Recently, I was going through my electrical belongings and ran across some old “friends.” They brought back many memories of when I began working in the electrical construction industry. I was just out of the service (Vietnam era, not World War II) and getting my feet wet being a project manager and estimator.

My “friends” aren’t past coworkers. They’re my old Biddle hand-crank megohmeter (in its original wood box), GE Type 214 light meter, and Pickett slide rule. They helped me to understand basic electrical tenants and become familiar with how various electrical components perform.

You may ask why these relics generate any emotions or feelings. For one thing, they represent much simpler times for many of us. After all, electromechanical devices and equipment were predominant. Open the covers and you could readily pick out each component, making it easy to troubleshoot. Nowadays, the “black box” is ubiquitous. You have to be very knowledgeable of electronic devices and how they work individually/together with other devices. This makes troubleshooting difficult, if not impossible.

Another reason is the advancement in test and measurement equipment. We now have handheld oscilloscopes, harmonic analyzers, power distribution monitors, and sophisticated testers. Yes, this equipment certainly does more, but the operating manuals themselves require in-depth analysis.

Also, for us “old timers,” there’s the comfort of analog readout versus the ever-changing digital readout. We just aren’t comfortable with an LED digital reading that continues to change. For us, the needle can move; that’s okay. But the digits should remain unchanged!

Finally, there’s the satisfaction of knowing how a device actually does the calculations. Take my trusty slide rule, for example. It adds the logs of numbers to multiply and subtracts them to divide. Punching numbers into a calculator doesn’t generate such understanding.

Yes, technologies progress and efficiencies and capabilities increase, making our jobs easier—which boosts production. But, you still can’t help looking back in time in fond reverence. I know I can’t. Who knows? Maybe 20 years from now, some of the “old timers” in our industry may be holding on to Amprobe or Fluke digital multimeters as sentimental keepsakes.