Calculators, Ditto Machines and a Ski Barge: Zoology in the Summer of ’71

John Magnuson and Sanford “Sandy” Engel do research from a boat on Pallette Lake. Photo: CFL Library

Not so long ago (but long enough that we’re ashamed we haven’t gotten to this yet), former Center for Limnology grad student, Lorna Petty sent our director emeritus, John Magnuson a copy of the “Manual for the Laboratory for Limnology” an artifact from way back in the summer of 1971. I would say it was a trip down memory lane but, well, it would be another 7 years before I started having memories! What it is, though, is a look into freshwater research in a time that now seems almost incomprehensible. An era of “secretaries” and “stockroom men,” where students scooted around Lake Mendota on a “ski barge” with an 18 horsepower engine and TAs asked office staff to type up their tests on Hasler Lab typewriters AND then run copies on the “ditto machine.”
Below are some of our favorite parts of the manual:

While the ever-present humor in the field of limnology proves fully developed way back on 1971, don’t let this tongue in cheek introduction fool you, the User’s Manual is chock full of helpful information.
We also find it charming that, despite the witty cover page, Art Hasler stuck to polite and professional in his welcome note.

“As you read through these pages, I think it will become evident that the faculty, staff and graduate students work in a team effort to operate the lab efficiently. In coming to our lab, I hope you will be joining our team and thereby increasing your enjoyment and probability of success.”

If such earnest welcome from the director sounds quaint, though, nothing begins to date the document more than Page 7, which we will forthwith designate “The Catalog of Ancient Machines.”

Calculators? Typewriters? Ditto machines? Can you imagine doing science without a computer and the Internet – before “coding” was even a thing? But, really, an office ditto machine sounds cool, right? Where do we get one of those?

Ah, yes, a full catalog of Center for Limnology boats sitting atop the rules and regulations for office-owned calculators. Please note two things:
1. Not all of these calculators are portable! Aside from the two desktop “adding machines,” the “Epic and H-P” are permanent fixtures of room 226. and,
2. University of Wisconsin System purchasing rules were just as strict back in 1971 – these calculators were purchased by “research monies,” no sneaking them off to help with your homework assignment, math nerds!

And above we see that not everything has changed. While the price of coffee has jumped 20 fold in the Hasler Lab breakroom, the entire building is still predominantly run via committee – and everyone is expected to participate!
One thing we failed to find information for is if Sandy Engel was violating any field sampling protocols with that pipe sticking out of his mouth. We’ll be sure to look for an appendix. In the meantime, here’s a last shot of 1970’s era limnological fieldwork. It’s good to see that flannel never goes out of style!

John Magnuson on Mystery Lake doing a winter kill study. Photo: CFL Library