Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Background

A Somewhat Odd Offer

The deal in a nutshell:

I will print, sign and ship the kite aerial photograph of your choice (my work only) in return for a slide rule. I have also extended the scope of this offer to include trades for fountain pens as well.

Enrico Fermi consults a slipstick

Where did the slide rules go?

Lately I've wondering where the slide rules went. Back in the 1960s slide rules were a prime accessory for those with a quantitative bent. They were suspended from belts long before calculators. In fact they were the personal calculation engine of choice for almost three centuries. That world changed with the invention of the microprocessor and subsequent introduction of pocket calculators - events in the late 1960s that were to slide rules what the giant asteroid was to dinosaurs. As their owners acquired the latest HP and TI calculators, slide rules became objects of limited practical use that were too nice to throw away. I imagine that hundreds of thousands were retired to the back of drawers in the 1970s. So where are they now? Still in the drawer? Gone to live with the missing socks?

I figured it would be fun to reexamine the workings of slide rules - to once again jump from C to CF and ponder which end of A is appropriate to the problem at hand. I've been looking here and there for slide rules and they can be found. I've of course checked the Internet and there are quite a few pages related to slide rules - two of the nicer being the Slide Rule Trading Post and the graphically chaotic Sphere Research's Slide Rule Site. I was happy to learn that ordinary slide rules have not become particularly valuable as collector's objects with prices for the common varieties often running below $20 US -- roughly comparable to a nice color print..


A compact K+E log-log slide rule.

Subliminal suggestion:
You will send Benton a slide rule.


Perhaps you have a surplus slide rule or the treasure-hunting talents to find one. If you would like to participate in what might well be the world's most specialized barter system - kite aerial photographs for slide rules - just send a slide rule to the address below with a note designating your desired image. If you send a nice slide rule then I'll send you a nice print (a hand-printed and spotted 8"x10") in return. A more ordinary slide rule would return a conventional print, etc. If you would like to negotiate the details drop me a quick note at Describe your slide rule and the image you would like to receive.

Charles C. Benton
Center for Environmental Design Research
390 Wurster Hall
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-1839



Our progress to date:

I've received some interesting mail in response to the barter offer and as of May 1997 the collection stands at about 20 slide rules. It has been great fun to receive these objects and to reacquaint myself with the workings of the slipstick. The closest contribution was from a colleague at CAL, the furthest was from Moscow, Russia.

Among my many favorites is the 5" Pickett (shown opposite) sent by Eric Frietag. It came unopened in its original package with unused leather holster, instruction manual, and guarantee certificate. I've put thumbnail images of some of my sliderules below.

Example rules:

(left) The first slide rule I received was ironically very similar to the one I used to illustrate the original offer (see above). It is a compact K+E Decilog. I've been carrying it with me lately and if I am not in a hurry I use it for calculations. Great fun.

(right) Slide rule number two is a standard size Pickett like the one I once had in high school.

(left) This compact K+E is great - a slide rule on one side and a dimensional rule for measuring on the other. Sadly, it is missing its sliding cursor.


(right) A full size Sun Hemmi from Japan handsomely crafted on a bamboo substrate.

(left) The 5" Pickett rule received in new condition. This compact rule is easy to use and has a convenient collection of scales.

(right) A plastic Pickett training slide rule (original price on box was $1.95). This rule came with a certificate crediting full purchase price toward the purchase of a 'professional' rule.

(left) A wooden rule from Moscow with the interesting characteristic of having all divisions share the single line weight used in its graphic layout. Clumsy in comparison to its western counterparts, it still gets the job done.

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