The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Forbidden Truth About Analog Technology

… is that a lot of it was, well, better, than digital technology.

I was remembering, the other day, library card catalogues.

Here’s a truth many will refuse to believe: They were faster to use, easier to use, and provided better results than modern computerized library terminals. You looked up the code for what you wanted, flipped that section of the cards, and not only did you usually find the book you wanted, you found a bunch of other books which were related, whether or not their title sounded like it.

Then you went to that section of the library shelves and found all sorts of books on the subject in which you were interested, along with related subjects.

Then, there were employment centers. They put the cards on walls. You walked in, looked at them, copied down the contact info for any in which you were interested. The process took minutes, especially on any follow up visits, as you’d recognize any old jobs.

When they were replaced by computers, I found the process took at least ten times as long.

Back in the late 90s, I worked on a huge auditing project. Some of the files were computerized, some were still entirely on paper. I can state for a fact that the paper files were faster to audit — about half the time, because I was doing both at the same time.

Having worked on both paper file systems and computer systems, I can say that, in general, paper file systems were faster. Further, each new iteration of computer technology has slowed things down. The old mainframe systems were faster than PCs, and as PC software went through generations, it became less and less efficient. Often this was because managers wanted control: They wanted workers to click buttons and confirm things were done, and enter extraneous information, and use pull down menus, and blah, blah…all things that slowed work down.

Other times, it was because the servers were no longer on site, they were some distance away. I remember when one employer moved the servers to IBM: It may have saved $$ on server costs, but each button click took half a second or so. I actually measured the loss of worker productivity (because management refused to believe it existed). It was about 30 percent and the better the worker, the more it was. The best workers were losing about half their productivity; the system could not keep up with their flying fingers.

Then there are things like answering machines and emails. These are ways for people to interrupt workers and demand they do something — often something “right now.” These interruptions slow workers down, interrupting work flow. Often, if the worker was left alone, whatever problem the caller or emailer wanted dealt with would have been taken care of, but constant interruptions destroy productivity.

That isn’t to say that PCs, the internet, and cell and smart phones never increase productivity. Sometimes they do, usually by allowing remote work, as long as that remote work is not closely supervised. Remote workers are usually more productive if doing skilled work.

The horror show side is where real-time telemetry is used to micromanage workers doing repetitive tasks. Amazon warehouses and call centers are both hell-zones due to this. This certainly improves efficiency, but it turns workers into drones and loses all benefits of worker initiative and innovation. If a manager doesn’t think of it, it doesn’t happen, and even low-ranked managers in these regimes are really just supervisors dancing to an algorithm.

All of this speaks to a dirty secret: With a few exceptions, the allaged productivity gains from the internet and late telecom revolution just haven’t shown up. This revolution is a control revolution. It allows finely-tuned control by bosses and the powers that be. It allows them to have access to fine-grained information that, in the past, required a Stasi-like state, without having to send someone to the basement for the file, and with algos doing the first-wave of sorting and analysis.

Information is what this is good for — information and data.

But information doesn’t want to be free. Information wants to flow uphill to bosses, governments, and spies. Information allows levels of control which are, in effect, totalitarian.

Technologies are not neutral. They are better for some things than for others. And this tech revolution is a revolution whose main effect has been to allow closer control of humans. It is inherently authoritarian.

That’s not all it is — there have certainly been good effects — but it is not a utopian technology which makes everyone better off.

The reverse appears to be true, at least so far. Even in fields like social media (which are surveillance technologies masquerading as public forums), the studies are in, and they are clear: The more you use social media the worse it is for you.

Humans aren’t meant to be surveilled by anyone except their family, friends, and neighbours. Anything beyond that is inhuman and has negative effects on our well-being.

So, we have a technology which mostly hasn’t improved productivity, which is inherently authoritarian and which, the more it is used for certain major tasks, leads to reduced well-being.

Tech revolutions aren’t always good. So far, it looks like this one, on balance, is bad. (And I say this as someone who has personally benefited from this revolution.)

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Week-end Wrap April 14, 2019


So You Want to Be the Next Silicon Valley? One Thing You Must Not Do.


  1. Hugh

    Next you’re going to tell me that analog music is better than digital. /s

    If you have ever done research at a good research library (and you have access to the shelves), the books and articles you are tracking down are in widely different places, but especially with the books you often would find interesting things in the neighborhood, not so much for the current project but just to know they’re there.

    Re surveillance, for anyone under 40 and not a few considerably older, that boat has sailed. Any of us who are online, we are tracked by someone, usually multiple someones. But especially for those under 40s through social media their whole lives are online and they don’t give a second thought about it.

  2. Tom

    Spot on and its wrecking the trucking industry. Truckers are constantly getting calls on why they are stopping (Even for traffic lights), why they are still at a certain place, etc. It is causing truckers to quit and is bringing the industry to the breaking point as Managers can’t get that constant calls on truckers who need to be paying attention to the roads is dangerous and destructive to their morale.

    Used to be as long as the load got where it needed to be and within the time limit, all was good. That went away and its causing prices to rise.

    If the trucking industry goes down, America is 3 days behind.

  3. Joan

    Agreed. In high school, a teacher gave a demonstration of an expensive smart board, teaching a class with it. At the end, an observing teacher who was sitting next to me said, “With all that finagling, you can almost convince it to work just as well as a chalkboard and overhead projector.”

    I remember library indexes. Another issue is closed stacks. Maybe the librarians are keeping people out because they’ve had problems with students bringing food back there or some other issue, but the end result is that I can only request the single book I found on a subject. I can’t go and look at the other books nearby, and the library search website isn’t nearly as good at recommending applicable sources.

    One customer service position kept me on part-time even after I changed jobs. I’d go in after hours and process an entire day’s paperwork for a team of six, usually in just 2-3 hours. But the team was constantly interrupted by phone calls so they couldn’t get other paperwork done, and by the time 5pm rolled around, everyone was desperate to go home, because customer service phone calls range from blessedly neutral to terrible. At least they were able to convince management to pay me, but I remember being amazed at how quickly I could churn through the tasks if I was alone.

  4. Joe Wolz

    I feel like part of the reason Amazon is a horror show is that they want to replace their workers with robots. They appear to assume that everything can eventually be automated, and so treat apropos like they’re temporary…so like shit.

  5. Ian Welsh

    yes, closed stacks are a horror. The main advantage of libraries is being able to go to the shelves and see what is around.

  6. John

    And you haven’t even got to the horrow show of digital health care management. My doc at the VA was so proud of the rolling,standing work station desk that could go with her from room to room. But it has reduced her function to being a poor digital interface that collects data, puts it up against the stored med algorithm and spits out a diagnosis or treatment plan. Most of her function is ad data entry clerk.

  7. When I say that I’m a retired programmer you’re probably going to assume I will not support your point of view. Wrong. I’m not that kind of programmer. I write programs that replace pencil and paper calculation with computer calculation, period. That’s the only thing that computers should ever do. They do that very well, along with sorting things. The latter is something that they should be called upon to do only very rarely.

    I once did a program for a client company that made shutters. They had been calculating cutting lists for the wood pieces with pencil and paper by hand and not only was it slow, but when they went to assemble the shutters the pieces would frequently be the wrong lengths. My computer program solved that and they loved me.

    A new office manager came on board and we didn’t get along. First thing she did was demand to know why I had not implemented the system using Oracle database. I told her that the use of the one I used was free, and they didn’t need the power of the Oracle system, which was expensive. She said Oracle should be used because it could do so much more than the database I was using. I said they didn’t need more than what the one I was using did. She kept riding me until I told her to get a new programmer.

  8. bruce wilder

    The bosses cannot get the automated gates at parking garages to work well enough to forgo manning, and they think automating a 2-ton missile hurtling down the highway at 60 mph is a good idea.

    The fragility of all these systems is a major source of stress. The error messages only mean what they say half the time.

    The bosses think they are gaining control. But, they cannot themselves handle the accompanying amplification of information flow up the pyramid. So, nothing gets fixed.

    Information systems can work well if someone makes them work. Which means the guys at the top are architects and designers, but not decision makers, controllers or tyrants. Control at the center can never work; because the computational demand is too great.

    Using the computing and communication revolution to centralize decision-making is killing us. The technology does not drive this. We are driving this use of the technology. And, it is insane.

  9. As Ian points out with warehouse scenario, the outsourcing of the human mind is automation, predictable and efficient for its actual purposes; it’s just doesn’t use the kind of artificial intelligence being discussed from the valley. Ironically, it does, however, have the same alleged shortcomings and, I would guess, will care much less whenever replaced by actual robots.

  10. Rostale

    Likely most business software has gone from being designed to function as quickly as possible to having the primary purpose of reducing employees to interchangeable cogs. At least that’s what my experience seems to suggest, the older systems I worked with used action keys that had to be memorized, the new touchscreens are pretty much self explanatory, but since you have to wait for multiple screens to load it all takes twice as long.
    It all favors a system of having the lowest paid drone you can drag in the door vs attempting to retain employees.

  11. alyosha

    As a highly desired software engineer, who never liked this field that much (I find that most of the people in it are bores), I agree with much of what you’re saying.

    What you omit is that this cuts both ways. Yes the technology profoundly enables a fine grained amount of control over processes, which usually means intimate control over armies of workers in the usual business setting.

    By the same token, it also enables individuals. People can put up a website and sell to the world (or blog to the world). Musicians and writers don’t need middlemen anymore. You don’t need all the expense of a radio station, just set up a stream. And on and on.

    I’m using my software smarts to write robots to day trade.

    For those stuck in the “working for some company” model (I still am), especially if you’re located down the food chain toiling at an Amazon warehouse, yes the amount of control is horrible. But that’s not the whole picture. This is amazing technology for those who can leverage its potential, to use it to liberate themselves.

    I hate living in a world of smartphones, where real human contact is rare and shallow, and I hate living in a world that is so sped up, precisely because of computers. But that’s the one I’m in and I have to deal with it.

  12. nihil obstet

    I’m not sure about this. Some things are worse with digital than with analog. Some things are better. As humans, we tend to think the good things are just natural and forget what used to be a problem while we think the bad things make everything worse. Analog tends to be better where context is useful. Digital, where atomistic is better or easier. I remember starting research problems with a three-hour session with bibliographies, copying out the info on books and journal articles that I would then go and find. Digital search engines speed that up. Or going through fifteen years of updates, year by year, of the Code of Federal Regulations to see if numbers defining eligibility limits have changed and if so, to what; now, complete updated regs are posted annually.

    On the whole, digital can make processes more efficient. Unfortunately, it makes stupidity more efficient as well, so the mediocrity of management frequently more than offsets the good gains. The surveillance state was growing before the digital age came in. Our failure to rein it in is a political, social problem.

  13. Louise

    I have fond memories of card catalogues. I could look up a book, go to the stacks and retrieve it in the time it takes now to wait for my turn at a terminal, enter my library card # and wait for a screen, or series of screens to appear. Also, the catalogue itself was a handsome piece of well made furniture, usually oak, while a row of terminals is just plain ugly.

    However, I wonder about Amazon surveillance of its workers. I have not worked there, but I have to say I am highly skeptical of the claim that surveillance will lead to efficient workers being rewarded. What it will lead to is supervisors coming up with ever more creative reasons and ways to favor their cronies. The same supervisory staff, and I have not yet learned that the criteria for hiring those has changed, who resolutely refused to believe evidence that their faves had hands in the petty cash, will just as resolutely ignore and excuse photographic evidence which fails to confirm their own biases.

  14. 9

    By the same token, it also enables individuals. People can put up a website and sell to the world (or blog to the world). Musicians and writers don’t need middlemen anymore. You don’t need all the expense of a radio station, just set up a stream. And on and on.

    All that depends critically on the \”safe harbor\” protection of Internet service providers and hosting companies:

    Without it the entire Internet ends up completely locked down by a few politically well-connected mega-corporations.

  15. Clocks and watches. My wristwatch is analog, as are all the clocks in my house, except the one on the stove and the one on the dvr. I hate digital timepieces. I vastly prefer the ones with a big hand and a little hand.

  16. S Brennan

    I agree with your points Ian.

    Let me add, I’ve used the same parametric CAD program for almost 30 years. It was a great tool right out of the box and while not intuitive, it came with good documentation, it was consistent and cohesive and so if you learned one or two modules, you could figure out the others without instruction. For a reasonably bright person it took about a month of pounding your head against the wall and you’d be off teaching yourself new tricks every day.

    Then the menu interface changes started happening in the late 90’s…requiring an operator to constantly relearn that which they already knew how to do, first one way, then another and then back again…now there is a granulated mash of 30 years of different CAD philosophies and interfaces. Sure, some nice features [and shitty ones] have been added over the decades, but most are window dressing, the power of the original program is still 98% of the .

    An awful lot of my time is spent trying to figure out where the buttons have been the steering wheel in the trunk or did they stick it in the glove compartment…oh look, they put it in the center console in a secret compartment…neat! Yeah, I don’t care what the interface is, but dammit, the Wright bros could get into a modern airplane and recognize most of the controls [interface].

    The productivity losses to the nation from the scions of software needlessly changing interfaces only to change them back again is in the billions, the opportunity losses are in the trillions. No other industry has been allowed to run roughshod over it’s consumers [and the nation] for so long.

  17. alyosha

    An awful lot of my time is spent trying to figure out where the buttons have been hidden…
    …The productivity losses to the nation from the scions of software needlessly changing interfaces

    This is something that has generally improved over the decades. We’ve all dealt with bad UX (user experience) and hopefully great UX. Bad UX is easy to do and is unfortunately common. And it’s not just computer programs, it’s the radio in your car, the thermostat in your home, etc. It’s everything designed for interaction with humans.

    Bad UX is the machine injecting itself into what you’re trying to do – a Windows computer has a “Start” button, an Apple doesn’t. Even worse, you have to think like the person who designed the machine/software to get anything done, instead of it thinking like you.

    You don’t go to see a presentation, you go to see a “PowerPoint” presentation (the content being presented is what matters, not the particular tool that was used to create it). And so on. The best UX makes the machine invisible – no Start button. No “Power Point”. No confusion – the tool just does what you want it to do.

    There’s an entire art and science to good interface design that’s only arisen in the last few decades. Companies live and die by this. At my day job (we make CAD software for engineers), it’s an enormous competitive advantage to have good UX that users love, and we put a lot of effort into getting this right because it directly affects how much product we sell.

  18. Synoia

    As an IBM Employee I used an IBM mainframe:

    On a 1st generation 3270 terminal a 3277, my direct connect response time was 0.093 seconds
    On a 2nd generation 3270 terminal a 3278, my direct connect response time was 0.143 seconds
    the difference in response time was noticeable, and irritating.

    On the internet, my response time is in the order of 3 to 10 seconds. If I’m lucky.

    The 3277 and its controlled the 3272 hardware. No software or microcode. 1 network hop.
    The 3278 and controller were software. 1 network hop.
    My internet connection is 5 t0 10 hops.

    Hops add response time, and anything less than a one second response time affects productivity, due the human short term memory limitations.

  19. Bill Hi ks

    @aloysha–while it may be true that tech has greatly lowered the bar for artists to be able to publish their wares, it has also completely destroyed the ability of mid-list musicians and authors to actually make a living doing so. It\’s no accident that these days, 99% of the royalties go to a handful of corporate backed musicians and authors at the top, while those whose product is deemed \”non-commercial\” (and actually worth reading or hearing) can no longer find a publisher or record company, or if they do it is usually without any sort of promotional budget.

    Furthermore, Amazon has made it nearly impossible to find quality works by unknowns because it lists their stuff neutrally alongside literally millions of pieces of self-published garbage, while prominently listing the tiny number of preferred works by multimillionaires who play the corporate game. And in most places, there are no longer any bookstores or record shops where you can go to get a feel about a particular work before you buy it, which is also a horrible side effect of the tech revolution.

  20. alyosha

    Hops add response time, and anything less than a one second response time affects productivity, due the human short term memory limitations.

    It’s a trade-off. You can spend many tens of thousands of dollars to have dedicated hardware to achieve sub-second response time, OR you can have a couple hundred dollar tablet that connects to servers somewhere in the cloud, that can handle requests from hundreds or thousands of tablets, pcs, smartphones, whatever. So it takes a little longer…

    It was this kind of calculus that sunk the mainframe and mini-computer business in the 80s + 90s.

  21. bruce wilder

    what sunk the mainframe and mini-computer was the paralysis that set in with centralizing the architecture.

    the pc was experienced as an anti-authoritarian freedom machine

    and, yet, here we are again.

    the pc at my feet is incredibly powerful. the response time is fabulous.

    and, still, most of the software publishing industry is insisting that i need the cloud and software as a service (aka debt peonage) and refuses to write software that uses the “local” (and free now that I have paid for it) resources of my pc (unless it is something incredibly destructive and pointless like mining bitcoin).

    the tech is not driving the centralization. but some political force is driving the tech toward a centralization of power that the tech is really not that good at, or maybe it is just the centralization is itself so pathological and destructive.

    and it is weird to me that so many people seem to be enthusiastic about high tech fantasies when the reality is so broken.

  22. cripes

    As to the inferiority of computer-based library searches, i think a factor is the failure to implement existing technologies like say, Dewey decimal systems, into the search parameters. PC and internet based searches are focused on dumb keywords with the annoying results we are all familiar with.

    In general, user interface design is focused on control, not user needs. The horrid EMR medical records loudly touted by the clueless Obama a decade ago, have turned doctors into data entry clerks with predictable results.

  23. Joe

    To be more accurate, badly made software can be worse than an analog system or excel spreadsheet. ‘Are you better than an excel spreadsheet?’ is a software design truism.

    Enterprise software is sold to management, not the actual people using it, so the fact you notice it works well for management is not a coincidence. Consumer software is actually made for the users, so it tends to be made better.

  24. alyosha

    what sunk the mainframe and mini-computer was the paralysis that set in with centralizing the architecture.

    the pc was experienced as an anti-authoritarian freedom machine

    It was also one or more orders of magnitude cheaper. The biggest, most authoritarian businesses in the world turned to them for that reason.

    most of the software publishing industry is insisting that i need the cloud and software as a service (aka debt peonage) and refuses to write software that uses the “local” (and free now that I have paid for it) resources of my pc

    Agree. It’s all about the Benjamins, and a stable revenue stream for software creators. We hook you with a promise of always getting the latest and most wonderful features you so badly need. (/snark). Before you know it, you’ve forgotten all about that ding to your credit card each month, because we’ve dazzled you with New Bells and Whistles, and you have to have them, because all your friends have them. A little more seriously: the subscription model works great for products you only rarely use.

    user interface design is focused on control, not user needs. The horrid EMR medical records..

    This is design dictated from the top down. If this were a domain where there was real competition, you’d start to see better design.

  25. bruce wilder

    If this were a domain where there was real competition, you’d start to see better design.

    yeah, no.

    “competition” is not a magic wand that confers survival of the virtuous and never has been.

    neoliberals gave us “competition” up the wing wang and look what it has produced: monopoly and financialization and the crapification of everything

    what is required is often sustained investment in incremental improvement that is actually improvement

    and a lot of public goods production, in systems and content

    we are way under-invested in policing our software systems, not to mention information content

    we’ve let the bad guys do this policing and they are idiots which is all that has saved any of us to date, but they are also bad guys.

    laissez-faire “competition” is killing us in software and information content (news), just as it is in pharma and insurance and finance and plastics and fossil fuel pollution

  26. atcooper

    Had the pleasure of using an older style land line a couple of weeks ago. Nothing to date has improved on the call quality of that old circuit.

    Computing looks like a poison pill.

  27. alyosha

    ..older style land line

    I prefer my corded, desktop phone, that can be plugged into a land-line circuit, but instead runs over the internet. Even AT+T was urging me (a decade ago) to dump their expensive, POTS (plain old telephone system) lines for VOIP (voice over IP).

    I look at mobile phones as inferior to landlines. They replaced something that was cheap, simple and worked well and was more or less ubiquitous, with: more expensive, inferior quality, limited lifetime, huge disposal problem, with a few marginal extra benefits. I thank God I came of age before an entire generation was seduced by these things.

  28. Hugh

    Efficiency à la Amazon is simply a tool taken to ridiculous extremes to abuse workers. The truth is for most tasks you only need to be efficient enough. Bezos is evil. The commodification of workers, treating them as a commodity not people is deeply anti-social.

    The same can be said about competition. Competition is only championed at the level of the worker. At the level of the corporation, competition doesn’t exist. Social responsibility and social good don’t exist. It is all about monopoly and oligopoly. Large corporations, the tech companies, the banks, etc. we need to bring them under control either by breaking them up, running them as public utilities, or governmentalizing some of their functions (a postal bank, Medicare for All).

  29. Rich

    Good one!
    Every analogy and example is spot on especially the library card catalogue system.
    Yet the autocrat who sits at the top of UW’s Valley Medical Center (over 30 yrs continuous) doesn’t know how to log on or use the computer system which runs the Epic EMR backbone of his kingdom, er, oops, I meant his enterprise.

  30. NRG

    Not sure I would ever have seen your newsletter if we lived in analog days, frankly. Pretty sure I wouldn’t have. Maybe there is some benefit here after all. . .

  31. Troy

    Canada has a perfect example of what could go wrong trying to centralize what has historically been a localized system: the phoenix payroll system. It’s been two years now without any solution in sight.

    Well, the best solution would be to go back to how things were done before, but that ain’t happening. Too much inertia built into the fiasco.

  32. Ian Welsh

    Oh sure, of course it has good things.

    But that it’s been good for me and some other people doesn’t mean it’s been overall good.

  33. Synoia

    5G adds hops to the net.

    I’m betting response time will increase.

    There is a difference between speed and latency. Speed is limited by the velocity of light. Latency by packet processing time, as is the sum of a number of hops.

    Speech, browsing, reading and hence work is affected by latency .
    Movies are not.

  34. Clem

    I’ve basically lived in a research library for the past 32 years and I have to say this is a complete load of bollocks.

  35. Hugh

    Clem, “this” covers a lot of territory. Do you care to amplify or specify? And what exactly were you doing in your research library other than living in it?

    I remember a mathematician once pointing out a colleague and remarking that he had published something like a hundred papers. He wasn’t praising him. He was being dismissive. He went on to say that in mathematics you were lucky to get two or three papers a year that were really worth reading. And he wasn’t talking about his specific field but mathematics as a whole. The conversation started when I had said that when I did a review of the literature I found that about 90-95% of the citations I had to go through were worthless. My acquaintance was telling me it as actually a lot worse than that. This is a consequence of “publish or perish” and every university pretending to be a research institution.

  36. Chuck Mire

    Digital communication is transmitted, received ans stored in binary streams of “Ones” and “Zeros”. Without the appropriate hardware and software, these binary streams can not be rendered for human use. In essence,the hardware and software becomes the necessary `Rosetta Stone’. This is true for smartphones, computers, digital TVs, digital radios and digital sensors embedded in automobiles and other devices for the `smart’ home. The YouTube Video link below illustrates the complete process.

    Rapid changes in digital platforms have resulted in many instances of orphaned binary streams that can no longer be rendered for human use. In addition many stored binary streams have been corrupted beyond repair in their storage mediums – tapes, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, BluRays, and hard drives. Even when not corrupted, they collectively become unusable if the necessary hardware/software readers are obsolete and no longer available. The relatively short history of digital documentation has sadly shown this to be the norm.

    Then consider the Web with links that are sometimes only valid for a short period of time. When authors refer to them, there is always the disclaimer “accessed on such-and-such a date”.

    In contrast the analog world of modern paper books and documents printed on acid free paper can be accessed, read and stored for hundreds of years – even longer if printed on archival paper. To quote Wikipedia: “Alkaline paper has a life expectancy of over 1,000 years for the best paper and 500 years for average grades.” (ASTM D 3290-00, “Standard Specification for Bond and Ledger Papers for Permanent Records”, section and Appendix X1).

    I can read such a book or document today and (assuming I am organized), I know exactly where to go to read the same thing next month, next year, or even the next decade. Not so in the ephemeral digital world.

    The PDF link below, Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Information by Jeff Rothenberg, was written in 1999 and illustrates the potential for a “digital dark age”:

  37. Kaleberg

    Welcome to the 20th century. One of the renovated office buildings I visited on the Charles River in Cambridge had been a Ford automobile factory. The old timers from the 1920s remembered that if you worked on the assembly line and had to relieve your bowels, a supervisor would get you a box. It has been the machine age for a while now, and the machines are still in charge.

    I don’t remember library card catalogs being all that wonderful. I had to haul myself down to the library to use them. Often someone else was using the drawer I wanted, so I’d have to wait for it. Then the material I wanted would be signed out by someone else. Papers were stored in big bound volumes that meant heavy lifting, literally. Now, I can do it all from anywhere in a few minutes and most papers can be downloaded. My physical trips to the library are much more productive.

    I agree that cell phones have garbage sound quality compared to direct circuit land lines, but cell phone are really convenient. Does anyone not a suspense fiction writer really miss pay phones?

  38. Many years ago I started writing bibliographic information on cards and filing the cards by subject. I could only put a card under a single subject, unless I made multiple copies. With bibliographic software, I was able to write the bibliographic material just once, with many keywords, and then be able to find it again searching by keyword, author, year, &c. A considerable improvement.

    I also liked the ability to search a library from my office, online.

    I appreciate the ability to search through a searchable electronic document; but I greatly prefer a paper copy for reading.

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