Lipstick on your ‘slipstick’ told a tale on you

Ignore the title of this piece. It was just my pathetic attempt to sound a bit lewd and suggestive even though I wasn’t really being lewd and suggestive.

So, dispel images of lipstick stains and just exactly what a slipstick might be because in this context a slipstick was merely slang for a slide-rule.

‘Member those? Every geek on campus sported a slide-rule, either stuck in his back-pocket or protruding from his briefcase. The most notable carriers of slide-rules were members of the engineering faculty. Engineers would have been appalled to think they might be considered geeks because they saw themselves as not only very cool and irreverent and consummate lotharios. In fact they epitomized geekdom and were only cool in their priapic fantasies. Think Wolowitz on Big Bang Theory and you’ll know what I mean.

I might add, however, that my best friend of the day was an engineer and he was thoroughly cool. He was also an anomoly in his faculty in that he also took English classes all the way through his campus years.

Anyway, back to slide-rules and forgive my temporary lapse in which I traveled back in time to the days when I was an English and History major and would taunt my often semi-literate engineer friends.

For those of you who weren’t there, what is (was) a slide-rule?

n Obsolete

(Mathematics) a mechanical calculating device consisting of two strips, one sliding along a central groove in the other, each strip graduated in two or more logarithmic scales of numbers, trigonometric functions, etc. It employs the same principles as logarithm tables

There you have it. You’ll note the online dictionary considers the term to be obsolete. That’s mainly because the item itself is obsolete. I cannot help but wonder what the slide-rule manufacturing companies turned their hand to. Buggy-whips are also out-of-the-question as are starting cranks for cars.

It’s a pity they’re gone now because it took quite a while to learn to work one of the things. We had to use them for trig in HS math and once I’d gained mastery of a sort I felt I’d have it for life. Actually, I think mine is still kicking around somewhere and I wouldn’t have a clue how to use it.

Schools of the day also had actual slide-rule clubs. Really. I wasn’t a member.

Slide-rules fell victim to the electronics revolution and the moment those little Texas Instruments calculators appeared on the scene, goodbye slipstick. I didn’t actually see a calculator of the pocket sort until I was in university and I was quite dazzled. Of course, the early ones, when demand was still limited and clones weren’t yet around, cost about $7,500 each (or so it seemed). Nowadays, with all the knockoffs, they put them in Crackerjack boxes no doubt.

Of course, I began my studies at the dawning of what we now take for granted. Ah, simpler times. I remember a prof once telling us that ‘soon’ we would have devices (just in libraries) in which you could order a document from the Smithsonian, say, and have a cope sent electronically to the University of BC in a trice. Wow! He also said that someday there would be photocopiers that would be able to reproduce in color, not just in black and white. Double wow! We didn’t get around to personal computers for that would truly have been beyond the pale in the context of the day.

“Oh yeah, we’ll all have our own computers and then fly to Jupiter on gossamer wings. Meanwhile, gotta go to the library and reserve a book I vitally need and that some asshole has kept out for two weeks.”

With all our technology, is life better today?

I don’t know about better, but connectedness is easier.

And, I don’t really miss slide-rules I just used them as a metaphor. But I’ve never grown tired of lipstick on my collar or whatever.



12 responses to “Lipstick on your ‘slipstick’ told a tale on you

  1. I’ve often wondered how these ladies managed to miss the mark with their warpaint…I suppose it was because in that era they had to forgo the wearing of glasses in order to have men approach within kissing distance.
    Or there is some collar fixation out there somewhere….

  2. Slide-rules – gosh, that takes me back! I never really mastered the damn thing. Actually, I wish I’d kept mine as it would be a collectors’ item now . . .

  3. My brother had one. I found it endlessly fascinating sliding those little bits around, though it meant nothing go me and luckily I never had to learn how to use one of those damn things.

    I’ll bet there’s a slide rule app for the iPad. The other day I found a calculator app that calculates in roman numerals. Why? Who knows, but I have an engineer friend who loved the idea. He would.

  4. Shoot, at one time I thought I would have ruled the world if only I could have afforded an IBM Selectric.

    I still have my slipstick but I use it as a straight-edge in drawing.

  5. In 9th grade I was in an experimental class through Duke University called QPS. It stood for Quantitative Physical Science. We learned to use a slide rule and I thought it was pretty cool. I hadn’t thought of that in years. I used to run across it from time to time in high school and wonder why I never had to use it again.
    I do love a calculator. I use mine almost every day. I love all modern technology although I do not use all of it: I still read real books and I love maps.

  6. Ah that reminds me of my late Dad who loved his slide-rule. He tried to introduce me to its joys when I was little, but I refused to show an interest …..bless him

  7. For some reason I wanted to learn how to use one because it seemed like one more mark of being grown up.

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