A post from Shady Characters

Win a copy of Empire of the Sum!

It has been a long time coming, but Empire of the Sum will be published in the UK and other non-US countries this coming Friday, the 6th of October. To celebrate, non-US readers finally have a chance to win one of two free copies of the book! To enter, leave a comment on this post with a valid email address so that I can contact you in the event that you win.

The sun rises behind a pocket calculator, whose display reads "07734"
The cover of Empire of the Sum.

Remember, this giveaway is for non-US residents only, and I’ll post to anywhere except Antarctica. The con­test will close at noon UK time on Sunday 8th October 2023, so make sure you enter be­fore then. After that I’ll pick two win­ners from the list of all unique entrants, and I’ll get in touch to arrange free postage of your prize. See below for terms and conditions, and good luck!

update: The com­pet­i­tion is now closed! I’ll announce the winners soon.

Terms and conditions

  • The competition is open only to non-US residents.
  • The prizes are two copies of the non-US edition of Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator, with one copy awarded per winner.
  • Entry is via the comment section on this post only. Entries via Twitter, Facebook, email or other platforms will not count.
  • One entry per entrant only.
  • Entrants must provide a valid email address.
  • Entrants must provide a name or pseudonym for publication in the event that they win.
  • The competition will close at noon UK time on Sunday 8th October 2023.
  • Winners must provide a valid non-US postal address on any continent except Antarctica.
  • The winners will be announced here at shadycharacters.co.uk within thirty days of the close of the competition.

42 comments on “Win a copy of Empire of the Sum!

  1. Comment posted by Ian Miller on

    changing from a slide rule to a calculator was an improvement but using a slide rule was educational.

  2. Comment posted by Marc Schulder on

    Apart from its content, I am really looking forward to seeing what book design decisions have been made for this work. Both Shady Characters and The Book have been so wonderfully playful.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      They’ve both been great, haven’t they? This third one is by the same designer, Judith Abbate, and I think it has turned out really well. Let me know what you think!

  3. Comment posted by TJ Lewis on

    Oh yes please, I’ve been wanting to read this book since it was announced.

  4. Comment posted by Gary McCormick on

    I began my engineering degree right at the time when powerful scientific calculators were becoming affordable. I had a quick primer on the use of a slide rule in one of my classes but never used one “in anger”. They were still being sold in the student store on campus, but I never saw any of my fellow engineering students using one.

  5. Comment posted by Kerry Nitz on

    I so want a slide rule

  6. Comment posted by Felipe Correa on

    Nice, count me in!

  7. Comment posted by mORA on

    Here in Italy 05535 was by far more famous than 07734.

  8. Comment posted by Stephen Lay on

    RPN for me!

    My first calculator was the first programable Hewlett Packard, the HP25. I was a mining engineering student, it cost me £110 in 1975 (equivalent to £1,180) today. I spent the summer picking potatoes to afford it.

    Then an HP11C from around 1983, I think it cost about £90 (£390 today), and I still have it.

    Today I use the RLM-11CX app for Apple, £10!

    1. Comment posted by Ian Miller on

      yes. I liked the HP16c. I had one but it was stolen. I now have a replica via Swiss Micros.

  9. Comment posted by Vladimir on

    I was taught to use a logarithmic ruler by my great-uncle, an electrical engineer. That was 45 years ago

  10. Comment posted by Karen on

    Loving the eBook version, but you can’t beat reading on paper :-).

  11. Comment posted by carsten on

    is there a ebook version for some texas instruments graphic calculator?

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      This is an amazing idea. I hope a Norton staffer is reading these comments so they can get cracking on a TI edition :)

  12. Comment posted by Martin Schröder on

    Yes please.

  13. Comment posted by Gunnar on

    Some time ago we had to (sadly) clean up the house of my wife‘s grandparents. Her grandpa was a geological engineer, constructing dams all over the world. There were a lot of logarithmic rulers and discs, but nobody in the family knew how to use them anymore. I had to keep them anyway.

  14. Comment posted by Mike Lim on

    The perfect companion to the Usborne Pocket Calculator Book I had as a kid!

  15. Comment posted by Krzysztof on

    I always wanted a slide rule necktie pin. I don’t know why, I don’t even wear ties. Count me in for the book though.

  16. Comment posted by Trevor Jordan on

    I would be lost without my pocket calculator – counting on my fingers only goes so far!

  17. Comment posted by Tom on

    Look here, Keith! This is the comment you should pick.

  18. Comment posted by Dale Ward on

    I’ve accumulated many electronic gadgets over the years. Many have come and gone but one device stands out – my Sumlock ‘Anita 810’ pocket calculator.

    I bought it in 1973 and I still use it regularly. I have other, much more recent devices (phones, tablets etc) which are technically obsolete but the Anita soldiers on.

    Little did I think that I would get 50 years of use out of my Anita. I wonder if I will get 60, or even 70 years out of it.

  19. Comment posted by Adriel Watt on

    I remember teaching myslelf to program my TI-80 to convert Farenheit to Celsius and vice versa in high school. Not groundbreaking, but it may have been the first time I ever did any practical programming.

  20. Comment posted by Popup on

    I wish I still had my old slide-rule. In the 90’s it was definitely an anachronism, but I coupled it with a state-of-the-art HP48-SX.

  21. Comment posted by Nicolas on

    Congrats on the release of a new book! Loved the two previous ones :)

    ps. The “comment section” link above links to the comment section of another similar post about the US contest, I almost commented there by mistake!

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Thanks! I hope you enjoy this one too. And thanks for the note about the link — fixed now.

  22. Comment posted by Rob W. on

    I calculate a better chance of winning a copy of this great sounding book by posting a comment—so here it is! :)

  23. Comment posted by Michael Graf on

    I’d love to read that book!

  24. Comment posted by Dave Williams on

    Well, I love my copies of Shady Characters and The Book (I confess to adding brass corners to the cover boards of the latter, to prevent them getting damaged, since they were bare card) so am looking forward to this one despite maths not being my strongest subject! I have inherited a WH Smith slide rule from my older sisters; they obviously used it at school but by my time such things had fallen out of use…

  25. Comment posted by Xav on

    Loved your previous books, and looking forward to this one!

  26. Comment posted by Augustas on

    I was looking for some design/typography related answers and found this awesome website. And I’d definitely like to win this book!

  27. Comment posted by Bil Hansen on

    Here in Australia, I’m very keenly waiting for the local release of your Empire of the Sum.

    I have a skeletal memory from infancy of playing with a bead-on-wire tally device, a toy version of an abacus. My father had a Chinese suan pan 算盘, but he did not induce me to memorize the necessary rules to operate it with facility. Decades later I read reports of annual abacus competitions in Chinese communities for school students and accountants.

    As a junior high school student, I learned the value of mathematical tables. As a junior high school student, I moved betweensix figure mathematical tables to slide rules (and purchased my duplex slide rule, which I still have and use). As a recreational sailor, I added navigation tables and a circular slide rule for navigation, including celestial navigation.

    In my first semester as a student of Statistics 1, we started with electro-mechanical calculators in the practical lab. Second semester brought the revolution of mains-powered electronic calculators – with the magic of a memory buffer in which to temporarily save a result for later recall.

    Enough about me.

    Should you be needing ideas for future works to continue your opus from Shady Characters, through The Book, to Empire of the Sum how about:

    * a history of data display, from line and bar charts, through Venn diagrams, to Sankey diagrams; or

    * (picking up on the value of Sankey diagrams/infographics to deal with flow and time-series data) the very much more ambitious job of exploring the evolution of human notions of what I’ll start by calling causality, meaning to capture the cyclical relations of the Indian/Hindu/Buddhist thought (such as dependent origination aka pratityasamutpada in Sanskrit aka paticcasamuppada in Pali); the simple cause-effect relationship of the European enlightment (Newton’s laws of motion: a reductionist effort of looking for a [preferably single] force that causes a single effect); the borrowing by Classical Capitalist economics and International Relations of scientific concepts of balance/equilibrium/stationarity for time series analysis that generates infantile notions of the ’causes of the Great War’, strategic balance in geopolitics, and central bankers explanations of their operations on the macroeconomy of their jurisdiction or the wider global economy; and the quantum revolution of Heisenberg/Einstein/Oppenheimer et al. that shredded the Newtonian notions of force, cause, and effect.


  28. Comment posted by Roger W Turner on

    Thanks for the book. Thanks for the “copious notes”™. Thanks++ for pointing me to Shift Happens which I’ve ordered.

  29. Comment posted by Rosemary on

    Thank you so much for the chance to win a copy of ‘Empire of the Sum’. I’ve put in a purchase request to the Tasmanian state library for the book, particularly as ‘Shady Characters’ is already in the library. However, it would be fantastic to have my own copy to share with others, especially adult literacy and numeracy tutors. I’m the adult literacy coordinator at a regional library in north-east Tasmania, Australia, under the umbrella of 26TEN, a government organisation within the Department for Education that promotes adult literacy and numeracy. I’m amazed by the timing of your book giveaway because the 26TEN theme this year is ‘Making numbers work for you’ as part of the Department’s main focus this year of numeracy. 26TEN Week is 23-27 October, with numeracy workshops, webinars, and related library displays and activities across Tasmania. I’m organising a display at my library with calculating and measuring tools such as slide rules, abacus, calculators and others used in a range of trades, daily life and recreation. We’ll also have a display of books about numbers, so if the state library manages to purchase it in time, ‘Empire of the Sum’ will have pride of place! Thank you again for your generosity.

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