This is the latest in a series giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.
Today, based on a suggestion by reader Fraser, we take a look at the time that Iron Man saved the day through the use of his trusty slide rule!
Now almost completely erased from existence, for hundreds of years the slide rule was the go-to device for personal computing by mathematicians and scientists.
In 1969, when Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, Aldrin used a slide rule to calculate their landing. It was used for all sorts of complicated stuff.
Here’s a 1944 instructional film on how to use a slide rule…
In the 1960s, even as electronic calculators began to become popular, people still used slide rules for their own personal use (as calculators were far too bulky for personal use). Then, in the early 1970s, personal calculators were developed and pretty much over night slide rules became obsolete. As calculators got cheaper and cheaper, slide rules became more and more a thing of the past.
In 1964, however, slide rules were still all the rage…even with guys who build super suits of armor.
1964’s Tales of Suspense #50 (by Stan Lee and Don Heck) has actually already appeared in a previous Foggy Ruins of Time, as this was the issue that Pepper Potts was given a dramatic makeover (check out that old Foggy Ruins of Time installment to see which two-time Emmy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress she was originally visually based on) but it also introduces the Chinese communist agent, The Mandarin!
Here’s the weird thing about the Mandarin (well, besides the fact that he’s essentially drawn like a caricature of an Asian guy and the fact that he has a big ol’ goofy M on the chest of his costume). He has ten powerful rings that make him a worthy foe for Iron Man…
But when it comes time to kill Iron Man, he decides to use…karate?!?!
Still, all seems lost until Iron Man remembers that his armor comes complete with a handy dandy slide rule!!!
That is awesome.
Thanks for the suggestion, Fraser!
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