A question came to me recently in an e-mail that I could not answer from memory. It seemed like something I had read in a book once so the long-delayed unpacking of the library had to begin.
Back before the internet, if you needed to get information you asked people and if they could not help you it was necessary to look in books. Books, for you youngsters out there, are like an analog, hard copy bound collection of web pages. Millions of trees were sacrificed for this purpose and only a select group of elites called experts were allowed to record their thoughts on specific topics.
While collections of books — these were called libraries — were open to students or the general public, most serious practitioners of anything collected important books in their field of study so they were available for ready reference. Many of these people became so familiar with their favorite reference books that they could visualize their pages and quickly direct a seeker to the appropriate spot from just a few keywords.
Books have a number of limitations though. First off, they cost a lot of money. On top of that they are heavy and take up lots of space. There is an old saying that “Friends help you move; real friends help you move books.” To make matters worse, books do not like getting damp and various critters find the individual pages quite tasty.
Being a curmudgeon in my golden years, I have lots of books. Forty-two heavy boxes of books that had to be moved temporarily into a basement that needed waterproofing, followed by months of dehumidifying. Forty-two hastily labeled boxes that had to be searched for the book I thought contained the information needed to answer the e-mail question.
I found the book. And I found the page I had remembered. Unfortunately, I “remembered” the page wrong and the needed information was not there.
The kids are right — use the Google and save your back. On gear topics, the Gear Technology archives have every article we have ever published — and only a keyword away. Too bad the question I was trying to answer was so obscure as to strike out in the keyword department. It’s back to the boxes I go.