ruveyn ben yosef

A little bit of retro tech to delight the senses -- The Curta Calculator

19 posts in this topic

There Curta calculator was a cylindrical hand cranked calculator that could give 12 digits accuracy for the four arithmetic operations and some of the trig functions. Until the electronic photovoltaic type calculators came out for a price under $25.00 these beautiful machines could not be beat. They could be carried in a brief-case, go anywhere and did not need batteries or photovoltaic cells to work. You set the numbers and you turned the handle. See this lovely thing broken out into its finely machined components:

http://www.vcalc.net/images2/Master20s-860x562.jpg

For a brief history of the Curta see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curta

Curta was detained in the Buchenwald concentration camp but fortunately he survived. So for about 15-20 years we had this gorgeous piece of machinery to help us with our calculations.

The greatest mistake I have made was giving my Curta away. Shucks! I wish I had kept it.

ruveyn

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I had never heard of this one. It always amazes me how smart people can be and yet at the same time, some humans have not progressed beyond the stone age in thinking.

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I still have a K&E. I used to own a Pickett but it went missing somewhere or other.

One day I did a little experiment. I brought my slide rule to the offfice (wherein worked a bunch of software and engineering types like myself) and I showed off my K & E and I asked the younger lads if they knew what it was. There were about 10 or so. 5 said no, 1 said yes and 4 said they that their daddyies. used to have one. I was more of an age with their daddies. So passes the Old.

ruveyn

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Oops. Just one more thing.

Those engineers at NASA who launched Apollo 11 moon bound, those crew cut heroes did their stuff using slide rules. Hand held electronic calculators were not widely available in 1969 ( the ones that were were extremely expensive for what they could do) The Wang corporation (now defunct) made mini computer about half the size of a loaf of white bread that one could plug into a 60 cycle A.C. source, but it was not a pocket calculator. It was a rather small electronic computer. Our Best and Our Bright sent a ship to the Moon using slide rules. Thats how it was in those days., I think they were better times, in spite of the advances in technology.

ruveyn

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ruveyn,

Do you remember those old "extra large" slide rules that were used for teaching slide rule use? Well about 2 years ago I was out doing some welding for one of the local Ranchers and came across quite a pile of them (looked like 15 to 20) in one of his storage sheds. At the time I thought wow, that would be a cool thing to have one of. I kind of forgot about it until reading in this thread but now I'm thinking I might ought to go see if I can't horse trade him out of one of them.

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ruveyn,

Do you remember those old "extra large" slide rules that were used for teaching slide rule use? Well about 2 years ago I was out doing some welding for one of the local Ranchers and came across quite a pile of them (looked like 15 to 20) in one of his storage sheds. At the time I thought wow, that would be a cool thing to have one of. I kind of forgot about it until reading in this thread but now I'm thinking I might ought to go see if I can't horse trade him out of one of them.

Go for it. I remember our science teacher in high school Gabe Helman hung one up on our science class room (circa 1953). He showed us how to multiply, divide and do some trig functions. In those days a Nerd without a slide rule was like a day without sunshine. I used to have two slide rules, a K&E and a Pickett. My Pickett went missing (damn!). I also used to have a Curta calculator which I gave away to a dear friend.

Gabe offered a prize to the student who could figure out what the principle of the slide rule was. I won that prize. It is simple addition or subtraction. Logarithm's are added or subtracted thus giving multiplication or division. From which we can infer Log 0 is undefined for the same reason that dividing by 0 is non-kosher.

They were scaled 10 to 20 times larger than a hand held slide rule. If the calibration were good enough you could get 3 decimal places accuracy as opposed to 2 decimal places for the smaller slide rules. There were also circular slide rules which could get the equivalent length of a ten incher in a package maybe 4 inches across. Diameter equals circumference divided by pi.

ruveyn

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Those engineers at NASA who launched Apollo 11 moon bound, those crew cut heroes did their stuff using slide rules. Hand held electronic calculators were not widely available in 1969 ( the ones that were were extremely expensive for what they could do) The Wang corporation (now defunct) made mini computer about half the size of a loaf of white bread that one could plug into a 60 cycle A.C. source, but it was not a pocket calculator. It was a rather small electronic computer. Our Best and Our Bright sent a ship to the Moon using slide rules. Thats how it was in those days.,

There were probably some calculations on smaller, isolated calculations done by NASA engineers on sliderules for the flight to the moon, but the heavy duty computations were already computerized (even though those computers were less powerful than your laptop today). The first IBM 360 was already available by the mid 1960s and Fortran has been in use on computers since the late 1950s. Fortran was being used by engineering undergraduates by the early 1960s, even though slide rules were still used for most course work problems because there were no hand held calculators and slide rules were much faster for small problems.

I think they were better times, in spite of the advances in technology.

Is some ways they were better times, but what do you have in mind for that? You walked 10 miles to school in blizzards uphill both ways? (Hopefully not the use of punch cards for computers, which was comparable.)

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Is some ways they were better times, but what do you have in mind for that? You walked 10 miles to school in blizzards uphill both ways? (Hopefully not the use of punch cards for computers, which was comparable.)

I rode a bus to school when I was in grade and highschool

Those better days were my batch processing days.

I did not get to use an IBM 360 until around 1965. Before that it was IBM 7094 and batch processing.

ruveyn

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Is some ways they were better times, but what do you have in mind for that? You walked 10 miles to school in blizzards uphill both ways? (Hopefully not the use of punch cards for computers, which was comparable.)

I rode a bus to school when I was in grade and highschool

Those better days were my batch processing days.

I did not get to use an IBM 360 until around 1965. Before that it was IBM 7094 and batch processing.

You were batch processed on a bus that went uphill both ways through blizzards?

Why were those better days for you?

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Is some ways they were better times, but what do you have in mind for that? You walked 10 miles to school in blizzards uphill both ways? (Hopefully not the use of punch cards for computers, which was comparable.)

I rode a bus to school when I was in grade and highschool

Those better days were my batch processing days.

I did not get to use an IBM 360 until around 1965. Before that it was IBM 7094 and batch processing.

You were batch processed on a bus that went uphill both ways through blizzards?

Why were those better days for you?

Completely. The buses were crowded and I was one of a batch (of students) sweating with our winter garments steaming during the ride.

One of the reasons I considered my youth better (in some respects) is that I was a-political until my 20's. I paid not an iota of attention to the clowns in the state house or in Washington. I let my parents do the worrying. Then when I became independent of my parents I was forced to pay some attention to the aforesaid clowns. To quote Golum in Lord Of The Rings ---- yesssssss, we hates them, preciousssssss.

And to this day, we still hates them, precioussssssss.

ruveyn

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Is some ways they were better times, but what do you have in mind for that? You walked 10 miles to school in blizzards uphill both ways? (Hopefully not the use of punch cards for computers, which was comparable.)

I rode a bus to school when I was in grade and highschool

Those better days were my batch processing days.

I did not get to use an IBM 360 until around 1965. Before that it was IBM 7094 and batch processing.

You were batch processed on a bus that went uphill both ways through blizzards?

Completely. The buses were crowded and I was one of a batch (of students) sweating with our winter garments steaming during the ride.

You always were a card. (That was a punch line, for those who can interpret it.)

Why were those better days for you?

One of the reasons I considered my youth better (in some respects) is that I was a-political until my 20's. I paid not an iota of attention to the clowns in the state house or in Washington. I let my parents do the worrying. Then when I became independent of my parents I was forced to pay some attention to the aforesaid clowns. To quote Golum in Lord Of The Rings ---- yesssssss, we hates them, preciousssssss.

And to this day, we still hates them, precioussssssss.

Me too. I saw politicians as vaguely some kind of sub-species to be ignored but tolerated for whatever functions they were supposed to be performing. They were represented by the pompous drones who made boring, pointless speeches at events like the town 4th of July parade or the dedication of the new town library -- and which I had to sit through only because the events were a chance to have fun playing my trumpet in the band.

The times were better in part because of the general sense of optimism for the future, limited only by what we could do productively, in my case working towards and looking forward to a world of science and engineering.

That changed abruptly after college, beginning with the threat of military conscription while I was in graduate school. Everything I have done involving politics has been in self defense, while despising it and the necessity of fighting it. I have encountered very few people in 'professional' politics who I regard as decent, honorable people. My usual response is typified by the trips I made to Washington, DC where I testified at Congressional subcommittees about abuse of civil rights by the National Park Service -- my explicit reaction to being among them was to feel like I had to go home and take a shower. Their loud, blustering attempts to intimidate me were a mere bemusing curiosity adding, completely in character, to their rain of dirt. Meeting with top officials, including the assistant director, in the National Park Service headquarters in Washington was the same. It was no surprise that the Director of the National Park Service later said on an internal recording of what he thought was a private meeting that he wanted to "punch me out" or that the state tax commissioner in Maine told a state senator inquiring into complaints about him that I was "probably almost a terrorist". Math and science are much better.

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You always were a card. (That was a punch line, for those who can interpret it.)

026 or 029?

Here is a retro fact for you. Herman Hollerith used the same size paper cutting dies for his punch card as the treasury dies for cutting gold notes.

FDR not only shrank the dollar, he shrank the dollar bill. Shrink, shrank, shrunk. The story of the U.S. since then.

ruveyn

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You always were a card. (That was a punch line, for those who can interpret it.)

026 or 029?

It was your buss.

I used both - IBM and CDC. But 86 and 99 were better.

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EVW, I think we should spare the Youngsters any further War Stories.

Here we are, two old War Horses rolling each rolling back his sleeve to show the scars he got a Agiancourt fighting for Prince Hal.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

ruveyn

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EVW, I think we should spare the Youngsters any further War Stories.

Here we are, two old War Horses rolling each rolling back his sleeve to show the scars he got a Agiancourt fighting for Prince Hal.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

War horses? Speak for yourself -- but be careful, they shoot horses! Hide your saddle point.

Do you consider such things as submitting programs on cards to run as an overnight batch job to be a war story because of all the challenges and delays? At every stage of technology, much of the problems to be overcome are the need for patience, 'mechanical' tedium, and finding clever and creative ways to get around the limitations of the 'infrastructure' in order to be able to implement the creative goals of solving mathematical problems in science and engineering found to be possible "in principle" -- think of what Babbage could have done with electrons!

All the tricks with algorithms and coding Fortran routinely required to speed up simple calculations and conserve memory, fixing jammed keypunch machines, struggling with jcl, avoiding shuffling the deck through dropping it, planning to get the most out of a single overnight run, etc. may be mostly obsolete now, but they have their counterparts at every stage of the evolution of science and technology. The distinction between 'better times' and what, for example, we have now is the difference between spending one's time on rational problem solving versus contending with human irrationality such as a progressively statist government.

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EVW, I think we should spare the Youngsters any further War Stories.

Here we are, two old War Horses rolling each rolling back his sleeve to show the scars he got a Agiancourt fighting for Prince Hal.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

War horses? Speak for yourself -- but be careful, they shoot horses! Hide your saddle point.

Do you consider such things as submitting programs on cards to run as an overnight batch job to be a war story because of all the challenges and delays? At every stage of technology, much of the problems to be overcome are the need for patience, 'mechanical' tedium, and finding clever and creative ways to get around the limitations of the 'infrastructure' in order to be able to implement the creative goals of solving mathematical problems in science and engineering found to be possible "in principle" -- think of what Babbage could have done with electrons!

All the tricks with algorithms and coding Fortran routinely required to speed up simple calculations and conserve memory, fixing jammed keypunch machines, struggling with jcl, avoiding shuffling the deck through dropping it, planning to get the most out of a single overnight run, etc. may be mostly obsolete now, but they have their counterparts at every stage of the evolution of science and technology. The distinction between 'better times' and what, for example, we have now is the difference between spending one's time on rational problem solving versus contending with human irrationality such as a progressively statist government.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

ruveyn

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