has a somewhat interesting but predictably Communized article on the logistics of computing by hand,
before adding machines and Comptometers and later Electric Brains came into fashion. Connects with something I'd been looking at....
Hearing the constant ads for Equitable on the old FBI radio show led me to pursue more technical info about the company in those days. I know from direct experience
that the ads were honest. Equitable's agents were in fact excellent citizens, bending the rules to help families whenever possible. Did virtue appear in company documents? Were agents given 'bendable' rules, with instructions about permissible 'range of motion'?
Found and bought one internal document on Ebay: an agent's pocket guide to rates and dividends from 1959. It doesn't answer the question either way; it's just a book full of tables and legal definitions.
The agent had left a few pages of his** scratchpad in the book. Those pages revealed more about the agent's life than the book itself.
How does this compare with modern tech?
On the multiplying and dividing, the new way wins without the slightest doubt. Huge win. Note the repeated calculation. Agent was clearly trying out various payment schedules for a client. This is a job where a slide rule wouldn't have helped, because you want all the decimal places. A pocket calculator with a simple memory would have been a blessing.
On the rate table, I think the old way wins. A computer can certainly store and retrieve billions of data points, but the retrieval side is clumsy. I've done it both ways with data related to my work, and I've watched insurance agents trying to get info from their computers. It always involves frustration and cussing. Do I hit Ctrl-F5 to reach the Age 42 page? How many times do I hit it? Oops, just went past. Do I go back by Alt-F5, or is it something else? It's hard enough on a desktop with a nice big screen, but it would be nearly impossible on an iPhone that would fit the same pocket as this little book. Touch keyboards are way beyond clumsy.
Ideally there should be a way to make retrieval work as smoothly as a book, but I haven't seen it yet.
In any case, I hope this Equitable agent lived and worked long enough to use and appreciate newer technology.
= = = = =
** Footnote: More likely her. The handwriting looks feminine to me. Equitable had quite a few female agents in the '50s, and made a point of featuring them in ads.