In Season 2 Episode 2 of The Wire at around 31:30, we see a guy (forensic medical examiner?) use a slide rule. Why not use a normal electronic calculator? I'm not really familiar with the show - is there some reason in the show why he would have a slide rule?

Here is my theory - is this off-base? I understand that the show's writers went to great lengths to depict everything realistically. I also know that forensic medical examiners use custom-made nomographs and sliding calculators to make quick calculations without having to memorize formulas and do math by hand. (See for example https://www.google.com/search?q=forensic+nomogram) These are stripped-down ultra-simplified single-purpose calculating instruments which sometimes have sliding parts, but are not slide rules. Slide rules are complicated general-purpose calculators and much harder to use.

So maybe the writers heard from somewhere that forensic medical examiners use sliding calculators, and either they or the props people misunderstood and gave the guy a real old-fashioned slide rule instead?

Any chance the writers ever mentioned this in interviews?

  • 5
    Slide rules are not complicated. They are simpler and quicker to use than many pocket calculators.
    – Chenmunka
    Sep 7, 2022 at 13:45
  • I know exactly how complicated a slide rule is. No sensible person would use one in the mid 2000s to do important work unless there was some good reason. And I can't imagine what a good reason would be in this setting. Sep 7, 2022 at 14:21
  • 4
    Some people like to use what tools they've learned with, it's more comfortable for them.
    – Luciano
    Sep 7, 2022 at 14:56
  • 1
    Even so, it appears a little anachronistic to me - even someone who learns to use a slide rule can easily learn to use a calculator. It's not like this was set in the 1960s. But its not inconceivable that they just prefer it.
    – iandotkelly
    Sep 7, 2022 at 15:38
  • 1
    “No sensible person would use a slide rule…” I wonder if you’re overestimating how many people are sensible. Sep 7, 2022 at 17:08


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