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Google Books Science Technology

Before Google There Was the Chemical Rubber Company (hackaday.com) 143

szczys writes: The CRC Handbook is one great example of how access to information has changed over the years. Now, you open up Google and find your answers. In decades past, hard data needed to solve engineering problems was embodied in volumes of text known as Databooks. One of the best known was the Chemical Rubber Company Handbook. Don't let the name fool you, the CRC Handbook contained traits, properties, equations, and much more on all kinds of materials and techniques for using them. It's still around today and has one big advantage over our searchable digital lives: you know you can trust the accuracy of the information in those books at face value while online information requires validation.
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Before Google There Was the Chemical Rubber Company

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  • Trust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rfengr ( 910026 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:12PM (#51173979)
    Why would you nescesarily trust the accuracy of a refernce book over the internet? I have found mistakes in both.
    • Re:Trust? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:22PM (#51174059)

      There probably wasn't some asshat intentionally inserting bogus facts into the book.

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        There probably isn't some asshat intentionally inserting bogus facts onto reference sites like Wolfram either.

        You seem to be equating Wikipedia with the entire internet. It's really not, there are other web pages out there.

    • Re:Trust? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:29PM (#51174115)

      And errors on the Internet can be fixed and the corrected version is available immediately upon fixing, while errors in a giant printed manual will need a re-print every time an error is found and fixed, not to mention shipped to your house.

    • May I assume a reference book on the internet is only half as accurate?

      • May I assume a reference book on the internet is only half as accurate?

        You may assume that. But why does that have to be so? In 90 years, won't some website material have had enough vetting to suffice? Why not? We're not talking about a source that just anyone can modify. Is the CRC Manual and other respected sources online somewhere? Why not?

        • You have sources that come down to a single expert or small panel of editors, and sources that come down to anyone who can spot an error. Any idiot can post ridiculous bullshit masquerading as authority on the Internet without challenge by making his site a one-way push communication (no comments, no wiki). Any idiot can also post a volume of poorly-researched, outdated, self-contradictory rambling as an authoritative text printed over a dozen or so volumes of an encyclopedia.
    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      Because all contributors were vetted and the information was cross referenced to actual research. If you thought there was an error you could chase it down.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      yea its on its 96th edition and I bet every one has more corrections than new information

    • For well-edited, complete articles, Wikipedia has a much lower error rate per subject than traditional encyclopedias. For lower-profile articles, Wikipedia lags the average. Nobody has done a comparison on less-emphasized Britannica articles versus more-central Britannica articles to see if Britannica has its low-error-rate and high-error-rate topics.

      In medical school, professors and textbooks proclaim that epsom salts will draw toxins from the body. That's failed scientific rigor, and the literature h

    • Two sets of distributed-on-dead-trees tables, which were central to engineering industrial civilization, were discovered, in this cybernetic era, to have substantial errors.

      One was the table of integrals that was an appendix to just about every calculus book known to man. When the first symbolic math programs were being developed, one of the intended uses of them was to calculate, on the fly, good analytical solutions to the integrals of various functions. So of course the authors tested them against all

    • Why would you nescesarily trust the accuracy of a refernce book over the internet? I have found mistakes in both.

      Because the CRC Handbook has been used, for a long time, by very smart people who notice errors. And demand that fixes be made!
      And the fixes were made. For about a hundred years, in many subjects.

      It may be the most debugged work in existance.

      In contrast:
      "If Engineers built buildings the way Programmers write programs, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization!"

      8-)

  • Ah, the rubber bible (Score:5, Interesting)

    by karolgajewski ( 515082 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:17PM (#51174019) Journal

    As a chemist, that was the one resource that everyone had.

    Unlike software, you never needed to know whether it was the latest version.
    However, this is a prime example of bloatware. The thing was so big and fat, it ceased to be a pocketbook. I think the last one I used had a version in the 70s.

    • Lange's Handbook was the other essential reference, especially the older versions. I hung onto my 1965 edition because it still had a lot on wet chemical analysis that was dropped in later editions as we got more dependent on instrumentation.
    • I still use my copy occasionally, and have it by my bedside. Mine was published in the 50s, and I got it used in 65 free. The only thing that would've made it better would if it had softcover instead of hard; could've put it in my pocket then.
      • have it by my bedside

        Nothing like being able to pick it up and read an exciting chemical reaction at bedtime, eh? :-)

    • However, this is a prime example of bloatware. The thing was so big and fat, it ceased to be a pocketbook.

      Plenty of space in the lab or desk.

    • The CRC Handbook may have been a "pocketbook" when it first came out in 1914 with 116 pages, but by the 7th edition in 1918 it was already over 500 pages, and the 11th edition in 1926 was over 1000.

    • ...The thing was so big and fat, it ceased to be a pocketbook. I think the last one I used had a version in the 70s.

      Completely useless and error-ridden.

      A Professor colleague wrote to the Editor of CRC several times, with a very specific list of over 60 errors he had found in the current version (at the time).

      No response. The corrections were never made.

      They just reprint the exact same (error-filled) tables, and stamp a new year on it to keep the money rolling.

  • by buck-yar ( 164658 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:18PM (#51174023)

    Add pubmed to many of your google search terms.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I still have my copy of the 1980 Rubber Bible, which I was awarded as the top science student in my school when I graduated.

    • I still have my copy of the 1980 Rubber Bible, which I was awarded as the top science student in my school when I graduated.

      Interesting. Nowadays, 'Rubber Bible' would have a completely different connotation. And probably would have been lots more fun to win.

      Oh. Wait.

  • Trust but verify (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:20PM (#51174041)

    As an electrical engineering undergraduate I had a professor who gave an assignment to build a filter. All semester long we had been using trusted tables from a published source for filter parameters. He asked for filter parameters that would lead us into a portion of the published table that was wrong. The point of this assignment wasn't to design yet another filter, it was to understand that errors occur everywhere. Even in trusted sources.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As a chemical engineering graduate, what I can say is that every textbook I used made at least some references to Perry's Handbook for Chemical Engineers.

    • Of course there are errors in printed sources. CRC Tables, though, were around for a very long time and would likely have had most errors corrected.

      I remember using it a lot as an undergrad way back when. But I have to say I was happy when electronic calculators went mainstream and I didn't have to be looking stuff up so much.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    AKA The Rubber Bible as it was known when I was in Engineering School. Almost everyone had at least one edition.

  • by kqc7011 ( 525426 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:24PM (#51174071)
    Machinery's Handbook.
  • Not really the case (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:25PM (#51174079) Homepage Journal

    The Machinery handbook, the CRC Handbook, and the Radio Amateur's Handbook are the three classics. Encyclopedia Britannica was even larger but often considered to be authoritative. CRC publishes an entire series including The CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. It's overstating that they were so authoritative that you could take them at face value. Hand typesetting is an expensive process and when small errors came up, the publishers had to consider the cost of correction before implementing fixes. There is also the fact that many of these works arose from the work of just a few eccentric authors (neurotypical people don't write reference works) and they weren't universal experts.

    • Add one more to the list. As a Mechanical Engineer I had the "Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers" by Baumeister & Marks. Some 40 years later, the great bulk of material is unchanged. And now the book is even bigger (for more $). I still use it.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses.

      Does it list the European Swallow as about 20.3g (without coconut)?

    • I thought it was kind of neat that for decades many toolboxes had a space perfectly sized for The Machinery Handbook.
      I found a couple of digital copies for my curiosity :)

      • Yes, I have a Chinese clone of a Gerstner chest with that special drawer in the middle. Lots of people don't even know what it's for.
    • And Gradshteyn and Ryzhikk. But I use mathematica now.
    • "Hand typesetting is an expensive process and when small errors came up, the publishers had to consider the cost of correction before implementing fixes."

      Same thing for manual drafting vs. CAD.
    • The Machinery handbook, the CRC Handbook, and the Radio Amateur's Handbook are the three classics.

      plus Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain, and Grover's tables of inductance calculations, and Gradshteyn and Ryzhik's tables of integrals

  • Nope (Score:5, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:28PM (#51174093) Homepage Journal

    you know you can trust the accuracy of the information in those books at face value

    Nope.

    information requires validation.

    Correct (but verify for yourself that I am right about this).

  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:28PM (#51174097)

    It's still around today and has one big advantage over our searchable digital lives: you know you can trust the accuracy of the information in those books at face value while online information requires validation.

    And why should I not trust the accuracy of an Atmel part if I get the datasheet file from the Atmel website?

  • compare it to something like thousands of reference books instead of just one? I am sure there are errors in some of them...
  • by Streetlight ( 1102081 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:29PM (#51174117) Journal
    Chemists have also found The Merck Index, Beilstein (Beilstein's Handbook of Organic Chemistry, founded in 1881), as well as Chemical Abstracts (CAS) published by The American Chemical Society to be incredibly useful and necessary. All are either available on the Internet or other computer databases. Before computer accessibility, a year's subscription of CAS in paper would occupy something like a yard or more of bookshelf.

    I'm sure other professions have their necessary references they could not do without.
  • by buck-yar ( 164658 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:32PM (#51174139)

    Can't forget Gray's Anatomy.

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:34PM (#51174157) Journal

    I keep an old CRC Handbook on a shelf in the kitchen next to all the cook books. Its just there make guest nervous...

  • Lived by this tome for much of my education and a substantial portion of my career.
  • Just yesterday, I put an ancient CRC Math Handbook in a pile to donate to my local public library. One sign of its age is that it's pretty small. I don't know how much use it is at this point: the library might put it on the shelves, sell it, or trash it - who knows?

    Although these things arguably are made obsolete by the Internet, the humble printed handbook still has its value. My favorite in the math-table genre has always been Schaum's Outline of Mathematical Handbook of Formulas and Tables [amazon.com], which is

  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @03:54PM (#51174327) Journal

    I am an avid collector of handbooks. They embody so much information, so much detail. So much effort into compiling them. They were often the life's work of an individual expert. On the shelves immediately above my desk we find, "Drafting for Engineers" by Svensen. "The Making, Shaping, and Treating of Steel" bu the United States Steel Company, "Th Vertebrate Visual System" by Poliak, "The Retina" by Poliak, "Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia" (I used to sit and just read random entries as a kid), "CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics", "Halsey's Handbook" (the one with a beautiful screed against the metric system), "The Merk Manial", "Machinery's Handbook" along with "Machinery's Handbook Guide", "Physician's Desk Reference" (although out of date), etc.

    One of my greatest pleasures in graduate school was to visit the local used bookstore that, given it's location could draw on the libraries of many professional engineers, machinists, and mathematicians as they retired, and thus had a huge technical section that was both broad and deep with information.

    • by pz ( 113803 )

      Replying to my own posting ... I'm reminded now of the one book I regret not purchasing. It was an electrician's handbook and the one page I recall (which has influenced the way I join to wires to this day) show various different splicing techniques, including the Western Union splice. Doing a quick search online now shows it was probably "Practical electrical wiring," by Sharp, which Google appears to have digitized.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @04:06PM (#51174415)
    That's the one I have. I used it just last week. Sometimes taking a book off the shelf is more convenient than wading through the flood of information the Internet throws at you.
  • I bought mine from a used bookstore in 1974. It hasn't degraded and for the most part still works quite well.
  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @04:29PM (#51174571)

    $153 for the dead tree and $135 for the e-book version??!! then again, for most people a version a couple years old is just as good and those are under $50

    my 1983 one is very cheap I see, under $8

  • Every technician worth anything has an RD book in his truck:

    http://www.scte.org/documents/... [scte.org]

    Everything you need to spec, design, build and maintain a cable system.

    • by VAXcat ( 674775 )
      That's odd - the ones that my cable company sends to the house don't seem like they could even read, much less look stuff up in a book. The last one was trying to provision a new cable modem and couldn't get it to register. He called headquarters to get someone on the line to help him. He kept trying to read them the MAC address. I stopped him and told him, that's probably the serial number he's reading and not the MAC address. He truculently asked what made me think that? I replied that it was too long,
      • by grumling ( 94709 )

        Likely an untrained contractor. One chronic problem with cable is that any tech or call center employee who has more than a 30 IQ is promoted away from customer contact, or quits and finds a better job in another industry.

  • CRC Standard Math Tables, 28th edition. Old, but still works.

    Haven't used in years, but I'm not getting rid of it, either.

  • online tools and wikipedia are not bad at the moment. Who tells that this will remain so? Organizations like wikipedia needs money and there is no long term guarantee that not at one point in the future, a "sponsor" will jump in, and searches or articles will be "internally vetted". Like for anything, it is good to have many independent sources. And yes, I keep as many copies of old encyclopedias and handbooks as possible, so that if needed, things can be double checked. Even in math software (like compute
  • I can't find my copy for the exact name. It was published, I think, by the HAM radio organization. Incredibly useful for both the amateur and professional. Not sure if it's been updated for the digital world. That tells you how old my copy must be as well as me and my need to use it.
    • by ipb ( 569735 )

      The Radio Amateurs Handbook published by the American Radio Relay League.
      It along with the CRC were every electrical engineers bible when I went to school.

      I no longer have a copy of the CRC but I do have a 25th anniversary issue (1948) of the Handbook from before my time. (not much though)

  • Nokia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stooo ( 2202012 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @06:40PM (#51175381)

    >> Before Google There Was the Chemical Rubber Company

    And before Nokia, there was the chemical rubber company called Nokia

  • Give numbers you can truss.
  • Finding useful technical information on the internet is like sifting through horse shit looking for pony.

    The search engines all assume that you meant 'Beiber' when you typed in 'Becquerel'. They all deliver results of what they think you want, vs. what you actually asked for. Often you're steered toward pay sites. A lot of information controlled by technical journals is behind paywalls.

    If you actually find anything related to what interests you, you'll often find that 1) it is all copied from Wikipedia, and

    • The search engines all assume that you meant 'Beiber' when you typed in 'Becquerel'. They all deliver results of what they think you want, vs. what you actually asked for. Often you're steered toward pay sites.

      You should check out this search engine: http://www.google.com/ [google.com] I assume you've never heard of it but I think it's going to be a big success some day.

      I typed in 'Becquerel' (well, technically I copied and pasted from your post) and the first two results are on Henri Becquerel, the physicist, and the unit of radioactivity named after him. All the rest of the results on the first page are also on either the man or the unit named after him from a variety of different sites and none of them were pay sites as fa

  • As a mathematician who predates Google, Wikipedia, et al, of course I owned a CRC handbook of Mathematics. Of course, these days the more advanced calculators would have the equivalent data built in - and so would any computer algebra system.

    Seems almost ironic the way a rubber manufacturer is more famous for its handbooks, though I suppose you could compare it to an Irish brewery which is better known elsewhere for their book of world records. (Yes, Guinness.)
  • Like a lot of people here, I have a lot of nostalgia for my oldschool CRC handbook. I have many fond memories of poring over its extensive listings of mathematical formulas and scientific tables.

    But in a Slashdot discussion of nostalgia over the Chemical Rubber Company, we should not forget the MathWorld debacle. MathWorld was an online math encyclopedia in the mid 90s. It was one of the earliest proofs of the power of the web's collaborative processes for publishing, predating Wikipedia by almost a decade.

  • Forty years later, I still have my beloved CRC math handbook. Offered it to my son when he followed me into physics, but he was using wikipedia for derivatives and integrals. I still like browsing databooks, which were like baseball card collections back in the day. They were often like unobtainium, but - I made time for a TI factory rep, and he sent me everything they had. Likewise, I returned a woman's call at Motorola, and she was so happy I received two large boxes a couple days later. Doesn't hurt
  • A really comprehensive, albeit very expensive book of every biologically active chemical known so far, is the "Merck index". Expensive.. I paid , I think, $300 for it new, back in the mid 80's. But wow, it had EVERY chemical ever created, their chemical formulae, and everything known to date about them so far.. A very high percentage of them were psychoactive drugs. and most had never been tested on anything yet.. Nor were most regulated either. It was a basement chemist's dream...;-) Unfortunately many t

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