|This is a question most collectors want to have answered, since new rules haven't been made by any major manufacturers since 1972, and to satisfy that curiousity, we are indebted to a collector in Singapore, Foo Cheow Ming, who took the time to relate the story of how he recently happened on an amazing cache of NIB (New in Box) slide rules, which we are offering here at the Slide Rule Universe.
His story may inspire you to examine your own locale, to see if similar deposits are just waiting around the corner in an old blueprint supply house, stationary store or art supply shop. You just never know until you look.....
|What turned up in his searches of dusty old shop shelves? Hemmi bamboo and plastic rules, unusual Hemmi 1002 circulars, Faber-Castell slide rules, including the very sophisticated Mathema and Novoduplex rules and Addiators, Aristo rules of all kinds, and unique Asian slide rule makers like Shanghai and Flying Fish. They might all have been lost forever if he had not been so curious.
Visitor number 43946.
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My first slide rule was a Staedtler-Mars - a little beauty clad in a brilliant blue/white plastic casing. I first bought it in the early seventies (that was when calculators were still sold as executive gadgets costing US$200 each in 1970's money!). No one except the CEO of Standard Oil in those days could afford calculators sold in that era. But even after the advent of cheap calculators, I found my love for slide rules undiminished. I guess people still love slide rules for the very same reason classic cars or antiques are so loved notwithstanding that modern products are so much more functional and efficient. In many ways they are reminders of a kinder, slower, more genteel past (or at least it felt that way! Our minds oft trick us - you know!). They are like the sceptres of the high priesthood of science and engineering. This first slide rule I kept for about the next 20+ years.
I also have a wide-ranging interest in reading, and this hobby has caused me to regularly tour the various bookstores in my home town. By chance in October 1997 I had dinner in a place called Yishun New Town, and discovered that the bookstore, one Cambridge Bookstore, from which I bought my very first slide rule is still in business even after all these years (god, has 20 years passed so quickly?) but in a new location. Even the proprietor is the same. I went in and discovered that they still had a whole carton of the same stock of slide rules out of which I bought my first slide rule - a remarkable discovery!
This discovery rekindled my interest in slide rules. I then visited various slide rule-sites on the Internet, amongst the best of which I came across was Walter Shawlee's Slide Rule Universe site and the HP Calculator Museum site. I was amazed at the incredible variety of slide rules made in the past, and even more amazed that there are like-minded people out there, who are so remarkably organised, and so serious, about slide rule-collection. I was particularly impressed by the effort of Mr Walter Shawlee of Sphere Research Corporation. His site is I think a peerless example of fine web design, and the information one can find on his site is simply astonishing. My discovery of Mr Shawlee's site was instrumental in convincing me that I should perhaps consider commencing a somewhat serious attempt at slide rule collection.
Then, I chanced to visit, over lunchtime, an old building in downtown Singapore. Along an obscure corridor I saw a large and very old stationary supply and thought what the heck, why don't I ask them if they still had slide rules in their stock? To my delight, they had, and I bought a few to add to my collection. I e-mailed Walter Shawlee this piece of good news and entered into a long correspondence with Mr Shawlee over our mutual interest. This was the start of a really serious effort at collection on my part.
3 - 4 days later, I revisited the store to look again at the collection. As I walked along the corridor, an incredible sight froze me in my tracks--- at one corner of another level was a dingy little shop, musty with the smell of ages. There at the bottom shelf of a glass cabinet were stacks and stacks of what could ONLY be slide rule cases, and from the shape of some of them, they have got to be the relatively rare circular rules.
Trembling with excitement and a mounting sense of disbelief, I walked in and enquired how many pieces have they got. The shop proprietor said to me: "How many hundred do you want? I have got them by the CRATEFULS" I was absolutely dumb-founded. Could this be possible? Me, a novice collector, stumbling across the absolute El Dorado of slide rules, without even trying, even much if any serious effort at hunting? What is the statistical probabilities of a find like this? One's mind boggles.
Here's a few apt analogies:-
(1) An Egyptologist stumbling across a present-day Phaoroanic kingdom in some obscure corner of the Nile. Not only is King Tut the CCXXLVVIII still in power but he has the full catalogue of mummification service and Imperial costume-jewelry still for sale.
(2) A Fifties-era car buff coming across in Small Town America an ancient GM dealer which still has mint, new Chevy Bel-Airs, Plymouth Fury and Lincoln Continentals (1960 model) etc in the showroom. And yes, he has the full catalogue for GM 1958, and has a few antique cars he does not know how to price...
(3) A small town in South Inner Bavaria which has never heard of WWII and was never visited by Allied Troops, still ruled under the Nazis by a portly old OberUnterGrossenGruppenFuhrer .... They print their own money and stamps and they all have the portrait of Uncle Adolf on top ....
(4) A small Southern Saharan state still running an old airship built in the 1930's by Zeppelin Airship Works, lovingly maintained by a diehard group of very old German airship engineers and yes they still sell tickets for trans-Atlantic flights ....
One can go on but you get the picture. I rushed off a frenzied e-mail to Walter, who became equally excited. The true extent of this find - soon christened The Motherlode by me - was not realised until I got the shop to do an updated inventory of the goods available. It was remarkable. Hundreds of them, of every possible description, including some even Walter couldn't identify with the help of other collectors. Gosh. Words fail. Superlatives were inadequate. Walter and I were stunned. Absolutely dumbfounded. It was too good to be true.
The next days saw a frenzied series of communication between Walter and I (sometimes 6 e-mail within a mere span of minutes !) drawing up arrangments for payment and shipment. The rest, like they say, is history.
I am truly proud to be so blessed. I hope this chance discovery will bring happiness and fulfilment to many like-minded enthusiasts out there. I was much encouraged by this finding, and has inspired me to commence a systematic effort at sourcing out old bookstores and stationers in an on-going effort of prospecting new finds. This is a truly encouraging and glorious start to my collection effort.
Regards from Singapore, and Best Wishes to ALL.
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