Time before “online”

An interesting thing happened to me at work today. A colleague asked me to search for some information about an event we held around the year 2000 and, knowing that our current website didn’t got back any further than 2002, I searched for the answer on the remnants of our old website. Unfortunately, the information wasn’t there either. In fact, there was no information dated before 2002.

This got me thinking about the time before “online”, and I found it really hard to think back to a time when I didn’t just grab the nearest device with Internet access to find the answers to my questions. These days, without even thinking of alternative methods, we just ask Google all of our questions.

I thought back to the late 90s and early “noughties”, and tried to remember what I was doing back then. I remember emailing people and having a certain amount of Internet access, but I also remember going to the library and looking things up in books.

What a different world we live in today! I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to a library to research something, and that makes me a little bit sad. The thing is though, the information held in libraries becomes outdated so quickly now, whereas the information online can be kept up-to-date, amended and corrected, in mere moments. Just look at Wikipedia.

The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) protests have been in the news this week, and many of us witnessed the Wikipedia blackout in which content was blocked for 24 hours  in protest at proposed anti-piracy legislation in the US. Wikipedia asked, “Could you imagine a world without free knowledge“, but haven’t we always had access to free information through public and institutional libraries?

As much as I wholeheartedly support the protest, I do also wonder if people have forgotten the “good old days”. I realised that I almost had, and that was quite a scary realisation.

As for the information I was searching for at work, we may never find the answer. I don’t know if the organisation I work for even had a website before 2002 but, if they did, there doesn’t seem to be any record of it. There may be printed papers somewhere, but they will most likely be lost in the sands of time by now.

(Image source)

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6 Comments on “Time before “online””

  1. bibliopirate says:

    Pre-Internet: The Nouveau Dark Ages.

  2. Mum says:

    I’m so lucky to have grown up using libraries and had the fun of researching for essays in books. Much more of a challenge than using Google which is how I get most of my information now. But Google is available 24/7 and that means you can get the information you want at a time to suit you. I would find it very difficult to go back to pre-internet days now 😉

    Also I remember our Saturday trips to the library to look at books and pick some for the next few weeks. Wonder if parents still do that with their children?

    • Haikugirl says:

      I worry that parents don’t even search online with their children and help to show them which sites are trustworthy and which should be ignored. It could lead to a very misinformed generation!

      As for going back to pre-internet days… I can’t even imagine what that would be like! (>_<)

  3. I wouldn’t call them the good old days. Perhaps the “different old days”. There may be satisfaction in being able to go to the library, sniff books, and track down the info you need in an encyclopedia (a little like a treasure hunt, right there), but I’m equally happy to use the day I would have otherwise spent traveling to the library, looking up stuff in a card catalog, and then driving back home to do something else and still have the answer to my question. Heaven knows, I’d have probably never even looked the question up, deciding that I could wait for a better time when I wasn’t so busy with life to seek it out (and the would have forgotten it altogether when I was in town).

    • Haikugirl says:

      I think it’s hard to look back at the old days (good or otherwise) now and imagine what it was like anyway. If Internet technology had never come along, we wouldn’t know any different and we would probably still be researching in libraries. Of course, there is the question now though of whether or not we are actually learning more now that we have the information in our hands, or less because it’s too easy to find the answers…


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