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Discussion Starter #1
I'm writing a time-travel story about a girl going back to the 50s, and in the past few days I had to research how much clothes cost in 1956, what movies and songs were popular, when pantyhose were invented, what cars looked like, what Elvis was doing on a particular day, how far Ojai was from Los Angeles, the layout of CBS Television City in Hollywood, what a soda fountain looked like, and what Anne Hathaway's pantyless crotch looked like.

(Ok, that last one was during one of my breaks.)

What did writers do for research before the internet?  I can only imagine hours and hours at the library, and still coming up short on certain subjects.
 

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It's an amazing tool.  My current novel is inspired by an actual manufacturing plant that was abruptly shut down and devastated a small isolated city.  The city also has a very proud HS football tradition.  I've been able to go back in time to VJ/VE day. The day JFK was assassinated.  Also research the real plant, their story and what the impact did to the city.  The coporate raiders that disabled machinery, making it nearly impossible to ever really get the plant up and running again in the future without scrapping it and starting over at some point in the future.   I wouldn't be as far into this story if it weren't for the ability to look up the local newspapers and dig up tribute articles.  Or see what impact this move had on the lives of the citizens of this city or understand why HS football was so important in their daily lives.  
 

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StrokerChase said:
Encyclopedias :eek: I'm so thankful for the internet.
I LOVE encyclopedias. I bought a complete set at a yard sale a few summers ago for $5. Everyone made fun of me, but people pull them off the shelf and randomly start reading them all the time.

But, on the research scales? Yeah, I'll take the internet.... minus Anne Hatheway's crotch.
 

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For someone as mathematically inept as me, grasping string theory and entanglement to give plausibility to my sci-fi was the biggest challenge. Good thing we can fudge it and YAY for the internet and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
 

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swolf said:
I'm writing a time-travel story about a girl going back to the 50s, and in the past few days I had to research how much clothes cost in 1956, what movies and songs were popular, when pantyhose were invented, what cars looked like, what Elvis was doing on a particular day, how far Ojai was from Los Angeles, the layout of CBS Television City in Hollywood, what a soda fountain looked like, and what Anne Hathaway's pantyless crotch looked like.

(Ok, that last one was during one of my breaks.)

What did writers do for research before the internet? I can only imagine hours and hours at the library, and still coming up short on certain subjects.
A newspaper morgue was the best source of much data in pre-digital days. I used to d*mn near live in the Macquarie Library glued to a microfiche reader. Annual Almanacs - I still have a very extensive collection - plus things like Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky's "The People's Almanac" and "Book of Lists". Penguin's "Chronology of the Modern World", many of the Oxford specialist dictionaries and companion series. Encyclopedias. travel guides, atlases, technical reference manuals. I still have several hundred reference books that were heavily used in pre Google days. It was very different.
 

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swolf said:
What did writers do for research before the internet? I can only imagine hours and hours at the library, and still coming up short on certain subjects.
YES ::). Hours of going to museums and libraries, interviewing people, visiting the places mentioned in the book etc. Extremely time-consuming, but you often got wonderful insights when doing interviews. There are things that people remember that you'll never find in a book, and those little touches are just the kind of thing that can make a story authentic.
My father-in-law was in the siege of Ladysmith when he was a young boy. He recalled a story of bullet coming through the kitchen ceiling when his mother was mixing dough in a bowl and the bullet landed in the bowl and whizzed round it like a roulette ball. I used this in one of my short stories :).

edited to add: I can now re-check some of my facts on the internet, and also part with the encyclopedias!
 

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Ah, encyclopedias! How I loved thee.

I often talk with my boys -- who are 34, 32 and 18 -- about how different the world is, just because of the internet. In a way, the planet is a lot smaller, but it's also tremendously vast.

{I just looked at my kid's ages, and I can't believe I'm old enough to have two in their thirties. Ack!}
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Yeah, on enclyclopedias.  When I was three, our dad bought us a set of World Book encyclopedias.  Growing up, I used to pull one off the shelf and read it cover to cover.  I loved the transparencies.

When my kids were young, I bought them World Book for the computer, but it just wasn't the same.
 

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swolf said:
and what Anne Hathaway's pantyless crotch looked like.
I don't know who Anne Hathaway is/was, but if she's related to Jane Hathaway (from Beverly Hillbillies) then I'm not interested.
Rumor has it Jethro wore that out.
 

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Once upon a time, every town had a library. And in every one of those libraries was a Librarian. Not just a lowercase-l-librarian, but a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the Order of Librarians.

And the thing about Librarians was, they were the secret masters of all information and knowledge.

Nowadays there are few libraries, they're only open a couple hours a week, and most of the employees are long-suffering lowercase-l-librarians hired more for their ability to deal with small children without going postal than their ability to ferret the tiniest needle of Truth from within the haystack of the, um, Stacks. And there's the Internet. Which can't do anything a good Librarian couldn't do, but can do it a lot faster, which is important in this era of instant gratification, sadly.

--George, and thus it was that secret mastery of all information and knowledge went the way of the highly-skilled mimeograph operator...
 

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Let me put an anti-internet comment out there. There is a huge amount of misinformation on the internet. Internet research can be great, but it can also be misleading. You have to judge the information on it very carefully and there are many topics that you simply must research in books, particularly if it is something that is not related to the past couple of decades.

ETA: I spent a couple of hundred dollars on actual non-fiction books this year for that mysterious activity called research.  ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
George Berger said:
Once upon a time, every town had a library. And in every one of those libraries was a Librarian. Not just a lowercase-l-librarian, but a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the Order of Librarians.

And the thing about Librarians was, they were the secret masters of all information and knowledge.

Nowadays there are few libraries, they're only open a couple hours a week, and most of the employees are long-suffering lowercase-l-librarians hired more for their ability to deal with small children without going postal than their ability to ferret the tiniest needle of Truth from within the haystack of the, um, Stacks. And there's the Internet. Which can't do anything a good Librarian couldn't do, but can do it a lot faster, which is important in this era of instant gratification, sadly.
Our libarary has a real librarian, but in my genre, some of the questions I have I just couldn't bring myself to ask her.
 

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Dan C. Rinnert said:
Transparencies? What transparencies? I'm feeling ripped off now. I don't remember getting any transparencies!
We had Britannica in our house when I was growing up. They had transparencies in the human body or human circulation (something like that) articles. :)

I used to read them cover to cover and annoy my mother by falling asleep on top of them while reading late at night.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Dan C. Rinnert said:
Transparencies? What transparencies? I'm feeling ripped off now. I don't remember getting any transparencies!
They were pages made out of clear plastic, showing layers of things. The most memorable one was the human body. They also had transparent maps and other things.

Trying to find a picture...

Here you go: (Once again, the internet comes through)

 

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swolf said:
What did writers do for research before the internet?
If you want to read a fascinating tale that answers that question, first read Maus, then read the new Meta Maus, a book-length explanation of his research.



Dan C. Rinnert said:
Transparencies? What transparencies? I'm feeling ripped off now. I don't remember getting any transparencies!
I remember them well. Anatomy, especially the circulatory system. They'd put the red blood on a transparent page that overlaid the image of the body so you could see the body with or without the blood flow. What I loved more were the maps. I thought they were so beautiful I spent part of my weekends in 5th and 6th grades copying them. It was one of my first career choices: cartographer. I learned how to read topography, learned what minerals were found in which states and countries, where the rivers flowed ... Good times!!
 

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When I first entered college, in the fall of 1971, I actually took an entire course my first semester that dealt with how to find information in the university library. Books of citations, finding the cited material, how to footnote your research. The Periodical Guide, legal references, science journals. It's still useful information in the back of my mind, but I am so happy to have the Internet to do much of the walking around for me.

valeriec80 said:
Big hooray for the street level cams on Google maps!
I use these all the time for getting a sense of the neighborhoods my characters are in. Even when I've been to the places myself, looking around the street refreshes my mind on the details.
 
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