The CRC tables

Standard Math Tables of the Chemical Rubber Company

The CRC tables were indispensable to an MIT student. The book contained such items as tables of logarithms, trigonometric functions, squares, cubes and roots, and so on. Nowadays, these can be computed on the fly by a ten dollar scientific calculator. Other items are not as easily replaced, such as tables of integrals, Laplace Transformations and random digits.

Here's a short story: I was once home from MIT for some vacation, and my sister Phyllis was in from college at Clark. She was polishing up some math problem she had for homework, and I heard her mumble, "Now all I need to do is look up the log of two, and I'll be done."

I promptly replied "Point three oh one oh."

Phyllis was stunned, and cried out, "I can't believe it! You've memorized the entire log table!"

I calmed her down, and pointed out that the log of two, 0.3010, is extremely important in Engineering, and particularly in Electrical Engineering, and that the fact that I knew the log of two did not imply that I knew every entry in the table.

In fact, at MIT, the philosophy was to understand what you were doing, and there was very little that needed to be memorized. Open book exams were common.

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