Slides Rule

At a gathering of the Oughtred Society, the reckoning may be dead or logarithmic, but the conversation is always right on the mark

"Some of them are just adorable," says Jean Collins, referring to a 4-inch antique she hoped her husband would procure today. Richard Collins, a former aeronautics engineer and test pilot, returns with bad news. Jean chuckles, not taking it too hard. Between them, the Collinses have hundreds of slide rules, as do most society members, but the collection counts as just one of their many hobbies. (The Collins home also accommodates an assortment of antique tools, an airplane, a number of freeloading wild coyotes, and a family of rehabilitated owls that continues to return for treats.)

As the sun begins to weaken, the group migrates to the home of Thomas Wyman, current Oughtred Society president, for dinner and cocktails. Perhaps, if they put their heads together, they'll finally figure out how Conrad Schure's newly acquired German astronomical slide rule functions, or why, for that matter, Pongis making a comeback. In this crowd, there is never a shortage of things to talk about.

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