Old graph paper

I mentioned in an earlier post that my use of Matplotlib is heavily influenced by the time I spent plotting data by hand on graph paper as an undergrad. I was reminded of that when I visited my mom this past weekend and found this pad of graph paper in my father’s old desk.

Post pad cover

My first question was whether it came from the 60s or 70s. Could be either one based on the design of the cover. A bit of Googling (or was it Ducking?) told me that Frederick Post Company became Teledyne Post in 1970, which suggests the pad is from the 60s, but the combined company continued to sell some products—slide rules, for example—under the Post name for a few years after the merger. Whichever decade the pad came from, it’s old.

Here’s what the paper looks like:

Post pad paper

The compact title block up at the top and the edge-to-edge grid gave you as much room as possible to plot your data. This has a 10 per inch grid, printed in blue so it wouldn’t appear in photocopies. What I really like is how white the paper still is—this was a quality product, meant to keep your plots readable for decades.

My favorite part was the inside of the pad’s cover, which explains all the many, many types of graph paper Post made.

Post pad inside cover

Specialty graph paper was a big deal before computers took over all of our plotting chores. Log-log and semilog paper were the most common, but I also used polar paper and a few different types of probability paper. I always thought the triangular coordinate paper was cool, but I don’t recall ever having a use for it.

People can be very clever when they have to be, and all the different styles of graph paper is an example of that. Although I’d never want to go back to plotting data by hand, I have fond memories of the satisfaction that came with making a good looking plot with the tools available when I was young. I’m going to keep this pad on the credenza in my office, under my dad’s slide rule and drafting pen.