Thursday, January 19, 2006

The World Wide Web

What did we do for research before the Web came along? While it's (very) true that a non-trivial percentage of the information on the Web is complete bunk, even it's detractors can't deny the usefulness of being able to search for the information you need right from your desktop. My Civil Air Patrol squadron has a big inspection coming up in a couple of weeks and like an idiot, I volunteered to take over a position in the squadron that's been vacant for years. I needed to re-create a full set of training records on each member of the squadron. Normally that would mean calling CAP Headquarters on the phone, having someone track the relevant records down for me, mail them to me, and then I would frantically try to get everything typed up= and organized the day before the inspection.

Ah, but the CAP has joined the 21st Century and most of the personnel records are available on-line, if you have the proper authorizations -- and because of my new appointment, I do. The records aren't complete, and some entries don't make sense (such as the guy who qualified as a Misison Pilot -- the highest qualification -- before he qualified as a Pilot, the lowest qualification), but probably 70% of everything I need is there. I was able to cut and paste the info form the Web into a Word version of the training record (also downloaded form the national site). I'll email it out to each member of the squadron tomorrow and let them fill in what few blanks remain. If push comes to shove, though, what I have will match national's records, so we should pass that part of the inspection even with what I have now.

I distinctly remember teaching a course to a bunch of teachers that included use of the Internet -- FTP, Gopher, telnet, etc. There was this new thing called "Mosaic" (the term World Wide Web hadn't been invented yet), but it wasn't much more than a front end for FTP. There were very, very few sites. I told the group then that I wasn't impressed with it, and that I couldn't see it replacing the search tools like Gopher that we'd been using for years.

Called that one a bit wrong, didn't I? :)

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