Information the old way

By Joe Rector

Schools are equipped with the technology to help students be successful. Of course, the choice is still the individuals as to whether he will take advantage of those resources. In too many cases, the only time a student uses any kind of technology is to send a text, play a video game, or snap a “selfie.” I’m forever amazed at the changes that have taken place in the pursuit of information.

At one time, the greatest thing a family could have was a set of encyclopedias. Door-to-door salesmen would knock on the door and begin a sales pitch that always stated that parents who cared about their children’s learning and going to college needed to purchase the set of books. Moms and dads doled out huge sums for the books. Even though the tomes contained the most up-to-date information on all sorts of topics, a new book arrived each year with things that had occurred since the original purchase.

My brothers and I spent hours thumbing through those encyclopedias. Hundreds of subjects complete with photos fascinated us. They covered things that weren’t a part of our world at all and provided entertainment when nothing was on the television or when the weather didn’t permit us to go outside.

In high school, classes shuffled to the library. There they underwent torturous sessions about the Dewey Decimal System, guides to periodical literature, and reference books. For most of us, that visit was the last one we made during our four years in school. We had assignments that required us to gather information, but too many of us either chose not to do the work, made up the information, or relied on someone else’s endeavors.

College changed my pursuit of learning. I was paying for an education then, and each term I was saddled with half a dozen research projects. Hours were spent in the library as I hunted down information that would support the papers that I wrote. The highest technology I ever used then was a copy machine so that I could take articles back to my door room as I wrote papers. On one occasion during my first term, I gathered information from sources, took notes, and included it in the paper. I nearly passed out when I realized that I’d not written down the page numbers for any of the information.

The only computer I knew of at that time was in the engineering department. The monstrosity filled an entire building. Students carried stacks of cards to feed their created programs to the computer. I saw many of them leave the building with tears in their eyes because the programs didn’t work. The person would need to re-do the cards and hope he could get another appointed time to run them.

Even when I got a computer, of sorts, it was a key board that could be attached to a television (before monitors were available). With great difficulty and confusion, I pecked away and attempted to write programs that would serve as an inventory for business items I had.

Today, the cell phones that folks carry around hold more data than any early computer could. With the touch of a couple of buttons, students can access an unlimited supply of information on any topic imaginable. They rarely need a laptop or desktop computer because phones can provide everything.

I marvel at the constant barrage of technology that bombards us. No sooner do we have a new phone than it becomes obsolete. Young people might appreciate the convenience and wealth of information provided them by technology if they had to sit in a library and dig out the stuff from books and periodicals. Of course, before long, young people will be my age and will sit in awe of what new things appear in their lives.

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