My Early Books

Discussion in 'Other Reminiscences' started by Frank Sanoica, Oct 17, 2020.

  1. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Supreme Member
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    My point in initiating this thread is my concern for the disappearance of vitally valuable printed books, which were invaluable to the shaping of my early interests in Science and Mathematics.
    I was no doubt a "bookworm" as a kid, even though daily involved in physical activities. Early on, before I could fully appreciate their worth, my folks bought a "Book of Knowledge" set, the "Childrens' Encyclopedia".

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    Lengthy excerpts from the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge were among the most moving stories contained to which I returned over and over:
    "The main cables pass over the two main towers and are fixed in concrete at each end. Each cable is made of 27,572 strands of wire. The total length of galvanized steel wire used to fabricate both main cables is estimated to be 80,000 miles."

    One of the suspension cables is complete, supporting the structure from one side only. The two towers are ONE MILE apart!
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    Look at the workmen to visualize the expanse of this job: (one suspension cable visible at top)
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    The stuff Engineers' nightmares are made of:
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    Here is a brief synopsis of early construction, rarely seen by anyone:
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    By mid-1935, the north and south towers stood ready to support the two main cables. Each of the cables measured a little over 3 feet (about 1 meter) in diameter and weighed 12,000 tons. They were far too heavy to carry across the Golden Gate Strait on barges and lift up to the tops of the towers.

    The cables were constructed high in the air using a process called cable spinning, which was invented by John A. Roebling in the 1800s. The company he founded made cables for the Golden Gate Bridge.
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    A hydraulic press compacted the thin wire strands into one large cable.

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    A popular exhibit at the Bridge is this full-size cross section of the main cable, clearly showing the 27,572 parallel wires.
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    Panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge at night, with San Francisco in the background

    So, have books, especially technical books, become dinosaurs?

    Frank
     
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  2. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    I hope not. When my mother died, the only thing I looked for in her house were some of the old books I used to have as a kid...Aesop's Fables, Children's Classics (several volume set of authors such as Dickens, etc.), even my old alphabet book where "X is for Xerxes," not x-ray. They weren't all there, but many of them were.

    I bet most of us here have stayed up way later than we were supposed to, sneaking under the covers with a book or a magazine (Popular Science) and a flashlight. "Just one more chapter."

    Regarding technical books...the only one I have is an old electronics books. I guess my only take on the technical stuff is that the science changes...but I've never taken any physics or engineering classes, so I can't say that this is a universal truth. Even at that, I love going through a bound set of old ham radio magazines I have. It seems that science and invention used to be more accessible and relatable. These days it seems sterile.

    Books are tactile. They are also immutable...you're not gonna pick the same book up a week later and wonder if it got edited it in the meantime.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    I have that set of books, Frank. I say that I have it because I certainly wouldn't have thrown the set away, although I just looked and haven't been able to find them, although they should be on the same shelf as my set of Home University books, which I have found. As far as physical books becoming dinosaurs, I am afraid that will be the case. In our day, every family that could afford it had a set of encyclopedias and I don't think very many of them are being sold in a print version anymore.
     
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  4. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    What stinks about not having the printed versions are the things that kids (and adults) shall never encounter as they search for the original topic.

    I used to watch my neighbor's 2 boys when mom & dad did date night. They were home-schooled...just so damned smart. We would play Boggle, with the variation that you did not get penalized for incorrect words, but you had to verify anything that got challenged by finding it in the dictionary (they had a huge one on a floor stand.) We had fun (and learning) as the kids would just make up silly stuff, and we would encounter even sillier real words on the journey to seek out their fabricated stuff.
     
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  5. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Most of the learning was in the browsing. Online, tech companies like Google control the information that we can find.
     
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  6. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Supreme Member
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    @John Brunner

    My Mother bought a used one of these, when I was very small:
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    It was six inches thick, far too heavy to lug around the house. Special podium-like stands were seen supporting one in libraries and such. It was profusely illustrated, including actual photographs of warships and planes and the like. I perused it very often, mainly learning from the pictures. I also learned what chloral hydrate was, but my chemicals supplier, Rexall druggist Joe Parks balked at selling me any. he DID sell me sulfur, though; should have seen what I managed to do with it!

    Frank
     
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  7. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    It's not just the feel and the sight, it's also the smell of those old books. I love old dictionaries.
     
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  8. Nancy Hart

    Nancy Hart Veteran Member
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    We got our encyclopedia set from the A&P grocery store.:) They started with A, and each week the store had a new volume. They were cheap if you bought groceries there. Maybe a dollar each, or less? Some obscure publisher, but they got me through high school. Mine didn't have colored pictures. :(

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  9. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Supreme Member
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    @Nancy Hart

    We had an A&P in Berwyn, Illinois, suburb of Chicago, when I was young. It competed with Jewel Tea Stores, many individually-owned butcher shops (Czech & Polish), and later with outfits like E. J. Korvette's. By the time I left the area at age 30 (1972), the A&P was gone. We had no Safeway or Kroger.

    One Saturday after work, my wife, a beautician, ran over to the A&P for hamburger meat; it was 6:15PM, the counters were covered up, allowing only packaged meats like sausage to be sold.....no fresh meats, none at all on Sundays. She was astounded, asked why: UNION RULES!

    Chicago area was a UNION COMMUNITY, they ruled via contract.

    Frank
     
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  10. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    I remember that!

    I have no idea where our encyclopedia came from.
     
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  11. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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  12. Beth Gallagher

    Beth Gallagher Supreme Member
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    This thread reminded me that years ago I bought some old school books from a second-hand store to use as "decorative items". :rolleyes: I just picked them up and flipped through the pages; it was like stepping back in time. I wonder how many little hands these went through? The arithmetic book is copyright 1877 and the grammar book is from 1900.


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    I also bought some really old novels that I planned to read, so this winter I will do that.
     
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  13. Ed Wilson

    Ed Wilson Veteran Member
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    I had World Book Encyclopedias as a kid with annual updates for several years. I saved my math and science books from college. A local library had many old volumes with the newer ones but a flood destroyed everything.
     
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  14. Von Jones

    Von Jones Supreme Member
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    I attended an auction years ago and had my eyes set on two tables stacked high with books. I won the bidding battle of the leftovers which luckily had lots of Agatha Christie paperbacks which I auctioned on Ebay. The assortment of books was amazing but I knew I couldn't keep them all. What I did keep was cookbooks, dictionaries, complete sets of encyclopedias for gardening and Britannica and children's and another set which I still have. I did sell the Britannica set later and I gave the children's encyclopedia to my oldest son for my grandbabies. He was like 'These are old.' and I was like 'Sooo what . here.' That was a year ago and they still have them.

    I agree @Ken Anderson that the learning comes from the browsing. Flipping through pages and then something catches your eyes and not just once.
     
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  15. John Brunner

    John Brunner Senior Staff
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    I used to go to a row of second hand shops (in old houses) in a part of Arlington VA that is now high-rises. I got to know the folks there, and one guy who did general estate stuff called me because he had a crate of 200 sci-fi books...books were not his specialty and he just wanted to get rid of them. I got the whole thing for less than $20. I discovered many authors I would not have otherwise read.

    There was a group of us at work who liked to read, so I set up a bookcase and would bring in books after I read them for others to take. Then other people started doing the same thing. We really enjoyed it. There was no tracking system...no one brought in books they wanted returned. Just a bunch of books there for anyone in the place who wanted something to read or to try new authors without spending any money.
     
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