7 January 2019

Before

Encyclopedia Britannica
There was a world before the internet. It may sound surreal but there really was. I know - because I was there.

In the days before the internet you had to book holidays or flights at your local travel agent. You could not shop "online" because there was no "online" - unless you were fishing by a lake and you had just hooked a trout "on" your "line"

Before the internet you had to deal with all banking matters in a physical bank where bank clerks and tellers were swamped with paper files because there were no computers to facilitate their work. I know this will sound crazy but if you had a financial problem or needed a loan you could talk it over with your bank manager who was a real human being.

In the days before the internet, people bought newspapers to keep up with things. There were local and national newspapers which sold daily in millions. You found out about the weather there, about births, deaths and marriages. You checked the football results and learnt about the latest political shenanigans or murders or fluctuations in stock markets.

Before the internet you had to use libraries to gather information or delve into The Encyclopedia Britannica - available in thirty two volumes containing 32,640 pages. And if you were a university student there were none of the shortcuts that the internet now provides. You had to spend hours following up references, hunting down pearls of information.

In the days before the internet, there was no e-mail. You had to write letters. They might be handwritten or tapped out on a typewriter but if you made a mistake when typing you had to start again as the word processor did not exist.
An old typewriter
Before the internet, it was not easy to find out how to make a bomb and if you wished to access pornography I understand that you had to reach up to the top shelf in your local newsagent's shop and then - probably with enormous embarrassment - take your chosen magazine to the counter. 

If you were decorating your house you had to check colour charts at your nearest D.I.Y. store and if you needed new recipe ideas when cooking you had to thumb through recipe books. And back then people you had left behind in the past stayed in the past. They didn't come back to haunt you.

In the days before the internet, children played "Snakes and Ladders" together on actual boards and if they were the victims of snide bullying in schools they left it all behind when they went home. It didn't follow them into their bedrooms on internet smartphones.

Yes - my friends - there was a world before the internet. The memory of it is getting misty now. Historically, we sometimes delineate time with the letters "B.C." and "A.D." but perhaps we should consider a new delineation - "B.T.I." and "A.T.I." - before the internet's arrival and after it came along to transform so many aspects of human life in often unexpected ways.

31 comments:

  1. It does seem impossible now, as much as the Internet has permeated all our lives, but I too remember those not-so-long-ago days. Some of it I miss. It was kind of nice to go into a bank or a library, and to shop in a real store -- to get OUT into the real world and away from a screen. But I don't miss how hard it could be to learn simple facts (I have a story about this which I will relate tomorrow) and I must say, a paper encyclopedia was kind of a nightmare -- SO expensive and, almost immediately after it was purchased, out of date!

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    1. As a hard-working undergraduate, I spent hundreds of hours in the university library and far too much of that time was spent in just searching for items rather than processing them and weaving my discoveries into the latest essay or assignment.

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  2. Like Steve, I well remember the B.T.I. world, and miss some of its aspects. As for shopping in a real store: I still do most of my shopping on foot, in real places. Only occasionally, when I need a more exotic birthday or Christmas present, do I order online, such as the book about Fountains Abbey which my sister is going to receive on Thursday and which is of course not available in Ludwigsburg's book shops. Oh, and I still go to a real bank - an actual building with people in it! For taking cash out, though, I admit I use the machines provided in the entrance hall.
    My training as a librarian was all off-line; I finished training in 1988 and only two years later did we first start to shift from type-written cards and stamps to barcode stickers and scanners for all the books people wished to check out.
    What I certainly would not want to miss anymore about the internet is blogging and emails, also the possibility to find out about train times (and delays!) before I leave the house.

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    1. PS: I should be a huge advocat of the internet - after all, I found two loves online! Steve I met in a Star Trek chat room back in 1999, and O.K. was signed up with the same online dating platform as I, which I had originally joined out of spite when RJ left me.

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    2. Well I didn't know (or didn't remember) that you met Steve there and I thought that the break up with RJ was by mutual agreement. How wonderful that the internet also led you to OK. Last evening Shirley and I called in on two friends in their early sixties. After painful divorces they met each other via the internet and now they have been happily married for five years.

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  3. Of course I remember all of those days of yore.
    And no... you can't see me in my silky gown you cheeky monkey. lol
    Briony
    x

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  4. Some of those long gone activities were pleasurable but the internet is a marvelous thing..although the genie is out of the bottle now..for better or worse.

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    1. You are right there Libby. Just like Brexit, you can't stuff it back in the bottle.

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  5. We can bemoan the days past before the internet and in some ways, I do too. I spent many, many hours, for instance, reading our encyclopedia. But in other ways, I celebrate what the internet has given us. Although it can be used for evil (see US election, 2016), it can also be used for good and for justice. Think of the lies that churches have been able to get away with for years- the Catholic priest abuse, for one thing, which was covered up for eons. No way to keep the lid on the boxes any more.
    The police abuse of people of color in the US- there is no way to deny that any more.
    Groups can be found online that help those with different problems, medical, and so on, to find information about treatments and the best doctors. They can find support and help. I met a woman in Cozumel who has a very rare condition and she has benefited hugely from online sources.
    I could go on and on but the one thing I would really like to mention is the community I have found online which has given me such great comfort, such joy, and the meeting up with real people whom I will always feel close to in this big world.
    But I do miss travel agents. With all of my heart. And of course I still go to the library.

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    1. I have loved the internet since it was first opened up to the general public. It has given me so much pleasure - not least via blogging. But as I am about to say to Graham below - it's many benefits have come at a price. Did we ever anticipate cynical scammers or trolls?

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  6. Obviously being the age I am I, too, can remember life before the internet and even before television. I've had a mobile (cell) phone since 1991 and even did computing as part of my post grad degree. So I've always been 'into' everything that the internet could offer in the way of communicating. I've made some astonishingly strong and long-lasting friendships through blogging too.

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    1. There are indeed many positives Graham but I guess that everything good comes at a price.

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    2. You are absolutely correct there, YP. Who would ever have imagined the scams people could dream up or the viscousness of some trolls.

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  7. I have spent more of my life without the internet and many other modern inventions than with them but I admit I do love them, especially the internet. Despite that I am glad we did not have internet when I raised my boys. I have to believe they had a better, more rounded, upbringing without it. Besides, they would have quickly gone over my head with it and I would never have been able to keep up with them! The advantages are great but with them comes a responsibility that many do not see. Yes, Pandora's Box is open.

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    1. I believe I bought our first home computer in 1995. Our son would have been eleven and our daughter would have been seven. There were no smart phones then. I am glad that their earliest years were computer-free.

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  8. Regarding making mistakes when writing or typing, clearly you never used a typewriter eraser - the pink pencil kind with an abrasive eraser on one end and a brush on the other :) Heaven forbid you had more than one mistake in a letter, though!

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    1. There was correction fluid and a very thin white ribbon as I recall. I didn't do much typing. The woman I paid to type up my university thesis in the summer of 1977 did a terrible job of it - leaving me with no time to find someone else.

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  9. I worked at EB in Chicago in the late 60's when they celebrated their 200th anniversary. All employees were given a reproduction of the first Britannica, published as 3 volumes. A little treasure...

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    1. Thanks for calling by Miss P. Encyclopedias were very important in advancing knowledge and without them maybe Jimmy Wales would never have thought of Wikipedia.

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  10. I love the internet, and having easy access to it and its many benefits. I hate the times, for whatever reasons...such as power outages etc.....I'm without computer and/or internet access. Both play a major role in my life these days....a fact to which I openly and unashamedly admit.

    However, if I want to read a book...a book I shall read...the paper, hard copy versions...not via E-readers etc., etc., or whatever else they are called.

    I also love reading newspapers, and read them regular. Saturdays and Sundays I have the newspapers delivered. Every time I go out shopping I always buy two daily papers..."The Courier Mail" and the "Gold Coast Bulletin".

    I spent many of my early working years pounding away on manual typewriters. Being a legal secretary for many of those years one learned quickly to type quickly, and not to make errors. Any documents that were headed to the courts, whether local or city courts, were not accepted if they bore a mistake, let alone, mistakes. We weren't allowed to staple the pagers, or use paper clips to hold the documents together. Anything that could leave a mark on the paper was not permissible! The documents would not be accepted by the courts.

    These days, with the internet, when researching something it takes less time...to learn more!

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    1. You had to follow strict rules when you worked as a legal secretary. In secretarial work, word processing has been a godsend.

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  11. the internet has made a huge change in our society. However we can go back and identify changes that at the time seemed huge. Imagine what the pens did or what the radio did?

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    1. Or indeed what the wheel did or the first boat or the fishing hook or the axe.

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  12. I love the interclakken. However I am heading backwards in certain areas. Aside from non-fiction, I have read and re-read all of Dickens, Austen and Patrick O'Brian's works for the last 23 years. I have recently bought myself a nice Parker fountain pen and a bottle of ink. I have just come into the possession of 24 volumes of the Collins incl. yearbooks up to 1999 (remember yearbooks? - that vain attempt to keep your encyclopaedias up to date), and I am nearly finished completely hand-sewing a dressing-gown for my grandson. Perhaps it's because my occupation (painting with watercolours, pencil and ink) has been done the same for hundreds of years ... I seem to be stuck in a time warp!

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    1. I think that all the areas where you're "moving backwards" sound perfectly lovely. How wonderful to live in a time where we can enjoy all the things you mention AND the Internet! :)

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    2. Dear Kate,
      In the fifties rubberised corsets and plastic hair rollers were all the rage amongst modern women. Perhaps these could be your next backward steps!
      Yours sincerely,
      N.T.Y.P.

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  13. I remember Before as well. When I went to secretary school once upon a time, we still learned typing on manual type-writers. (I could already type, having learned it on an even older manual machine, but that's beside the point.) I've also experienced a world before Xerox-machines for making copies...
    I still have a daily newspaper delivered most mornings of the year (even though it's now also of course available in an App)
    My bank no longer handles cash at all, not even by a machine in the entrance hall. I think they may still have a local office with actual people doing some kind of work in it; but since I haven't been in there since they removed the ATM, I'm not really sure...

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    1. Thanks for adding your tupenneceworth DT. Regarding typing, I have not yet fallen out of love with Microsoft Word. It is an amazing facility.

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  14. The internet has revolutionised life. I really appreciate all things I can do without having to go to an office or a shop.

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    1. I wonder how the millions without internet access feel about this.

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