Thursday, January 06, 2005

Browsing the electric shelves

This is even better than JSTOR. At least for me.

Of course, what will I do with the time that I save by having electronic access to old SIAM journals (and fighting with the math library photocopiers)? Naturally, I'll spend it finding useful things about the history of Parker pens [1, 2, 3]; then about the history of pens more generally [4, 5]; and then about the madcap adventures of a Hungarian who, among other things, spent time as a door-to-door fountain pen salesman [6].

I've been curious about the history of writing utensils at least since high school; I remember picking up this book from the Bel Air branch library many years back -- it was not only an interesting book, but also my first introduction to Petroski's writing. So I cannot claim that, were it not for the network, I wouldn't from time to time hare off after information about writing utensils, growing conditions for camelia sinesis, or the most cost-effective way to make table salt. But a computerized card catalogue -- and Google -- does make such quests a lot easier.