Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Speed of Thought
I used to go to libraries pretty frequently. Some of the time the motives were purely social, but I also used the resources there for lots of school work.
Then I used to work in one. A library, that is. It was a bit heady to have all those resources, the reference listings, the microfilm, the Mil-Specs, and all the ACM and IEEE goodness any person with an IQ of 155 could possibly want, all that...information really, really close by. You want the GNP of Algeria? CIA World Fact Book is ready with your info. How about the President's secretary's phone number? Exectutive Yellow Book -- here ya go. The ABCs and 123s of a Russian SCUD missle? Please - step this way.
Those were the easy requests. The harder ones sometimes involved me leaving the comfort of my carpeted cubicle (when I wasn't taking my shift at the Reference Desk), and hoofing it to Kendall Square, Cambridge - to one of MIT's fine libraries. Granted that only happened a few times, and no - I didn't actually "hoof" it. I drove to the subway station and then rode the line to Cambridge. But still, a bit of an unwieldy way to retrieve documents. And as you might have guessed, I worked in a tech library. No story time or quilter's corner here.
This was about 15 years ago, maybe more.
In a way, what I saw, what I dealt with, was cutting edge. Back then, the average consumer did not have or even understand what HDTV was, nor GPS, nor PDA. But these were terms I saw pretty frequently in the research that I pulled together for our staff of scientists and engineers. Much of the jargon and the nuts and bolts technologywas over my head. I didn't know an array from an alogorithm. (well OK I kinda did), but I understood the basic concepts of what HD and the rest meant.
So like, that's all cool and stuff. Right?
But our methods of getting the info, though sophisticated for our time, in retrospect seems so - so --
Yes, slow, that's the word.
Today, anyone with a computer and a decent connection can get nearly the same information all by themselves - if they know were to look. Of course, tons of erroneous stuff comes up as well, it takes a seasoned surfer to discern the difference. Yeah, like I'm all that.
My mother would have loved this stuff.