Originally Posted by grumbles
"I found Foundation quite boring too, although the dated technology was kind of charming. At least he had computers with visual displays. I also read Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky earlier this year, where they still use slide-rules."
What do you mean, still using? When that was written, that was all that was available. If you were really lucky you might have an adding machine. A large organization may have a few mechanical calculators that could actually do multiplication and division. They were big, they were noisy and they were expensive. Cheap four function calculators first appeared in the mid seventies. I still remember the first pocket scientific calculator, the HP-35, and it was over $300 at the time.
The technology of all sf from before the sixties will seem hopelessly outdated. Nobody anticipated the revolution that solid state electronics would create. But in the same fashion, heroines (and heroes) dying of TB seems quaint in the age of over abundant antibiotics.
Asimov, Heinlein and the others were first and foremost story tellers who told stories of the future as it might unfold from where they were looking. And for the most part, they are great stories.
Asimov didn't write
First I generally like Asimov. Heinlein not so much, but heck when I was a kid, you didn't have much choice. The only thing good about Heinlein's "Stranger in a strange land" was that very line.
Asimov had much better material, but I agree Foundation was kind of a bore to me. A lot of friends loved it though.
As for the calculators, I remember the mechanical ones you speak of that could do multiplication and division. They had a big, big keyboard about a 10 inches wide and about the same wide. There were rows of mechanical keys. I don't remember how many but maybe 10 or more rows on some.
When they multiplied or divided the wheels inside would spin and make a tremendous whine. The ones that added weren't so noisy, as I remember. There was a part of the machine on the top that would slide left and right as it calculated, lining things up internally. All mechanical except for the motor that drove the apparatus.
Some ladies at the base used them. They had been around for years. The ladies and the machines.
The first real scientific electronic calculators appeared early 70s I believe. HP brought the 35 out, then the 45 and finally the 65 which was programmable. I only saw demonstrations of those.
Before that you could get a 4 function electronic calculator for maybe a $100 and remember that $100 was a lot more than a $100 today. What people wanted was a 4 function with a square root key which could do interesting calculations. There were books on it.
But sometime after the HP 35 came out, TI (I think) brought out the SR 70 calculator or something like that. (I can't multitask right now and look it up.) I remember it was about $169 or $179 and got everyone excited.
I do remember getting a Commodore Navigational calculator around 1978 or 79. It was a wonder. LED machine. Always used it with external power. I think it had batteries. Not sure now. Don't know the cost. I just signed for it.
Before that it was slide rules both like a stick and circular slide rules. Some people had problems with them.