That Was Then … This Is Now
By Nancy Garman
It’s amazing to look back 30 years, or even just 20–25—which spans the length of my career with ONLINE magazine and the online industry. What goes around comes around. Does anyone remember Richard Janke writing about end users in the early ’80s (“Online After Six: End-User Searching Comes of Age,” November 1984) and the great debate about whether it was all right to let people do their own searches? Really! Today, does anyone not Google?
Remember the downloading debate? Who could have imagined when I wrote about downloading in 1986 (“Downloading ... Still a Live Issue?” July 1986) that the basic issue of fair use, now extended to audio and video downloads, would remain unresolved in 2007?
Here are a few more flashbacks to articles that appeared in ONLINE during my time with the magazine. Some didn’t make much of a splash at the time, but 20/20 hindsight marks them with foresights that we can’t claim to have had at the time.
Nancy Herther wrote about CD-ROMs as a new storage device (“CD ROM Technology: A New Era for Information Storage and Retrieval?” November 1985). Remember the impact that CD-ROMs had on the library world between 1985 and 1995?
Brewster Kahle on WAIS (“An Information System for Corporate Users: Wide Area Information Servers,” September 1991), an idea ahead of its time, as many of Kahle’s subsequent ideas have been.
Carolyn Arms’ landmark article about the Internet (“A New Information Infrastructure,” September 1990), one of the first published anywhere. Many people didn’t know what it all meant—moreover, they didn’t care. The article won an award, but the topic remained esoteric and boring even to serious researchers and librarians.
Greg Notess’ first column (“On the Nets: The Internet Meets Online,” March 1993) appeared, inspired by his popular September 1992 article, “Gaining Access to the Internet,” and his overflowing Internet workshops at the ONLINE/CD-ROM ’92 conference in Chicago.
The awesome realization that everyone (not just librarians) was online was described in my editorial (“The Time is Now: The Internet Goes Public!” January 1993). “[S]ometime in the late spring and early summer of 1992, the Internet ‘went public.’ Suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, everyone was ‘on the nets’—or if they weren’t, they could be for a reasonable price. ... [N]ow access is possible for anyone—full access to the Internet. ... It’s safe to guess that in 1993, Internet connections will be possible from nearly any metropolitan area, one way or another, maybe not as ubiquitous as packet-switching nodes, but getting there.” And we never dreamed of broadband!
Writing about my life-changing discovery of Mosaic and the WWW (“A New Online World,” March/April 1995), I said, “Revelation. Epiphany. Watershed. Call it what you like, but I couldn’t stop talking about my direct connection to the Internet—to the envy of my Internet-impaired friends. After our ONLINE/CD-ROM ’94 conference and the success and technical trauma of the Internet Demo Room there, one of my top priorities was to establish my own direct Internet connection. ONLINE has been covering the Internet since its early days. … It was worth every minute of tweaking my system to … bring up Mosaic, Netscape, TurboGopher, Fetch, and Eudora on my screen. So this was what everyone was talking about. … Recently (in the past six to nine months) the World-Wide Web has become the hottest aspect of the Internet. You can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without reading about the World-Wide Web, and my mail is filled with press releases about companies who are offering home pages. …”
Jessica Milstead and Sue Feldman wrote in their article (“Metadata: Cataloging By Any Other Name,” January 1999) that “librarians and indexers have been producing and standardizing metadata for centuries.” I followed a few months later with an editorial (“Now That Cataloging is Cool,” September 1999).
Jeff Pemberton conducted a personal interview with Google founder Larry Page (“Organizing the World’s Information,” May 2000). Even then, Page had great visions as he bounced around Google’s tiny headquarters on huge play balls, while the rest of us were asking, “Google, who; Google, what?”
ONLINE celebrated its 10th anniversary with a special issue—something that has become a bit of a tradition. The articles are still worth reading 20 years later. ONLINE profiled 11 online industry leaders in January 1987, including many founders of companies such as Dialog and LexisNexis, which still have name recognition, and of others, such as BRS, Predicasts, and The New York Times Information Bank, which have been acquired by other companies. It also included
articles on pricing (by Stephen Arnold), educating library school students (by Carol Tenopir), and journal article coverage in library catalogs (by Barbara Quint). Although technologies change and develop, some topics never become dated!