God Bless the Internet ….and Memories of Paper

My first driver’s license was made of paper and had no pictures on it.  Yes, I’m old.  And I remember looking at it and thinking, “I busted my ass learning about the rules of the road and worrying I wasn’t driving well enough for a piece of paper?  I could make this myself!”  Well, apparently the states caught on and now they added a picture, etc.  In that era, nobody knew anything about anyone.  I had a license, so what.  Now I log into a website and my entire life is in a database.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet.  Even still, it’s frightening to see how much about you is online.  But I digress.

For those of you who may not know this, when we were in school in the 70s, and we had to write a paper for class, all the kids were forced to go into the library and look stuff up in books.  In books!  I remember walking into the library and looking around at the stacks of books, and my head would start spinning.  Where do I start?  The teacher said to look up the information in the library and I’m in the library; now what?  Do I just pick a book off any old shelf and the answer will leap out of the pages at me?  One time I actually, did a paper by reading through three books and compiling information.  Three books was my record.  Of course, we were also told to put foot notes in the paper if we found information anywhere, so my whole paper was a giant collection of footnotes.  Then I graduated to finding all the information in encyclopedias.

Eventually, someone told us about Cliffs Notes.  I don’t know who that person was, but to this day I thank them.  At that point, my footnotes just referenced what the Cliffs Notes referenced for their footnotes, so I looked like I did a huge amount of research.  I’m sure the teacher bought that, right?  However, Cliffs Notes marked the end of our research days.  I bet the teacher got 35 papers that were all exactly the same; quoting the same incredibly deep thoughts that there is no way we could ever have dreamed up.  But I just wanted the paper to be over so I copied it all.  And the teacher probably thought, “Why am I even trying with these kids,” as they sat at their table at home drinking shots of vodka to numb the pain of watching dreams of imparting something good to kids, dissipated with Cliffs Notes.

Now all the kids find it in a few seconds on the internet, which by the way I wish I had growing up.  I bet though, they all copy their papers from the online version of the Cliffs Notes or Wikipedia.  Wikipedia:  You know, they say 70% of the information on there is false.  Anyone can add anything to a Wikipedia page.  But yet, even knowing this, when I want to look something up, I go straight to there.  And the fact that it comes up in the top 3 results in search engines for almost everything you look up, means that others go to it for correct info also.  One time, I looked up something about Abraham Lincoln and there was a quote by Abe Lincoln on Wikipedia that read, “Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”  It’s a good quote but I thought, did Abraham Lincoln ever use the word “hustle?”  I called the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Illinois to check and they said that he never said it.  But, I still use Wikipedia.  Given that everything now is run by big business and PR companies, I bet it’s more like 85% of the info on Wikipedia is false.  Good luck if you want to know if a drug is safe or anything else is OK for human consumption or home use.

Back in the 60s, Star Trek had an episode where some “crazy old man” would look stuff up in books instead of online.  And in the 60’s they didn’t even have an online!  Wow, that show was ahead of its time.




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