While it is customary for people of a certain age to decry the decline of civilization resulting from the Internet, this is one old guy who wonders how we ever lived without it. This is never clearer than when I am gathering reference material for a new project.
Don’t get me wrong—I love libraries. As a kid I often visited the Milwaukee Public Library multiple times in a day. It was convenient to stop on the way home from swimming lessons at Jackson Park, but they only let you take two books out a time, so a return visit was necessary if that day’s selections were short. Once I learned to swim or the weather cooled, visits became a Saturday ritual.
As much as I love libraries, I hated the card catalog. For my younger readers, we once had to search for books manually in massive cabinets full of index cards. The cards themselves were organized by the incredibly complicated Dewey Decimal System. It hurts my head just thinking about it. Especially when you throw in the occasionally cranky librarians who didn’t appreciate kids messing up the shelves.
Researching even highly technical topics is so much easier with the Internet. Thanks to on-line libraries, such as Gear Technology’s, dozens of books and papers appear on your screen within seconds of your skillfully worded inquiry. Or not, if you inquiry is less skillfully defined. Or your topic is too obscure.
Efficiency is a wonderful thing, but there is something to be said for having an old reference book physically in your hands. One of my AGMA friends brought an early set of rating standards to our meeting. Dating to the early 1930s, this three-ring binder may be one of the oldest still in existence; it predates the things at AGMA Headquarters. I remember paging through the large three-post binders used for standards in the 1970s, and much prefer the thumbnail drives sent to members these days.
So how old are the AGMA standards in your company library? Any to challenge my friend’s pre-World War II stash? And while you are checking, how about some leads on who first “standardized” the tooth forms we use today? (I’m on a deadline for my Fall Technical Meeting paper. What is the point in having a blog if you can’t ask readers for research help?)
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