The Dark Ages: Before Google

What did writers (and editors) do before Google? I am constantly looking up information on Google as I edit academic books, verifying the spelling of names, dates, events, and any number of items which I, as editor, must ascertain are correct.

And I can do so by simply typing in the Google search box. Question on the Kosovo conflict? Thousands of hits at my fingertips. Uncertain about how Kafka viewed the unconscious, more hits. Need the names of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations? Voilá. And what is the difference between a barque and a junk? No problem, and here are photos to clarify further.

How did editors do this before now? Did they spend all of their time in academic libraries, scanning volumes and journals? I simply don’t know. Perhaps there were fact verifiers in addition to copyeditors, whose job it was to check this sort of information. I’ll have to ask someone who’s been in this business longer than I have. Meanwhile, it falls to me to check, and so I do. With gusto, and with the sense that I learn something with every mini-hunt I pursue. With each search, I push my own personal Dark Ages a bit further behind me, opening the doors to Enlightenment.

I feel my knowledge increasing on a daily basis, as I learn multitudes of new facts while scanning the Internet. As a friend said, I’m pursuing a PhD in Everythingology in my current career. And it’s all free (barring the Internet fee I pay to my provider). May it ever remain so!

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