My Grandfather's Books

Last month, my family and I made a trip to Florida to visit my mom’s parents. We had a great visit and while I was there, my grandmother offered to let me have some books from grandfather’s study. Grandpa was an engineer turned businessman, and spent his career building things: first automotive parts, then shareholder value.

He had some great accounting textbooks from his MBA at University of Chicago in the 1960’s. While accountants have an inordinate number of standards now compared to the 60’s, it’s amazing how little the fundamentals have changed in 50 years.

He also had the one below on computers. The copyright date is 1961, and most of the text has to do with punch cards and vacuum tubes. It’s really an engineering book, and to be honest I don’t understand half of the material, but I love old technical books like this. The last chapter is called “A Computer in Your Home” and begins like this:

Although some of today’s computers cost over $1 million each, we suggest that someday it might be possible to have a computer in every home.

I’d say that prediction came true. It was likely beyond the author’s comprehension that not only would we have a computer in every home, but in every pocket.

It then goes on to provide detailed technical instructions on how you can build your own home computer. Looks a little different than what we use today.

Grandma also gave me Grandpa’s original slide rule from when he was an engineering student at University of Michigan in the 1940’s. These were the days before the digital calculators we all take for granted, and it’s an amazing device. I have no idea how to use it, but I plan to learn someday. The leather case has his name and dorm address written on the side. When I look at it, I imagine a 20-year-old version of my grandfather plugging away at his homework, trying to finish so he can take my Grandma on a date.


Kate - Feb 13, 2011

This post makes me so happy, especially to share that image of Grandma and Grandpa as young 20-somethings so in love. It’s easy to imagine since they still love each other so deeply and wonderfully!