Not too long ago, I was trying to explain my ’60s childhood to the kids.
We covered the part where televisions only had four channels, and you could only watch a show when it was being broadcast, as digital video recorders were in short supply. However, we did have remote controls. Dad would say, “Louder,” and we’d run over and turn up the volume.
No such thing as a cell phone, unless you were featured on “Star Trek” and had a communicator. You couldn’t even distract yourself with anything other than a radio in the car, because I’m not even sure if they had car cassette decks back then.
I am aware that a full third of you have no idea what a cassette deck is.
There was no Internet, or Twitter, or Instagram (at this point, the kids are crying because I’m scaring them). If you wanted to bully someone you had to do it the old-fashioned way and shake ‘em down for their lunch money at school, in person, and not hide behind a fake account on Facebook.
If anything went viral back in my day it meant that there was a mononucleosis outbreak at the high school.
But most Stone Age of all, there was no Google, an Internet search engine that has gone on to become its own verb. Google has such a reach that research even shows that we can help avoid dementia if we simply run a few Google searches every day.
So how did we know anything in 1968? What did we do when we had a random thought and wanted to know more?
I’ve been Googling questions for the last 12 years, frequently as part of my job. This might save my short-term memory but has apparently destroyed my ability to think without a crutch, so to answer this question I did what any self-respecting Child of The Interwebz would do: I pulled out my phone and Googled it.
And was promptly reminded that we used to spend time doing things like reading encyclopedias, and going to the library, where we used tools like the card catalog and the Dewey Decimal System to do something called research.
We would read books and magazines that were printed on this stuff called paper, and then distill what we learned into things called sentences (in 1968 the letters ‘LOL’ were a typo). We could copy anything we wanted, just like today, but pasting involved moving our pens across the paper and plagiarizing every word individually.
Google and the Internet have freed up our time so we can do more important, productive things like wasting entire afternoons competitively comparing our friends’ home prices on Zillow.
Google can even humiliate us.
I have Googled approximately 50,000 times over the years, and only once have I received no result.
I repeat: only once have I put together a thought that no one else has thought to ask or publish. Which evidently means I have only had one original thought in all those years.
Progress isn’t everything. Back in the olden days, you could suspect you were an unoriginal clod, but at least you couldn’t categorically prove it.
By the way: if you Google “cassette deck,” you get 4,670,000 results. Just sayin’.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.