Before the early 1970s, hand-held electronic calculators were not yet in widespread use. Because of their utility in saving work in laborious calculations by hand on paper, tables of base-10 logarithms were found in appendices of many books. Base-10 logarithms were called common logarithms. Such a table of "common logarithms" gave the logarithm of each number in the left-hand column, which ran from 1 to 10 by small increments, perhaps 0.01 or 0.001. There was no need to include numbers not between 1 and 10, since if one wanted the logarithm of, for example, 120, one would know that
Because base-10 logarithms were called "common", and engineers often had occasion to use them, engineers often wrote "" when they meant . Mathematicians, on the other hand, wrote "" when they mean "" (see natural logarithm). Today, both notations are found among mathematicians. Since hand-held electronic calculators are designed by engineers rather than mathematicians, it became customary that they follow engineers' notation. So ironically, that notation, according to which one writes "" when the natural logarithm is intended, may have been further popularized by the very invention that made the use of "common logarithms" obsolete: electronic calculators.