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Before the calculator, we had only our minds and other non-digital implements to figure out mathematic equations, so our minds naturally had more practice and were more efficient at it.
Engineering students had slide rules, and they usually understood the mathematics and logic that allowed them to work. Most people, sadly, use calculator's today without understanding anything about the numbers that get puked out.
There's a lot to be learned from the past, and most of it is still applicable. Sunlight, for instance, comes through windows today just like it did 500 years ago. It still makes the same highlights and shadows. The old masters created paintings that illustrate the effective use of posing and light, and old-school photographers did the same. They left us with treasure chest's that were filled with imagination and creativity. This painting by Diego Velasquez, for example, is still relevant, even though it was created 350 years ago. His use of lighting, posing and mirrors to add dimension and believability just blows me away. Old, but not forgotten.