Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Internet?!

Nope, no Internet at all for the first 140 or so years of the college's history. No PCs either, and for that matter, no typewriters until late in the 1800s. (In the college archives we have many large leather bound volumes of handwritten student registers etc. from that pre-typewritten era.)

But back to the Internet. The Internet came into being in the late 196os and became accessible to colleges as time went on, via teletypes and mainframe computers. This Internet was a "net" of computers that presented information in text form, on printouts or later on monitors. The library acquired it's first "dumb" terminals connected to the Internet around 1990, but they weren't all that useful really.

There were no pictures, no web sites like we know them, certainly no Google or Wikipedia! There were search engines, "Archie" was one, but it wasn't anything like as convenient as today's Internet. The "Web," or World Wide Web, came along in the mid-90s and changed everything. This was a computing innovation that basically allowed for pictures, web pages as we know them, to run on the Internet and led to the tremendous and ongoing changes to information and it's delivery we see even today, as we experiment with Kindles and ebooks in the library.

What we did have for PCs in the early stages is shown here, ca1993. The view is on the main floor by the center staircase, looking south towards the back of the floor. (We still have a large PC cluster in this area.)  None of these PCs were connected to the Internet, and as mentioned above the Web had not yet come into being. These PC's ran a variety of CDs that held some indexes to articles (some of you will remember "ERIC",) some actual full text of articles, some government documents and so forth. One wonders what the folks 175 years from now will think of our technologies, will they seem as quaint to them as the old leather bound, handwritten volumes in the archives seem to us?

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