Taking 'Internet answers' for granted

There was a time when this wasn’t easy in the least

That there is nothing unusual about either of these anecdotes is what makes them so remarkable.

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First one: For weeks on my Sunday morning trip to the grocery store, I have noticed a large and growing array of ground-based solar panels - dozens of them -- just off Rte. 495 northbound in Westborough, Mass. Each time I've asked myself, "What's up with that?" And each week by the time I've returned home with the groceries I have forgotten to go online and find out.

Until yesterday: It took me all of 10 seconds on Google to pull up this story.

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Second one: This morning I saw that a link to this heartwarming video (with scratchy audio) was on the front page of Reddit and had already accumulated more than 1,000 votes, which means the video had been watched by many times that many Redditors alone. Yet the view counter on YouTube indicated that the video had been watched only 306 times.

Why? I had noticed this same discrepancy on YouTube at least as often as I'd seen those solar panels, but never bothered to find an answer. Until a few minutes ago. Another 10 seconds on Google brought me this answer via Quora:

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Pre-Internet? Putting aside the fact that neither question would have arisen, I suppose I would have been a subscriber to the local newspaper (I worked there for almost 20 years) and maybe even back then it would have published a story about the construction just off the highway and maybe I would have read it at some point. Or perhaps I would have called the local library, as library reference desks were once a standard tool for newspaper reporters. Or maybe I would have pulled over into the breakdown lane, hopped the guardrail, and wandered around until I found someone who could tell me what was going on.

More likely I would have gotten over my curiosity.

Today answering such a question more often than not takes only an Internet connection and 10 seconds. In fact, answering such questions quickly online has become so reliable that it is the rare occasion when Googling it doesn't work that is truly remarkable.

My children will never know what it's like to have such a mundane question occur yet not have the answer at their fingertips. They take this magic for granted.

I try my best not to.    

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