic devices that do the same tasks but this one can be carried in the shirt pocket and the batteries never run out.  The original, developed sometime in the 1930's was about 5 inches in diameter with a slide for wind drift computations that was about another 8 inches long.  Mine is quite ancient and made of metal, but has been reduced in size.  Later ones were made of plastic and pitty the poor student that left his on the glare shield of the cockpit, since the sun would soon warp it into unusuability...
Further to Ph values, The Richter scale is logerithmic as are electrical decibells and the power meter on my cellphone golfgame!

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