When I was a child, having a set of encyclopaedias in the home was quite a status symbol. Responsible parents turned themselves inside out to provide their kids with a set, to ensure that they had the best possible homework assistance at their fingertips. The disadvantaged kids had to queue up at the library for their information. We lucky owners were ranked according to whether we owned a set of Groliers (like ours), World Book, Funk & Wagnel, or the ultimate - Britannica.
I can still remember the powerful emotions I felt whenever I handled a volume - as though all the mysteries of the world were there in my hands to be siphoned up and absorbed.
Now we have the internet. Something we never could have imagined in those days. And it's vast - with so many bells and whistles - and always up-to-date. And now, even as a wrinkly senior, I feel the same thrill about the internet as I did with those encyclopaedias long ago.
Our children grew up with Funk & Wagnel. I remember the pangs when they had all moved on and I realized it was time to discard the dusty row of books from the top shelf.
Now I'm eyeing off a few other old faithfuls that have also had their day. It's good to start scaling down on possessions - thinking ahead to the time when we will eventually have to pack up and move into more compact, aged accommodation.
I know I haven't opened my Reader's Digest Medical Adviser for a year or two. Published in '84, it is now very definitely 'old hat'. All my health related queries are answered so much better on-line. I can see that other books like atlases, dictionaries, telephone directories, cook-books and various manuals will soon go the same way.
That's progress ... and it goes down well with me.