One of my graduating seniors (thanks, Kendal!) just gave me an antique math text as an end-of-the-year gift. It’s a slim little volume entitled Formulas – Cube Root – Logarithms, and it was published in 1921 by the International Textbook Company.
As I was browsing the pages, I was struck by the sheer mental labor that mathematics required back then. Imagine a world without cheap scientific calculators, let alone one without computers and the internet. For example, look at the steps outlined in this book that are necessary to derive a cube root (click on the image to zoom in):
There are 24 pages devoted to the single task of deriving cube roots, something any $10 calculator can do in milliseconds, or you can just type it into a website like wolframalpha:
I have new appreciation for those who did so much with so little technology.