I remember learning to use the card catalog in grade school in the 1980’s. It was intimidating for a young kid. The teacher made a big deal out of it, and those long, light brown wooden cabinets looked positively monolithic. They looked as though they were holding difficult math problems in their uniform, ordered little drawers, in the same manner as the mute Sphinx might hold impossible riddles.
And I still remember how surprised I was at how easy it was. You only had to remember one of three things: author, subject or title. And the alphabet took care of the rest. Every kid knew the alphabet. It was a bizarrely empowering experience for a young, nascent nerd.
No, we didn’t have the Internet. Hell, we didn’t even have the Internet for research purposes when I was in college. I remember driving with Tom (the other most befuddled member of Mary Washington College’s psychology program) an hour and a half to Charlottesville to research our term papers at the University of Virginia. That was a long drive.