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How did people look stuff up before the internet?

(83 Posts)
thatmustbenigelwiththebrie Fri 22-Jun-18 05:28:27

I am working my way through a rather weighty novel and regularly having to look up references and some vocabulary.

I just have my phone next to me whilst I read and it takes a few seconds every now and again.

But what did people do before that?

I am in my 30s so The internet wasn't around when I was a child but we had it home from my late teens so I've had it for all my studies and adult life.

Did people just lug encyclopaedias around?

AgentProvocateur Fri 22-Jun-18 05:32:14

They would look the word up in a dictionary. I would write down unknown words and look them up when I got home.

Yokatsu Fri 22-Jun-18 05:36:01

You used a book.

If ir 2as a novel you probably b9ught the footnoted edition. Or You noted the bit that didn't make sense (post stick or noted notebook) and looked it up later. Or you did read it with a dictionary/bible/encyclopaedia to hand

DeckSofa Fri 22-Jun-18 05:36:02

We went to the library.

qu1rky Fri 22-Jun-18 05:37:00

Yes, we had a dictionary at home, always out in the living room.
Popping into the library to look up something in a reference book for homework was also something we used to do.

TanteRose Fri 22-Jun-18 05:37:26

I learned several languages in my teens and early 20s before the internet, and so we looked up words in pocket dictionaries or waited until we had access to a larger dictionary.
Or if it was academic reading, we would go and sit in the library and use resources there (including microfiches of old newspapers etc)

massivelyouting Fri 22-Jun-18 05:37:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TanteRose Fri 22-Jun-18 05:38:47

is that right? microfiche? <doubts old brain> grin

pasturesgreen Fri 22-Jun-18 05:39:01

Dictionary. Encyclopedia (no need to lug it around, people used to have it at home). Library. Asking other people.
Granted, it took more than the few seconds it takes now, but it was perfectly doable.

Donthugmeimscared Fri 22-Jun-18 05:42:04

We didn't have a dictionary at home when I was a child so I just never found out what they meant. Then again I can't remember having many books.

massivelyouting Fri 22-Jun-18 05:42:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

massivelyouting Fri 22-Jun-18 05:43:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LapsedHumanist Fri 22-Jun-18 05:45:12

I worked in the local reference library one summer whilst s student. People could phone up and ask us to look stuff up for them, think it was capped at 5 or 6 questions a day per person. We’d get a lot of repeats of the same question, e.g. questions on radio quizzes, so we wrote all q’s and a’s for the day down on a pad by the phone.

Skittlesandbeer Fri 22-Jun-18 05:51:13

I’d call and ask my wise granny. Like the internet, she was always available and often gave me several options to choose from that made me question my question.

Unlike the internet, granny always asked after my health and offered a more direct personalised service if I went round to hers in person. With added hug, and a Brandy Cruster. I miss her.

Heatherjayne1972 Fri 22-Jun-18 05:59:45

Reference books

At college we had the salient points of our studies on flash cards held together with circular metal ring binders And all colour coded with sticky tags

EmpressOfSpartacus Fri 22-Jun-18 06:00:05

Dictionaries, & we had the complete Encyclopedia Britannica at home.

I remember one of the broadsheets used to do a big literary quiz every summer & my DM & I would be researching all over the place. That probably wouldn't be so much fun now - the sense of achievement when we managed to track down an obscure quote was much bigger pre-Google!

BertieBotts Fri 22-Jun-18 06:04:48

I used to keep a dictionary by my bed to look up words smile otherwise you'd guess what they meant from the context.

Couldn't really check cultural references. Sometimes I'd ask my mum

massivelyouting Fri 22-Jun-18 06:04:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hellokittymania Fri 22-Jun-18 06:06:42

I remember when I learned French, German, and Spanish, the Internet really wasn't popular than at all. So, with my visual impairment, I would have to try and find a very large print dictionary. I was living in the US, and I remember we had to order a French dictionary from the are in IB because we couldn't find one in the US. I had some audiobooks in Spanish, and since I was living in Florida I had access to things like Spanish television. A lot of my classmates were also from Latin America, so if I didn't know something, I would ask them. I have it that I still used today in a lot of cases. You learned some pretty good stuff just by asking other people. Anyway, that was how we did things then.

PerpetualStudent Fri 22-Jun-18 06:07:17

I’ve still got the massive 2-volume dictionary my grandparents gave my DM when she graduated uni in the early 80s. I used to have a great time looking things up in it and have great hopes of my DC’s education being enriched by having it around. I fear they will see me as hopelessly antiquated in this aim....

vampirethriller Fri 22-Jun-18 08:02:19

Library. I didn't have the internet at home til I was 27. (I'm 36 now.) I had encyclopedias, thesaurus etc and took a lot of books out of the library. I've still got my grandma's big household encyclopedia. Everything from how to make rice pudding to setting a broken leg in there!

WhoKnowsWhereTheW1neGoes Fri 22-Jun-18 08:18:49

Ask someone, dictionary or guess by context. To be honest I don't tend to read the sort of novels that require me to look stuff up much though. For foreign language learning it was all textbooks and dictionaries.

Soloooo Fri 22-Jun-18 08:20:32

Lots of people had a set of encyclopaedias in a bookcase.

Atthebottomofthesea Fri 22-Jun-18 08:21:25

I went and found my scrolls grin

As others have said we had books at home or the library. When doing my degree if you wanted a journal article you had to look through a huge book of keywords and cross reference and then go and find each individual article.

Whilst it is so easy now, I think lots of skills are being lost.

CrabappleBiscuit Fri 22-Jun-18 08:22:13

We had a twenty volume encyclopaedia. I loved looking stuff up in that. Used the library. Asked my mum, she was a cryptic crossword lover and knew loads.

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