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Eldergays: how did one find obscure/trivial information before the internet?

I was born in the early 1980s and lived internet-free until I was 13 or so. (And wasn't a "regular user" until about 2000.) I was always into trivia and would read volumes of the family's encyclopedia set cover-to-cover. I used my World Almanac so much it eventually broke apart into three pieces -- and then I read those.

Obviously, for "significant" questions -- eg "What were the years of the Ming Dynasty" or "Where was Boccaccio born?" or "What's the capital of Senegal?" -- I could look up the answer in a reference book.

But today I thought, "What year was Gatorade first manufactured?"

Pre-internet, how would one have gone about finding the answer to a question like that? I'm sure I type questions like that into Google hundreds of times a week. Everything is right at our fingertips. Did curious people just have to get creative about ferreting out information? Do you think our thirst for these types of answers has increased because the information is now ultra-accessible?

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by Anonymousreply 5002/24/2021

Welcome to the library! The Berry that lies!!

by Anonymousreply 102/23/2021

I always asked a librarian. They used to be some of the smartest people on the planet.

by Anonymousreply 202/23/2021

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

by Anonymousreply 302/23/2021

You'll think I'm joking, but I really cannot think of the word right now. Some newspapers put out annual indices of useful information, like the NYT 1985 book of facts. There's a term for this. It would have maps, lists of capitals, basic data about states and foreign countries, a bit of biographical data, and it would be updated annually. People would buy these and encyclopedias as reference guides.

by Anonymousreply 402/23/2021

The World Almanac and Book of Facts - I bought one every year and scoured them.

by Anonymousreply 502/23/2021


by Anonymousreply 602/23/2021

Thanks, r5 and r6. They were handy, and you could learn odd stuff by perusing them.

by Anonymousreply 702/23/2021

it was frustrating and I usually dropped the search after hitting walls. My lifelong curiosity just waited for the introduction of the WWW

by Anonymousreply 802/23/2021

You could call a big library (like at a university) and they could answer most questions for you. For instance, there used to be big volumes of information about businesses, so they could have found your Gatorade answer for you.

by Anonymousreply 902/23/2021

Clay tablets.

by Anonymousreply 1002/23/2021

Agree with r2. The Kaneohe, Hawaii librarian was smart and if she didn’t know the answer, she’d call back the next day with it. A kinder, gentler time.

by Anonymousreply 1102/23/2021

[quote] I always asked a librarian. They used to be some of the smartest people on the planet.

Well I never in all my life!

by Anonymousreply 1202/23/2021

I think the explosion of answers on the internet fed the explosion of questions, too.

by Anonymousreply 1302/23/2021

They asked me.

by Anonymousreply 1402/23/2021

[quote]I think the explosion of answers on the internet fed the explosion of questions, too.

I think this is true. People might have a vague thought about “when was Gatorade invented” but then quickly forget about it... because there was no realistic way to find that out. Now, you just google whatever randomly pops in your head.

by Anonymousreply 1502/23/2021

Also, we were taught how to use the library. I remember multiple trips to the library, in different grades, to be taught how to use indices, encyclopedias and other reference books to find information.

Before the internet was accessible to the public, I read a lot. I kept a list of things I wanted to check on my next library visit. Inside the cover of whatever novel I was reading, I would jot questions that arose while reading. We were accustomed to not having immediate answers to every question.

And dictionaries often had useful appendices, e.g., a pronouncing gazetteer, tables of weights and measures, terms of address for correspondence, etc.

by Anonymousreply 1602/23/2021


by Anonymousreply 1702/23/2021

Good question! Thank you for asking. One went to the library. Even local, city, county libraries had research materials of all sorts and the librarians were real librarians and were incredibly helpful. Those days are gone now and I miss them. It’s great to be able to find obscure facts on the internet, but what you find online is usually unverified and often just plain wrong.

by Anonymousreply 1802/23/2021

Encyclopedias. Go to library and research the card index files by topic, or use the microfiche for media.

by Anonymousreply 1902/23/2021

OP, you would contact Bunny Watson at the Federal Broadcasting Network reference library. She was one smart cookie.

by Anonymousreply 2002/23/2021

I’d ask my parents who’d make up answers just to shut me up.

by Anonymousreply 2102/23/2021

The Readers Guide to Periodical Literature

by Anonymousreply 2202/23/2021

Encyclopedias. Libraries. See r22, above. Books.

The crucial distinction, OP, is that we didn't have Social Media to become obsessed with; no cell-phones for texting to constantly be in communication with others; less money to spend on activities beyond the neighborhood.

IOW, we had little difficulty in learning of history, science, literature, and the like. For the current events or the less serious, we had magazines (much better than today's).

But for the excruciating details on inconsequential people the equivalents of the Kardashians or YouTubers or Instagrammers, well, we simply didn't bother our beautiful minds about such!

by Anonymousreply 2302/23/2021

You'd look up stuff in the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and then you'd crawl around in the stacks to find your article.

by Anonymousreply 2402/23/2021

You bitches loved me once.

by Anonymousreply 2502/23/2021

Dewey, you were a worm!

by Anonymousreply 2602/23/2021

We read books, newspapers, magazines. We ddin't just click onto a link and only read that one story. Instead, when we read we were surrounded by other information. Libraries were a great source of information. We had encyclopedias so when you looked up something, you might come across other pieces of information that you wouldn't ordinarily know. And we talked with each other in person and on the telephone. We engaged in the art of conversation. We didn't just throw out one-line quips on Twitter. Simply "liking" someone on Facebook would not be considered keeping in touch. We didn't email and text and consider that being a friend or even an acquaintance. We sent Christmas cards, birthday cards and cards for special occasions via the U.S. mail to acknowledge others.

In other words, we put in the effort to make friends, keep in touch with family and gather information to help us navigate through life. It wasn't perfect compared to today's technological advancements, but it was different and kept us informed. We didn't just surround ourselves with like-minded people or information the way we can shut ourselves off from other points of view nowadays. And we certainly wouldn't think of publicly insulting people to the degree we do today so as to stifle or shut down information.

by Anonymousreply 2702/23/2021

Would it have made sense to call the company and ask? Or would that have incurred long distance charges?

by Anonymousreply 2802/23/2021

R27, who is this mystical "we"? People moved to the suburbs to do exactly that, seal themselves off from other viewpoints and lives. There was the Red Scare, the Lavender Scare, people having their lives ruined or ended over their struggles for racial and gay civil rights. I know you wanted to get this particular bit of modern abuse off your chest (and I agree with much of it), but let's not create an imagined past in order to make a point.

by Anonymousreply 2902/23/2021

[quote] We had encyclopedias so when you looked up something, you might come across other pieces of information that you wouldn't ordinarily know.

For a child with a curious mind (and that’s most children) a set of encyclopedias is a great friend. As a kid, I’d pull a volume at random from the shelf and sit quietly for long periods, flipping through page after page of knowledge on seemingly every subject under the son.

by Anonymousreply 3002/23/2021

Whose son, R30?

by Anonymousreply 3102/23/2021

r30 me too. It's how I discovered, among other things, Leo Tolstoy.

My parents weren't intellectuals, but bless them, they had a set of encyclopedias

by Anonymousreply 3202/23/2021

I guess I "came of age" too late to truly appreciate librarians in the quest for pre-ubiquitous-internet knowledge

by Anonymousreply 3302/24/2021

[quote]But today I thought, "What year was Gatorade first manufactured?" I'm sure I type questions like that into Google hundreds of times a week.

I worry about you.

by Anonymousreply 3402/24/2021

Why, r34? I wonder about all sorts of things I encounter in my daily life

by Anonymousreply 3502/24/2021

R33/OP---Librarians are still at the library helping people find out about stuff they need to know!

I was something of a letter writer as a kid. If I'd wanted to know about gatorade details, I'd have written to the address on the Gatorade container and asked.

by Anonymousreply 3602/24/2021

Crossword puzzle dictionary

by Anonymousreply 3702/24/2021

Encyclopaedia Brittanic

by Anonymousreply 3802/24/2021

We had several books at home when I was a kid that had all kinds of answers in them, so a couple of almanacs, a book of facts or two, this thing called The Book of Lists (which my mom hid once she realized there was a list for "most popular sexual positions"), World Books, Childcraft, bird and gardening books, repair books, an atlas, stuff like that.

There were also series of helpful books from places like Time-Life, where you'd get several books on art, or the Old West, or "how things work in your home."

Also, books often had "related works" listed in the front or back, so if you had a book about plumbing that was useful, you might see that they also had a book about house painting and you'd buy that, too.

by Anonymousreply 3902/24/2021

We called Katherine Hepburn.

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by Anonymousreply 4002/24/2021

Katharine, dammit

by Anonymousreply 4102/24/2021

As a kid I wasn't much into reading, especially fiction but take me to the library and I could spent all day in the reference section, so much interesting things to read. My mother bought a set of encyclopedias and I would read those for hours and hours on end.

You could call and I imagine still call the library ask for reference and the librarian would look up any fact you needed. I preferred to look myself.

by Anonymousreply 4202/24/2021

R39 I was just about to post about The Book of Lists. If you loved random factoids, that was the book for it. First edition was 1977. I read it as a kid, and yes, there was a lot of mature content. Related to another thread, it's where I learned about Rasputin's picked penis. That was in the list of "famous preserved body parts".

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by Anonymousreply 4302/24/2021

Basic research! I landed in the honors program in college, which turned out to offer almost remedial courses in subjects outside your major. To fill a credit, I took a comparative religion class and drew the Christian Scientists as my topic of study. I went to a reading room on background, and eventually interviewed a couple members there. I spent a couple of afternoons a week for the quarter in the library and wrote what the professor called a model of a well researched thesis. Yay. I could do the same thing in probably under 4 hours with internet access. I wonder how nerds impress teachers today?

by Anonymousreply 4402/24/2021

R44, did you ever date outside your major or program?

by Anonymousreply 4502/24/2021

Well I never in all my life!

by Anonymousreply 4602/24/2021

If you wanted information about the company, you'd contact the company. By writing a letter. Think of how hard that would be. Today, you can find a customer service or corporate email in 2 minutes. Then you'd have to use the product label to try to figure out where it was, then maybe call the library in that city for them to look up a phone number or address for the company. Then youd have to hope your letter ended up getting passed to the right person at the company (or someone in consumer relations which i think is what they called it) and you'd maybe eventually get a letter back with your questions answered.

by Anonymousreply 4702/24/2021

I graduated nursing school in 1993, and one of my final papers required hours of searching for dusty bound journals in the uni library stacks.

Then photocopying numerous pages of studies (although tbh, would usually just copy a few pages with pertinent results or quotes).

The good part is that professors couldn’t easily check if bogus filler made-up references were used either.

by Anonymousreply 4802/24/2021

"Eldergays: how did one find obscure/trivial information before the internet?"

We mostly tried not to give a shit.

Nobody wanted to be that guy at the brunch.

Of course, I would have preferred nobody wanted to be that guy at brunch who went into gruesome detail about the trick who fisted him the night before, but, alas, I lived in San Francisco and that was not to be.

by Anonymousreply 4902/24/2021


by Anonymousreply 5002/24/2021
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