I spent a couple of weeks writing this, and of course remembered More Thoughts basically as soon as I uploaded it. For starters, I had somehow completely forgotten about Minna no Soft Series: Tetris Advance for the GBA, which is a somewhat difficult to find Japanese release superior to Tetris Worlds in every imaginable way. Second, I neglected to mention leveling details and have updated the Puyo Puyo Tetris and mobile sections accordingly (as of 10-28).
Tetris, the ‘killer app’ of the Game Boy and proven-timeless time-sink has a pretty bizarre history. Alexey Pajitnov originally wrote it as a proof-of-concept for a Soviet computer that lacked graphics capability. Pajitnov’s coworkers ported the game to the IBM PC, and its availability on consumer hardware meant that unofficial ports popped up across the globe, and licensing deals were struck without Pajitnov’s involvement. Facing some difficult decisions regarding licensing, Pajitnov gave the Soviet Union the rights to the game. Licensing was then handled through a state-sponsored company known as Elorg (the famous Game Boy pack-in deal was during the Elorg era). During this period, brick colors and rules were inconsistent from this Tetris to that Tetris. Some games branded Tetris during this era bore next-to-no resemblance to the game we all know and love.
The Elorg deal was temporary by design, and some years later Pajitnov got the rights back and formed The Tetris Company. The Tetris Company has proven to be an absurdly aggressive intellectual property monster, which is hardly surprising given the game’s licensing history. The Tetris Company has done one positive thing, though: standardized the rules and the colors of blocks into something known as the Tetris Guideline. This means that any Tetris from the late ‘90s and newer is largely interchangeable – and if you can make out the color of the next piece from the corner of your eye, you know what shape it is. The consistency is valuable, and even though years of NES Tetris have left me rather untalented at T-spins, all of my favorite Tetris games are of the modern sort. This also largely means that the distinction really boils down to hardware, but that’s kind of important when some form of the game has been released for pretty much any given system. So on that note, the four I most often reach for are:
I love slide rules nearly as much as I love HP calculators, and much like HP calculators, I have a humble collection of slide rules that is largely complete. While I keep them around more as beautiful engineering artifacts than anything, I do actually use them as well. These are a few of my favorites, from both a conceptual standpoint and from actual use.
- Pickett 115 Basic Math Rule
- This is, by far, the simplest rule that I own. It lacks the K scale that even the cheap, student 160-ES/T has. Aside from the L scale, it is functionally equivalent to a TI-108. But, to be fair, the TI-108 has two functions that nearly all slide rules lack: addition and subtraction. And, true to the name ‘Basic Math Rule,’ the Pickett 115 has two linear scales, X and Y, for doing addition and subtraction. Additionally, it has one scale-worth of Pickett’s ‘Decimal Keeper’ function, which aids the user in keeping track of how many decimal places their result is. All in all, it’s not a particularly impressive rule, but it is quite unique. Faber-Castell made a version of the Castell-Mentor 52/80 (unfortunately ISRM’s photo is not that version) with linear scales as well, and I probably prefer it in practice to the 115. The 115 just has a wonderful sort of pure simplicity about it that I appreciate, however.
- Pickett N200-ES Trig
- This is basically the next step up from the aforementioned 160-ES/T. The 160-ES/T is a simplex with K, A, B, C, CI, D, and L scales. The N200-ES/T is a duplex model that adds trig functions with a single set of S and T scales, and an ST scale. It’s a wee little pocket thing, the same size as the 160-ES/T, and it’s made of aluminum as opposed to plastic. It’s nothing fancy, but it handles a very useful number of functions in a very small package. The N600-ES/T does even more, but it becomes a little cluttery compared to the N200-ES/T’s lower information density. Good for playing with numbers in bed.
- Faber-Castell 2/83N Novo-Duplex
- The 2/83N is, in my opinion, the ultimate slide rule. It has 31 scales, conveniently organized, and with explanations on the right-hand side. Its braces have rubberized strips on them, and are thick enough that the rule can be used while sitting on a table. The ends of the slide extend out past the ends of the stator so it’s always easy to manipulate (I don’t have any Keuffel & Esser rules on this list, but they had a clever design that combatted this problem as well, with the braces being more L-shaped than C-shaped). The range of C (and therefore everything else, but this is the easiest way to explain) goes beyond 1-10, starting at around 0.85 and ending around 11.5. The plastic operates incredibly smoothly (granted, I bought mine NOS from Faber’s German store a few years ago, that had to have helped), and the whole thing is just beautiful. Truly the grail slide rule.
- Faber-Castell 62/83N Novo-Duplex
- This feels like a complete cop-out, because it is essentially identical to the 2/83N, except smashed into half of the width. You lose the nice braces, you get a slightly less-fancy cursor, and you lose precision when you condense the same scale down to half-width. But you end up with something ridiculously dense in functionality for a small package. Even though it’s essentially the same rule as the 2/83N, I think it deserves its own place on this list.
- Pickett 108-ES
- This was the piece I’d been looking for to essentially wrap up my collection. It is a circular, or dial, slide rule, and it is tiny – 8cm in diameter. It’s much harder to come by than the larger circular Picketts, particularly the older 101-C. Circular rules have some distinct advantages – notably their compact size (the 108-ES is the only rule I own that I would truly call pocketable, and it cradles nicely in the palm of my hand), and the infinite nature of a circular slide. The latter advantage means there’s no point in adding folded scales, nor is there ever a need to back up and start from the other end of the slide because your result is off the edge.
- The 108-ES, by my understanding, was a fairly late model, manufactured in Japan. It is mostly plastic, and incredibly smooth to operate – moreso than non-circular Picketts that I’ve used. The obverse has L, CI, and C on the slide; D, A, and K on the stator. The reverse has no slide, and has D, TS, three scales of T, and two of S. I can’t help but hear “I’m the operator / with my pocket calculator” in my mind when I play with this thing. It really packs a lot of punch for something so diminutive. The larger 111-ES, of the same sort of manufacture, is also quite impressive with (among other things) the addition of log-log scales.
I write a lot. I carry many bags. I’m untidy. I own and use many mechanical pencils. Some of them good, some of them bad, most of them pink. Here are my favorites.
- Pentel Sharp Kerry
- The Kerry is hands-down the best pencil I own, in a very practical sense. It’s not beautiful; its oddly shiny-and-gridded midsection that looks grippy but is too high to function as such is just gaudy. The pencil was introduced at least 30 years ago, but I can’t imagine that ever looked good. But it’s such a well-engineered, functional pencil that it’s hard to rail on too much. It’s kind of the pencil version of 70s Japanese ‘pocket pens’ in that it has a cap, and it ‘grows’ to a usable size when said cap is posted. A pencil introduces its own challenges, of course, so the cap actually has its own lead advance button (which contains the eraser) that interfaces with the main advance. The cap obviates the need for a retraction method, so the Kerry lives comfortably in a pocket or a bag. I don’t have a bag without a Kerry in it.
- Uni Kuru Toga High Grade
- Uni’s Kuru Toga is one of the most meaningful innovations in mechanical pencil mechanisms as far as I’m concerned. With a 2.0mm lead, or possibly even down to a 1.3mm, one might sharpen their lead with a purpose-built rasp or a lead pointer. Get much narrower, and your leads are all over the place. I use 4B whenever possible, and 2B otherwise, so this is less of a problem for me, but it’s still nice to find ways to mitigate problems. The Kuru Toga mechanism rotates the lead by a tiny amount every time you press it to paper. This mechanism is a bit ‘spongy’, perhaps, almost like a pencil with a suspension mechanism. I found it very easy to adjust to, but I’ve heard of others taking issue with it. The High Grade has an aluminum grip, which I like the weight and feel of, but others may prefer the rubber grip model.
- Pilot Clutch Point
- This pencil is fairly maligned, and I understand why. The aforementioned pencils (and the following pencils) all use an internal clutch mechanism, and have a straight lead sleeve. Straight lead sleeves are great for draughting; they slide perfectly along a straightedge. I, personally, don’t like them all that much for writing, however. The internal mechanism brings with it other advantages. Keeping the mechanism protected, and having the lead held straight by the sleeve before the clutch means far less breakage. The Pilot Clutch Point exposes the clutch right at the front of the pencil, and if you don’t treat it with respect, it will jam. Badly. But when it works, it has a nice, pointy mechanism that will hold the shortest bits of lead known to humankind. It may very well be my favorite pencil for everyday writing.
- Pentel Sharp Pocket
- The baby sister of the Kerry, I suppose? Much thinner, slightly shorter, and with a much more Biro-like cap that doesn’t really extend the pencil whatsoever. Great for attaching to a diary or the like. Works as well as any Pentel does. Very light.
- Staedtler 775
- I guess the pink one is only available in Korea, but it does exist, and one can find it on eBay, so I say it counts. The 775 is a classic draughting Staedtler. It has a retracting point, but you have to ram it in to get it to do so. This has its ups and downs, being a simple retraction system makes it incredibly steady when engaged. But it’s also hard to disengage, and you risk breaking the lead or bending the sleeve.
- Zebra Color Flight
- A really cheap pencil, but bonus points for coming in three shades of pink. It also has one other neat trick up its sleeve – much more eraser than the typical mechanical pencil, extended by rotating the advance. The plastic feels cheap, nothing to write home about. But considering how cheap they can be, the Zebra Color Flight pencils are actually pretty nice.