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The slide rule on a tube

By Neal McChristy

Otis KingIf you are Baby Boomer age and worked in any office that had to do with engineering or making quick calculations, you probably came across someone using a slide rule.

But for Harry Cooke, he also encountered an unusual slide rule courtesy of his World War II-era Army buddy, Robert Carter, Spring Hill, Fla. Cooke lives in Simsbury, Conn., and received an Otis King cylindrical calculator as a gift from Carter.

"We met in the Army in 1946 at the Separation Center in Fort Dix, N.J.," Cooke writes. "It was our job to process Army personnel who were returning from overseas duty. Our subsequent assignments took us both in different directions, but we never lost touch with each other.

"We have been corresponding for over 40 years at Christmas time, sharing our yearly history about weddings, babies graduations and grandchildren. Bob and his family moved quite often as he made career changes, etc.

"Finally, in 1998 (50 years since the Army), my wife, Hazel, and I visited Bob and his wife, Thelma, at their retirement home in Spring Hill, Fla. The following year, we were delighted to have them visit with us in our home of 47 years.

"After seeing my extensive collection of old tools and instruments, he decided to send me the Otis King calculator as a gift."

Cooke says he collects everything. "I have tons of tools," he said. "So many, I need to donate some to a museum."

The calculator was made in England. Here is some information about it from The Museum of HP Calculators:

"This Otis King model K calculator had a much smaller cylinder than the Fuller (calculator), allowing it to be carried in a pocket. It was just 6" long by 1.2" in diameter when closed yet it had a scales 66" long. Usage was similar to the Fuller rule above but both pointers were engraved on a single cursor. (The black outer cylinder.) To multiply A x B, the bottom pointer was set to A, the top cylinder was moved to set the top pointer to one and the cursor was moved to set the top pointer to B. The result could then be read from the bottom pointer."

Editor's Note: Whether you have antiques or are just a "looker," come visit our forums by clicking here.

Do you have an antique device that was used in the office of yesterday? We've featured such things as typewriters, calculators, computers, slide rules, dictation equipment and telephones. While we are interested in all types of antique office equipment, we are particularly interested in anyone who has an antique answering machine. If so, e-mail Neal McChristy by clicking here. We'll get in touch with you about featuring your antique.

Web sites:

The Slide Rule Home Page

Related Slide Rule Stuff

The Oughtred Society home page

Sphere Research Slide Rule Site

"Artiface" showing Otis King calculator

The Museum of HP Calculators

Original Documents on the History of Calculators

Yesterday's Office story: "Log this: the slide rule's an antique"

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