The tragic neglect of the old masters
by James Alphier
I still become physically queasy when I recall my shock and surprise as I read a short article written by
James Dines some years ago. In it, he related how he had asked an assemblage of Market Technicians
Association members how many of them had read anything written by the "founding fathers" of technical
analysis. Only a handful gave a positive response.
The same feeling returned almost four years ago when I became involved in a rather complex discussion
with three MTA members. I referred to concepts originated by Garfield Drew and Paul Dysart and
suddenly got blank looks. One person "thought" he "might have heard Drew's name." Fortunately, I
retained enough tact not to state my real opinion: that not being familiar with these names was
tantamount to, say, an economist not knowing who Marx and Keynes were.
And, finally, this same physical despondency recurred just a month ago when one of the largest
investment book dealers specializing in out-of-print items closed its doors. I went down there and spent a
great deal more than I probably should have, compelled by the thought that I wouldn't have many more
chances to buy some of these old, great works that I hadn't already obtained.
To me, having read and experimented with everything I could that related to technical analysis for the
past 30 years, the smug, placid neglect of the old works in our field — a neglect that sometimes crosses
the border into scorn — is incomprehensible. The fact is that, with too few exceptions, these "old
masters" almost page for page had more overall knowledge, far better "feel" and understanding of the
data, superior mastery of basic concepts, and a far wider imagination than current technicians (including
myself). Working without computers or even hand-held calculators, they somehow had insights that
today have been lost, simplified to elementary gloss or just plain grossly distorted.