Davos Newbies Home

The lure of the slide rule 

The good folks at design group Pentagram have just published a little pamphlet I wrote, The Slide Rule Vanishes. It consists on my reflections on the slide rule, which I learned to use in high school, just as this amazing tool was on the verge of extinction.

Since then, in a rather loose way, I’ve built up a small but reasonably high quality collection of slide rules. So the pamphlet is a personal catalogue, a look at an interesting technology and a meditation on what has been lost.

Here’s my conclusion: “Those of us who love slide rules are by definition not Luddites. It’s the tactile nature of the technology that excites, rather than a revulsion against the technologies that replaced it. There were gains provided by electronic calculators. Our work, lives and society are being dramatically transformed – and I believe generally improved – through near-ubiquitous computing. But there are losses from the slide rule age that are more than nostalgia. It’s better to be a tool user than a tool manager.”

It’s only available in hard copy, partly because it is very beautifully produced. If you’re truly interested in seeing it, drop me a message and availability permitting I’ll send you a copy.

The gift economy is thriving  

If you’re not in the right circles to have a Gmail invite, some clever soul has created Gmail swap. The idea is that you offer something — perhaps some particular skill or just a warm thought — in return for a Gmail invite.

The one thing I thought I could offer is a mention on Davos Newbies. Jeff Greenfield (can it possibly be the journalist Jeff Greenfield?) asked me to have a look at his daughter’s website and discussion board. It’s introduced me to a phenomenon I didn’t know existed: age-appropriate rap/pop music. Ten-year olds are pretty talented these days.

I’ll have to ask my five- and eight-year olds to offer a judgment on Dahv, since I’m clearly not the target market.

2 thoughts on “Davos Newbies Home

  1. bob mortimer

    Just read the jan issue of Step and saw reference to your paper on slide rules. One of my co-workers ( none of us are engineers – all work in eBusiness ! ) has collected many slide rules, myself have fond memories of my first Bang & Olufsen amplifier ( think it was a Beomaster 1700 ) which used “slide rule” type cursors for it’s controls. If Pentagram still has any left we would enjoy having a copy.

  2. Lance Knobel Post author

    Bob, if you send me your details I’ll send you a copy. Email me lknobel at gmail dot com.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *