The Mystery Of The Disappearing Slide Rule

I saw an article recently about some of the odd things collectors look for, and I was surprised to see that old slide rules are considered a collectible now. It got me wondering what ever happened to the one I had to buy a half-century ago as a condition of attending a prestigious engineering college.

This was years before electronic calculators began appearing and making slide rules superfluous, but there was nothing better at the time. Any engineering student had to buy a good (and expensive) instrument, complete with fitted leather case.

I won’t go into too much detail about my short period at the college, other than to say that I wasn’t ready to buckle down and take advantage of the opportunity I’d been given. But in any case, my slide rule rattled around in closets and boxes for years, and eventually I lost track of it.

Apparently there are still a few people around who use slide rules. And the retro gizmos surprisingly have enough of a ‘cool’ factor for someone to have create the ultimate salute — an iPhone app. (Video below.) But I’ve never figured out what happened to my original slide rule. It just seemed to disappear. Maybe Paul Simon had the right idea when he sang a familiar song.

Paul Simon — “Slip Slidin’ Away”

6 thoughts on “The Mystery Of The Disappearing Slide Rule

  1. I still have mine… it’s a Hemmi – from when I went to a prestigious engineering college – studying Electronic Technology..
    It’s just one of those things I am kind of attached to, even though there is absolutely no call to use it anymore. We also had to work with 3 significant digits of accuracy and powers of 10, as I recall.
    “Slip sliding away” had a whole different meaning back then.


  2. We folks in the maths department had them too. I still have mine but I don’t use it. I’m waiting for a collector to offer me a wheelbarrow full of money for it.


  3. Ah, you got me. There was that day a while ago when I was really bored. Then I thought, “I know, I’ll call Qantas, fly to America and steal Geezer’s slide rule. That’ll be something to do.” It was so slick you didn’t even notice.


    1. Now that you’ve got it I do have to warn you about one thing. When you use it for more than a few minutes it puts you to sleep — or at least it did me, when I was a student.


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