SARAH BUITENDACH: ‘What kind of apple did Eve eat’, and other queries from a pre-Google world
Librarians were asked for books on strange subjects sometimes, and today we turn to the internet for information about things that are not much different
What was life like before Google? My memories of those dark times are hazy, so I googled it.
The top result comes from Quartz, and it’s pretty marvellous.
For context – if you recall, at the beginning of time we asked librarians for help to find books with answers to our burning questions. Quartz’s article highlights a report of a recently unearthed box of cards filled with questions that the librarians at the New York Public Library were asked over a number of decades. These questions are exactly the sort of things we wouldn’t hesitate to punch into Google today – except that then a team of humans did the answering, or attempted to (and, apparently, they still do).
The questions include: What kind of apple did Eve eat? What is the name of a wig maker in Miami? And: How many neurotic people are there in the US?
Kids growing up in the 1990s, like me, were thoroughly modern by comparison. We had Encarta CD-Rom encyclopaedias to insert into the family PC. Contained within there was a world of knowledge about butterfly mimicry and the Wright brothers. And we had the sound of dialup internet and access to clunky, weird search engines like Ask Jeeves.
To those who dispute society’s progress, let me say that 30 years on, I now lie in the bath and soak up the information tchotchkes and ephemera that the World Wide Web offers in never-ending supply.
On my phone, I google, for example, the internet’s response to model Gigi Hadid’s recently posted house pics. Sure, her photos will entrance you (what’s with the pasta-decorated kitchen doors?) but it’s the commentary on said décor that’s real gold. See some of it here.
I know you’re glad I told you about that. In fact, because I am entirely benevolent, below, in no particular order, is a list of things I googled in the past week – with corresponding articles. They will mesmerise and inform you, and are, simultaneously, proof that I need to get out more. Think of me as a librarian of sorts – only one who works from the bath. Follow these links and I guarantee you’ll be a hit at the next dinner party you go to (in 2045).
- How long was Zimbabwean author and new Booker prize nominee Tsitsi Dangarembga held by police in Harare last week after being arrested for “protesting”? The Guardian answers
- Who is Shelley Lewis and what’s her connection to Jeffrey Epstein? She’s allegedly a British “spiritual entrepreneur”. Tatler has the details.
- Why are the Brits so weird about wearing masks? Well they’re not all, but there are some proper whingers in their ranks. Like these two (here and here), courtesy of The Telegraph.
- SA wine specials online. Order now, support local and be ready when the ban is lifted. I like what getwine.co.za and port2port have on promotion.
- Is there an app that allows you to play the snake game from old Nokias? Why, yes there is. It’s called Snake ’97. Here for Android, here for Apple.
- What’s the x in “womxn” about? Wikipedia gives you the basics and then the NYT takes it a bit further.
- Who is the patron saint of TV? It’s St Clare. And this is why.
- Who is the influencer who is advertising the “worst job ever advertised”? The answer may not be clear, but you know that you want to click on this to find out why it’s billed as that, don’t ya?
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