Tuesday, March 14, 2006

My father's slide rule -- Part 2

And while I'm on the subject, let's not forget my father's piles of Keuffel & Esser graph paper, heavy stock paper with green lines and light stock paper with orange lines, in an assortment of scales. Linear, semilog, log-log. A graph paper for every purpose.

He plotted everything. The many aspects of his work as a quality control engineer. The family finances. The weather. The ebb and flow of Hitler's campaign in Russia. Only when he saw data displayed on a graph did he feel he understood it.

With a supersharp pencil tracing a line on a sheet of beautiful K&E paper he physically participated in the patterns that gave order to the world -- and to his life. He reveled in the sensual feel of thinking with wood, steel, paper, graphite, and glass. Three significant digits were all he required. He died just as computers and calculators began to sweep it all away -- to be replaced by speed, convenience, and a degree of precision unimaginably greater than the tolerances of daily life.