In the 1950s, the slide rule was as important and iconic to an Architect, as a stethoscope was to a doctor. However, this archaic device is all but forgotten in our modern world. While able to calculate a variety of functions, and relatively accurately, these pre-computer calculating devices required a lot of skill to use. This allowed a scope for error that our modern wonders have all but eliminated. Now these devices are only really found in antique stores and make a fun conversation piece, as long as you don’t have to use it.
While the slide rule was a symbol of our profession in the 1950’s, the pocket protector became a derogatory “punch line” in the 1960s. This questionable fashion accessory was designed to literally protect your clothes from lead and ink stains. However it quickly became associated with awkwardness, dorkiness, and white short sleeved button up shirts. Overall, representing an image of the architect better left forgotten.
A scumbag, yes you read that right, was a small cloth bag, filled with tiny eraser pieces that an architect would use to clean up smudges on drawings. They were also referred to as “Pounce” bags, although that may have been a brand name. Though the name was not great, the product was actually pretty useful, it really did help keep drawings cleaner by applying a fine layer of eraser bits to the surface of the drawing so that the drawing implements would not leave unwanted marks. Consigned to the ash-heap of history, this once popular item that virtually every architect used is mostly a historical oddity at this part (as well as a punch line in the drafting room given its silly name).
The frantic period advertisements of the 1980’s heralded “The AMAZING / REVOLUTIONARY Rolling Ruler” “The secret tool of Architects and Drafters” that “Draws Straight Lines”, acts as a “Compass and Protractor” and “Even makes French Curves!” Even though this was extremely over-hyped by manufacturers like RonCo, this small straight-edge device that (more or less) maintains parallel orientation when drawing by hand was, and to a certain extent still is, a useful tool for architects.
Rounding out our review of late twentieth century architectural gifts is an item whose descendants remain with us to this very day. AutoCad 10 operated from 5.25” floppy discs, running on the lightning fast 486 computer with a graphic card, and the color monitor was an absolute revolution in the industry. Coupled with the other tools of the day such as Lotus 123 and a raster type pen plotter, we truly believed when using AutoCad 10 there was nothing we couldn’t do.
If you have an Architect in your life and want to get them a gift, please do not choose any of the above. The youngest architect would not recognize any of the previously listed items, and the oldest architect would most likely be horrified at the prospect of having to return to the “bad old days”.