Flash back 9 years – What it used to be like to look things up – by James Somers, February 12, 2010: “Yesterday a paper I was reading made reference to a “Galtonian composite photograph.” From the context I had a vague idea of what the phrase referred to, but I wanted to learn more. So I:
- Googled “Galton” and clicked on the first result, the Wikipedia page for Sir Francis Galton.
- Searched the text there for “composite,” which turned up the following:
Galton also devised a technique called composite photography, described in detail in Inquiries in human faculty and its development…
- Googled once again for “Inquiries in human faculty and its development” (no quotes), which turned up a complete Google Books entry.
- Searched inside that text for “composite,” and found, finally, “Appendix A.—Composite Portraiture,” which contained everything I might want to know on the subject.
The whole process took about two minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, what my search would have looked like forty years ago, long before the Internet and the proliferation of personal computers. How would I have traced a casual allusion to its source?..”