Pickett Slide Rules

A late entry into the US slide rule market, Pickett (or Pickett & Eckel as they were first known) quickly distinguished themselves with their high quality aluminum designs. Well-known for their "eye-saver" yellow surfaces (see below), Pickett was a popular favourite among American slide rule users. They featured an impressive range of specialized rules for a variety of applications (more than any other maker I can think of), along with teaching and student rules. Naturally, they also made a huge number of entry-level plastic rules, especially toward the end of their production run. Often, these can still be found as "new old stock" still today, illustrating their overly-effective mass production efforts. They also aggressively pushed their demonstration rules in US schools, helping to insure a substantial user base among later professionals. I'm not sure what eventually happened to them, but I know that like their American brethren K&E and Dietzgen, they switched to focusing on paper and film products around the time of the slide rule market collapse. According to Dieter von Jezierski, they eventually packed up headed to Mexico in 1974... but I don't know what happened to them after that (many of their later model plastic rules say "Made in Mexico"). If anybody knows more about their fate, please drop me a line.

Update: An excellent Pickett dating resource is now available at the slide rule museum.

Pickett Model 4

An earlier version of the more common N4 presented below, this Vector Hyberbolic Log Log rule is copyrighted 1947 by Pickett & Eckel. The original owner, Edward Earnshaw (whose name is clear visible neatly engraved on the front) was apparently a quality control engineer for Kearfott, an American electronics company. He obviously kept the rule in very good shape, as there is little surface corrosion visible anywhere on the rule. Included in the box was even an extra replacement cursor screw! Notice the soft purple-gray coloured case on the high resolution scans of the rule ... probably made out of polyester, as it feels a lot like "Polar Fleece." I also managed to obtain a brand new, mint in the box, Pickett leather case for this type of rule from the same estate. Actually, the box says it fits Pickett & Eckel models 2,3,4,5, and 6. Shown in the accompanying scans up above, the soft leather case ("Top Grain Cowhide") is unmarked, with the belt clip clearly visible. It is incredible to see how well this case and rule have stood up to the test of time - a credit to both Pickett and Mr. Earnshaw!

Pickett N4-ES

One of the most advanced slide rules ever made, with a whopping 34 scales! This is the largest slide rule I've ever seen, made in Pickett's trademark "eye-saver" yellow aluminum (copyright date is 1959). The eye-saver bit stems from research Pickett did on what combination of colours produces the least amount of eye strain over time, shown in the second insert above. The first insert shows off some of the features of this rule. The case is made out of really nice quality saddle leather, with a hard plastic internal case to protect the rule. Thanks to Walter Shawlee from Sphere Research Corp. for supplying me with a copy of the manual for this rule - I'd be lost on how to use most of the scales otherwise!

Update: Check out the Slide Rule Documentation Online site for a copy of the manual for this model rule. This site also has a variant of the standard manual with additional pages for the hyperbolic scales. Enjoy!

Pickett N4-ES (variant)

Here is a variant of the N4 presented above, although I'm not sure which would be the older of the two. You'll notice that the supporting pieces of the end braces have a more rounded appearance, and the Pickett logo is now completely in black. There's also some additional minor variations in the location of the copyright labels (both still say 1959). All in all, not much is really different between these two specimens - all the scales are the same, and even the cases are identical. Still, I suspect this one is older, based on the design features, and I know there are other variants out there that are intermediate to these two. If anyone knows more about when these design changes took place, please drop me a line.

Update: Franco Maddaleno has kindly sent me a link to the Pickett dating chart at the slide rule museum. As you'll see, this variant is actually more recent than the one above. I'm not entirely confident of the exact dates given though - according to the logo design chart, this rule would be from 1958-1962, while the older design above would be from 1950-1958. That seems odd, since the older rule above also has a 1959 copyright date printed on the slider. In any case, I suggest you check out this excellent Pickett dating resource for general info.

Pickett N515-T - Cleveland Institute of Electronics

One of Pickett's more common specialty slide rules. Pickett made a large number of special purpose rules, including this aluminum Electronic's technician model for the Cleveland Institute of Electronics, of Cleveland, Ohio. Oddly enough, it seems that the CIE (which, incidentally, is still in business) was a hotbed of electronics activity given the number of 515s available today. Either that, or their students were more than happy to part with their rules once the course was over! This later theory is supported by the fact that the name of the institute (usually stamped in gold lettering on the front of the case) has been deliberately rubbed off on this specimen. You can just about make it out in the high resolution scans if you know where to look. In any case, the rule (which, suspiciously, is in excellent condition) features a duplex design with specialized scales on the face and resistance and resonance problem-solving features on the back. The rule sports self-documenting scales on the face and convenient electronics equations and constants on the back. The high quality leather case is actually one of the nicest I've ever seen for a slide rule, with a deep reddish-brown colour similar to my N600 pocket rule below. It is much richer than the typical Pickett orange-colour leather model, and shows the leather grain very nicely. Both rule and case are in outstanding condition ... a nicely preserved slice of Americana.

Update: I've recently obtained the complete four volume set of slide rule manuals published by the CIE. A scan of the cover of volume 3, detailing the specialized scales of this rule, is shown above. A low-resolution scan of the contents of this actual manual is available from the files section of the Slide Rule Discussion group. You can download them yourself by clicking on the image on the right, after signing up with the group. Enjoy!

Pickett N600-ES Speed Rule

This is the slide rule that went to the moon (well, not this actual one, presumably). Pickett heavily advertised the fact that they were the official slide rule supplier to the Apollo program, and this model slide rule was apparently carried along on 5 Apollo missions. A nice little slide rule, the N600 features log-log scales rarely found on pocket rules. As you can see on the high resolution scans, this particular rule is little worn in places, but still functional. The leather pocket case is made of richly coloured saddle leather, although also a little worn. The case features the smart adaptation of a small leather flap on the back that when pulled raises the slide rule out of the case. A very well made and readable little rule!

Pickett N1010-ES

A simpler model trigonometric slide rule from Pickett, also in "eye-saver" yellow aluminum. I like this rule mainly because I got it mint in the original box, including all the original promotional material. I've included scans of the manual and warranty card up above, and some of the promo material with the N4-ES. The case is made of beautifully unmarked black saddle leather, as shown in the high resolution scans. A pity the rule wasn't actually used, though ... I find it far more satisfying somehow to know that someone actually benefited from these remarkable instruments. Pickett also sings the praises of all-metal construction, but personally I'm still partial to the feel of old wooden slide rules.

Pickett Microline 140C-T

I originally intended to bring this one into the lab to keep on my desk for quick calculations, but in the end I replaced it with a later model wooden K&E N4053-3, which also comes with built-in rulers. This rule is still a very nice late model full size student's plastic rule with log and trigonometric scales. I bought it new in the box with leatherette case and manual. Much nicer than most of the inexpensive Acumaths circulating around.

Pickett Microline 160C-ES/T

These are small, later model, plastic Pickett's that I picked up as new old stock from David Crate on eBay. I have both the classic white (T) version and the eye-catching, or rather "eye-saving" yellow (ES) model. I used to carry around the 160C-ES with me in my knapsack, and it made for quite the conversation piece I can tell you. Included in the original cardboard box is a "leatherette" slide rule case (actually some type of paperboard I'd say) and a one page double-sided instruction sheet (see my Slide Rule Manuals page) that's a nice little summary on how to use these basic model student slide rules.

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Page last updated on Sept 26, 2007 -
All material © 1999, 2001 by Eric Marcotte, Ph.D.