The Technology of Deity

But A good morning so far. The weather beavers are foretelling temperatures well below the phase change for the middle to end of the week and I have scant doubt they are pulling their predictions short to avoid a mod storming their station. Despite this I bundled up and ventured out to the park for a constitutional and it was enjoyable until my back began to complain about the winter inactivity cost.

But I had chance to further consider a cartoon [Link]

that I happened on the other day. In my case I am a bit older since the day of the hand held calculator started when I was in college.

A convenient starting point might be the spring of 1966 when TIME magazine broached the subject of the existence of the deity: [Link]

It is intriguing, in a warped human way, that the question was posed as it was. The idea of the deity, especially in the christianist sense, at least in Amerika, was so ingrained that it was impossible to posit that all our grrrr brrrrr might have been merest superstition and mumbo jumbo.

This was not mentioned in high schule. We had prayers uttered at most gatherings but no mention of denomination or any of the things that cause riots and head bashings. Such were reserved for teacher disciplinary actions. I have long entertained the idea that the primary reason for competitive elitist athletics in public schules is to have stalwarts with strong arms to wield the truncheons. But in the fall we went off to college and the matter was at least discussed in dark corners, away from the fanatics of the various religionist centers adjacent campus, whose buildings seem to rival the actual campus in size and number, by people who inquired of things they could not inquire of previously.

Skip ahead to the fall of 1971. I was a graduate student at the Campus of the Boneyard. And every STEM graduate student, and many of the upper class undergraduates, had an advertisement for the Hewlett Packard 35 calculator [Link]

taped to a wall for easy admiration and dreaming in idle moments. Seldom has a thing so riveted a population. The mania, strangely, even spread among the faculty. This was indeed a thing of great wonder. A rechargable calculator that would do nerdish number crunches, like logarithms and trigonometric functions, and fit in a (large) pocket (the actual leather case had a belt loop, unknown to us until years later.,) far beyond the scope of even a twenty inch slide rule. In one fell swoop the desk straining Frieden and Marchant calculators were obsolete and the numerical practice of STEM created anew.

The phenomena was nationwide, if not planet-wide. All STEMs of any metal and merit wanted one of these and alternately asked Santa Claus and the deity for one. Except for a few faculty with trust funds or extravagent but thrifty wives (STEM faculty were all men in those days, except the rare woman in maths or biochemistry) and undergraduates with doting but wealthy parents, all were disappointed. And in that season the outlook of young STEMs everywhere towards Santa/deity changed a bit, fulfilling the nature of TIME’s question. In that brief period, and courtesy of the innovation of two STEMs named Hewlett and Packard, the STEM conception of the role of the deity, like the nature of STEM itself, changed throughout the social segment. And in the terms of the cartoon, all because of the technology of a hand held calculator.

Well should we remark on it. 

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