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 The thing is though, the information held in libraries becomes outdated so quickly now, whereas the information online can be kept up-to-date, amended and corrected, in mere moments.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.

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