I Know It’s In Here Somewhere

The world is changing at an accelerating pace. When I was a teenager you went to the library to do research. You read books and magazines. Knowledge was passed on by the written and spoken word. Occasionally someone would make an outstanding documentary film or television program. The educational media industry was in its infancy. Sesame Street was launched when I was in high school. There was a time when there were a lot of educational cartoon shows on television.

Then the personal computer became an overnight phenomenon. Few people knew what to do with them but everyone wanted one. There was a booming market for books and magazines filled with BASIC programs that you could type in to your person computer. They were mostly games but there were some interesting educational offerings. One of the early programs that sold like wildfire was Mavis Bacon Teaches Typing.

There was a time when everyone thought that CDs and CD-Rs were the wave of the information future. There were a number of experimental educational CDs produced. The Oregon Trail was an example. Another was Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Software developers soon discovered that the 600 megabytes available on a CD didn’t hold as much information as they thought at first. Kids burned through the material in a week or two and the software lost its appeal. The educational software that continued to please for much longer was the educational games that were based on skill instead of knowledge of rote facts.

Then the online experience started creeping into our life. The early adopters often bought modems to connect to bulletin board computer systems via phone lines. “Dial up” it was called. That was to differentiate it from dedicated high speed communications lines like businesses would sometime install so that there computers in different geographic locations could exchange information. There were some commercial dial up information services like Compuserve and The Well for example. They were available for a monthly fee that included some basic connect time and then an hourly charge if you were online for longer.

Then AOL hit the market. They created a walled community that foreshadowed the rise of the internet. They came to prominence by sending mass mailings of CDs with the AOL software on them. They sent out so many that people got sick of throwing them away. Even while the less tech savvy were dialing up and logging in to AOL, the early adopters were already driving the growth of the latest computing craze, accessing the internet via a local internet service provider. This really took off when the Mosaic web browser was released by Marc Andreessen.

The web grew exponentially. Soon we were hungry for an index to help us find content on the web. Yahoo! was the first web index. It was started by a couple of college students that were trying to keep track of all the neat content that they had found on the web. While Yahoo! was  manually indexing the web, a couple of Stanford students came up with a different approach to finding things online and Google was born.

Now, if you want to know something, you ask Siri, or Alexi, or Cortana, or Hey Google. We are drowning in a glut of information. What we need now is some guidance to help us exercise critical thinking. We are in an age where many people believe anything the read on the web. It’s on the internet, it must be true after all.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.