Remember the Encyclopedia?

Ah, the good old days of going to the library and spending hours and hours doing research! Well, I guess those days are gone – forever. With our access to the Internet which hosts myriads of “search” capabilities, why would we use a written, bound book?

BC (Before Computers) the only recourse in learning new and “exciting” things was to go to the school or public library and try to find volumes relative to the information we were seeking. That would literally take hours. (Remember the Dewey Decimal System?). Heaven help you if you were trying to find information to include in a year-end report! No time for the movies, the drive-in restaurant or just standing on the corner, leaning on the parking meters. No, you were stuck for the “duration.”


Shortly after we were married a convincing book salesman persuaded us that our (future) children could be accelerated, knowledge wise, far above their peers IF we bought (from him) the full 24-volume Encyclopaedia  Brittanica, with annual Yearbook.  Well, we bit.

I tried using the encyclopedia but the print was so fine and the language was, well, so British, that it was hard to read. The yearbook that we sat on the edge of our recliner all year waiting for was interesting but it was a year behind (kinda like today’s newspapers). And, when our children finally arrived and were at the age of using the encyclopedia, the local library was linked into a “knowledge server” (this was before the Internet and Google and such) and it had the capability to search by subject matter using dumb terminals at 300 baud, with the text-only results displayed on a green/black screen. So, they spent their time in the library researching for their data instead of using the encyclopedia that we had at home. We DID dust it off occasionally.

When we moved to Florida in the early 80’s we decided to use the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a boat anchor – we deep-sixed it. It was too heavy and cumbersome to use – and nobody wanted it! I’m not sure where it wound up – we ran away quickly for fear that it would catch up to us.


Yes, technology and information availability has changed, for the better, over the past 50 years. With the advent of the Internet, setting aside the “social media” sites ( a new name for the old CB radio style of chatter), one can find almost instantly just about anything  you search for (and a lot of things you didn’t want as well). For research, I prefer Bing instead of Google for my searching for two reasons. So far, Bing (distributed by Microsoft) has not (yet) come under scrutiny for security violations as have others. Plus, Bing is more like the eventual “artificial intelligence” in that it can correct your spelen as you search, and it can anticipate and suggest similar subjects or links  related to that for which you are searching.

With all the data (information) that is available in this modern world you must not overlook the primary requirement – a good school education. An engineering friend of mine in the broadcast industry who had two doctoral degrees once told me that “college is necessary in that it teaches you how to learn.” Mull over that one for a bit and you’ll see that he was correct. You don’t actually learn until you apply yourself in the workforce. Higher education, even tech schools, cannot teach you what you need to know when you step into a job. That is called “on-the-job training”. But college gives you the basis on how to learn those things when you get a job.

So, let’s not forget the encyclopedia and those difficult, dull things, like the engineering slide-rule, mimeograph machines, card catalogs and carbon paper, that assisted us in our quest for more knowledge. But, at the same time, strive to better yourself with what’s available today – higher education being the foremost.

{Hmmm – I shudda gone to college myself!}


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