The days when an encyclopedia gave us knowledge and so much more

Recently at home, while looking for something, I happened upon an old book. It was part of a set of encyclopaedias which my mom had bought in the 1970s. I think my mom was an encyclopaedia salesman's dream.

By errol edwards
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 1:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th June 2022, 1:45 pm

As I remember we had several sets of encyclopaedias in our home growing up.

My mom and dad always encouraged us to read books while we were children – and what better than reading from a font of knowledge?

When we moaned about being bored, they would say “pick up a book” or “read a book” which mom made sure were readily available, but there was also the library just down the road.

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Demolition of terrace housing in Upperthorpe, Sheffield, February 18, 1982

Therefore I very rarely would moan to my parents as I knew exactly what they’d say, or something even worse, like “tidy your room”. Hence I kept quiet about boredom.

In the 1970s with numerous derelict houses in the Pitsmoor area to explore, and impromptu football games to play, there was always something to do before reading.

Inclement weather was the main thing which kept me in with the books, but it would have to be very inclement.

We did dip in these books over years learning about numerous topics, especially flags, and capitals of cities of the world, which was easier when we had the Soviet Union, plus the location of various other countries.

Off roading cars

I gained snippets of information on numerous subjects, which I might recall in a pub quiz or The Chase, but that seems to be about it.

These books were great learning tools and great for school projects.

But I must confess these books also came in handy for building blocks, while building forts and dens in our bedroom.

They also served as elaborate off-road driving terrain courses for my matchbox cars – I hope my mom doesn’t read this column.

Encyclopedia Britannica

The book I found had British History written down the spine in gold print, it's around 50 years old.

A book like this has been made near obsolete by Google and other search engines, and it made me think about what I should do with it.

I’ve not looked at it in decades, and probably only kept it out of sentiment.

I don’t think a book which is 50 years old should be thrown away, even though rarely or, should I say, never used.

This made me morbidly think about my children having to clear our home in 30 or 40 years, If I'm lucky.

This book will be nearly 100 years old by then, which would surely make it even harder for my children to throw out.

Will it be worth anything? Probably not, but it would be a 100 year-old-book – nearly.

What if in the future the internet ceased to exist – a big if – and we went back to books, and simpler methods of gaining information, and communication like putting pen to paper, phone calls to real people not artificial intelligence, and face-to-face interaction – talking to people?

How would the standard of services reset, if most of the services we now have to access through the internet went back to a face-to-face service, and people had to talk to each other.

How would those faceless companies operate if they had to speak to their customers directly?