Rewind: Politics and Polling in 1975

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that my grandfather was a statistician who ran his own company producing probability chart paper. For those of you under the age of 40 (50? 60?) who weren’t raised around such things, this was basically graphing software before there were computers. Probability chart paper manipulated the axes of charts and allowed you to graph fancy distributions without actually have to calculate every value out by hand. Kind of like a slide rule, but for graphing. Not helping the under 40 crowd with that analogy I’m sure.

ANYWAY, what I don’t think I’ve mentioned here is that my grandfather also happened to be a stats blogger before computers existed. From 1974 to 1985 he produced a quarterly newsletter teaching people how to use statistics more effectively. I found out a few months ago that my father had actually saved a copy of all of these newsletters, and I’ve made it my goal this summer to read and digitize every issue. While a lot of the newsletters are teaching people how to do hand calculations (shudder), I may be pulling out a few snippets here and there and posting them. Today I was reading the issue from Late Winter (January and February) of 1975, and stumbled across this gem I thought people would appreciate:


I still don’t know how he typed all those equations with a typewriter.

Gee, glad things have improved so much.

Fun possibly exaggerated family legend: my grandfather was a Democrat for most of his life, but he hated Ted Kennedy so much he maintained a Massachusetts address for almost a year after he moved to New Hampshire just so he could continue voting against him.

2 thoughts on “Rewind: Politics and Polling in 1975

  1. Great find, BSK!

    First, the anecdote about Kennedy is absolutely true.

    Second, in order to enhance his ability to run a business out of, first, the garage, and second, the back room of the house, your grandfather invested in an IBM Selectric Typewriter. I’m sure this can be found through Google or Wikipedia, but the short version is that it was a significant advancement in typewriters because, for the first time, you could change your font. Prior to this, your typewriter could only produce one font, the one it was born with. The selectric allow you to change the “ball” on which the font existed. So, if he wanted to put something in italics, he switched to the italic ball. For purposes of creating this newsletter, he had purchased a ball that had symbols. Since the keyboard did not reflect the symbols, there was a laminated card that came with the ball indicating which symbol corresponded with which key on the typewriter.

    These are all things that are now embedded in any software for word processing, but this was a great tool for the home publisher at the time.


  2. Pingback: Probability Paper and Polling Corrections | graph paper diaries

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