As a youngster I relished the pleasure of randomly dipping into a set of encyclopaedias we kept in the family bookcase.
While leafing through those great tomes I learned about inspiring figures like Clive of India and the Second Carnatic War. I discovered how a battery works, and I learned all about the most amazing animal in the world: the duck billed platypus.
In fact, I was so enthralled by these books and the knowledge they held that I endeavoured to read each and every volume from cover to cover. Admittedly, I started at Aachen (it’s a German town), but didn’t get any further than aardvark (a nocturnal mammal native to Africa). But it was a start.
I discovered the delight of taking one of the volumes from the shelf, opening it anywhere, and memorising whatever was on that particular page. That way, I built up an incredible storehouse of knowledge.
I learned that Olympus Mons is on Mars and is the largest volcano in our solar system.
When travelling in a school, killer whales breathe in unison. And Peter Durand invented the tin can for preserving food in 1810.
I also learned that the skeleton of a spider is actually located on the outside of the body.
And my imagination was gripped by the story of short wave radio and how it works.
And these weren’t just a string of facts. I delved into the history of sailing ships and currency.
I immersed myself in the biographies covering the lives of the most extraordinary people who have made their mark on the fields of science, politics, philosophy, economics, and so on.
All this, just by opening an encyclopaedia at random and starting to read.
Of course, we don’t have encyclopaedias today. Instead, we have Google.
So, I tried the same thing. I typed in random letters and waited to see what it came up with – it’s the closest I could get to randomly dipping into the family encyclopaedia.
What a dreadful disappointment.
Here is what I discovered ... lots of information about cheap holidays, flights, hotels and credit cards.
I also found out that UFOs really exist and that wearing a hat made from tinfoil stops subliminal messages from being beamed into your brain by the Government.
Irina Shayk (who?) recently paraded her “to die for” figure in new swimwear.
Oh, and Aardvark is not a mammal from Africa – it’s a company that manufactures archery equipment.
Yes, with the internet came access to a sea of information. But information is only of any value if it is useful, rather than bland celebrity non-news or advertising.
Sadly, most of the internet falls into those categories.
However, I’m going online now to see if I can buy an old encyclopaedia. Happy days.