The internet as we have come to know it has been around for about two decades now, which has been more than enough time for it to totally change the way we did things before. Not that it really takes all that long for the latest gadget or viral trend these days to turn us into a slightly more moronic society… but safe to say, we’ve mostly forgotten how difficult it was to do many of the things that the information superhighway has made so much easier for us now that the world is just a flat screen away from us…
Believe it or not, back in 1988 people still had to turn to encyclopedias to do research on stuff they needed to learn about. While Rowan and Martin looked things up in their Funk & Wagnalls, Encyclopedia Britannica wanted to make sure you turned to their alphabetical tomes full of knowledge instead…
Britannica sought out the biggest spoiled brat they could find to help hawk their renowned reference set.
Ed Begley III rattles off this long list of things his parents have bought him… a computer, a video camera, a compact disc player, a pretty pony. While he’s bitching about how none of these marvels of late 80’s technology will actually help him with his schoolwork, we’re all ready to shove his silver spoon up his golden boy ass since we didn’t have any of that cool shit when we were kids. And you can best believe that was subtly hinting at how wealthy you were gonna have to be to order the encyclopedias that are the one thing that eludes this real life Richie Rich, besides a girlfriend that is…
With this 69 volume set of encyclopedias, our hero will no longer have to venture down to the library and suffer wedgies from the staff there. Imagine, all of the information you could possibly want right at your fingertips! Well, it sure sounded like a hell of a great concept in 1988 when computers were only good for starting World War III and playing The Oregon Trail…
This commercial has something to annoy just about anyone’s tastes. The high pitched, whiny stereotypical nerd voice of our young, bespectacled thespian… the facepalmingly cheesy fourth wall breaks…. the fact that the advertising budget Encyclopedia Britannica put out for this commercial was mostly wasted on the expensive gadget props, leaving nothing left to buy a real background to cover up the glaring white space that looked even worse on the old boob tubes of the time. Maybe whoever shot this piece of shit spot should have looked up “Advertising” in Volume 2, “Abscess – Ass”…
Oh, and just so it could sound extremely ironic when it was viewed by retro ad scholars like myself in the near future, Encyclopedia Britannica claimed its reference set was your “key to the information age!” Ha ha ha ha!!! Jolly good show, ol’ chap! That must be some of that fabled British humour of yours, EB. Of course, how were you to ever know that you would become obsolete before the ink on your photos of space exploration even dried…
In 1992, four years after this ad first aired, Encyclopedia Britannica finally released the much anticipated sequel we were all on the edge of our beanbag chairs waiting for. If you thought the one week cliffhangers that I put you through during my Millionaire Journey kept you in painful anticipation, it was practically cause for celebration when we could finally find out what grade our evil genius got on his dumbass report about space exploration…
Oh darn, he only got a B+ because he found so much great information in the Encyclopedia Britannica, that he put it all in and bored his teacher to death with his long ass fucking single spaced paper printed out in dot matrix. Oh well, at least it looks like he didn’t lose any points for plagiarism…. though it will be pretty hard for him to get accepted to The University of Southeastern West Virginia Polytechnic now so he can pursue his degree in Applied Assholery…
But hey, he scored an A on his paper for Science class on the human body! In exactly what high school science class would one be likely to do a report on a subject as general as the human body? That’s the kind of paper that usually gets assigned to kids who still have to line up for recess and arm themselves with cootie spray. Something tells me our Mr. Smarty Pants isn’t quite as brilliant as he’d like us to think he is. One thing’s for certain… it looks like his parents have confiscated all of that cool stuff off his desk that they’d bought for him in a moment of weakness, probably because his report cards had more F bombs on them than a George Carlin routine. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t been held back and is in the same grade as he was for the first commercial.
Like most sequels, this one just can’t live up to the high quality of the original. This one quickly devolves into a speech on the environment that would make Al Gore take a moment to politely applaud before going back to lighting aerosol cans on fire. Back in the early 90’s, the hot button ecological topic was how the rain forests were being destroyed at a rate of about ten trillion acres per second. “We’ve gotta save this place,” our career student says while wiping an Iron Eyes Cody tear from his cheek. Just how many trees went into making that set of books you’re shilling for, Nature Boy? “Hypocrisy” is in Volume 13, “Hymen – Jackass”…
Sadly, there was never another update to this commercial… so we have no idea how our favorite douchebag did on his term paper about huffing insecticide or that doctoral thesis on the possum bifurcated penis that scored him a D-minus and got him sent to the principal’s office. We’ll never find out if he’ll even make it out of 10th grade. But at least we can rest assured he’ll have his beloved Encyclopedia Britannica set to keep him productive in school while the rest of his classmates are making turkeys by tracing their hands on paper.
Sure, we can look up anything we want to by entering search terms into Google so they can become part of our online tracking profile for perpetuity. But there was once a day when the world wasn’t at our virtual fingertips, and for being there with accessible information that was only a couple decades outdated, The Nest would like to give a library hushed salute to the Encyclopedia Britannica. We braved paper cuts, musty paper smells, and crippling hernias to absorb the enlightenment of your printed word… and while Wikipedia may have turned you into nothing more than expensive paperweights and stepstools, we will not cry for you, oh obsolete Britannica. No, if you’re looking for sympathy, might we suggest you pull out Volume 42, “Shit – Syphilis”….
I sometimes can’t imagine what we did before google or the internet… I remember that we pondered 3 days about the name of the singer of “morning has broken” (cat stevens duh LOL) many many many moons ago.today we even ask google first before we ask our dogtor when we feel not well… that’s scary…
Oh, people today would be sooooo lost if they suddenly got transported back in time 30 years…. even more so than Mr. McFly did. 30 years ago, if you were caught talking into an invisible earpiece, they locked you away in a room with lots of padding…
We had the EB at home, probably bought in 1988? What I remember is that we had them at school too along with World Book Encyclopedias. Not gonna lie, I was an encyclopedia snob. Everyone else would use WB during library time to look up whichever president we were writing about; I would use EB without all the colorful pictures in it. It was like reading a classic vs. Highlights at the time.
EB also had the awesome additional references. Science, medical,etc. I kind of wish we had kept them if only to “remember when…”
YAY for the Highlights reference! I modeled my life after my hero Goofus….
The only reference book that ever intrigued me in the library was the huge 10 billion page, 16 ton unabridged dictionary on the pedestal that had all of the naughty words in it. Heck with Goofus, Beavis and Butthead were my heroes as well…
Uhhhhhh… Heh, heh.
Looking back, I always wonder: how did we survive the cheesiness of the 80’s? That commercial is a perfect example! BTW, I should not have read this while cleaning my glasses. I laughed so hard I accidentally inhaled some glass cleaner. 🙂
In the hundred or so retro posts I’ve done on this blog, I have always been amazed at how our view of what’s cheesy, campy, creepy, etc. has changed over the years. Everything is so kawaii cute these days, but take a look at what the McDonaldland characters of the 70’s looked like! Nightmare fuel for little minds!
I used to do retro ad posts like this every Tuesday, and then fell off the wagon late last year. Hopefully I can get back on track and keep the laughs coming for everyone!
I grew up with The Book of Knowledge, the ultimate “children’s encyclopedia. It was great. It was more of less in chronological order and instead of explanations, it had great articles and stories. Poems, literature. Everything. If you were me (and I know that’s what you yearn to be, really), you could just sit and read various stuff from the BOK and never get bored. Then again, maybe you were outside building tree forts.
When I grew up, got married (I was 18 — younger than my granddaughter is now, shudder), we wanted an encyclopedia. Finally, a salesman called. We were ready. YES we said. We want it. Husband was teaching at the college I was attending (one of THOSE relationships), so we got an educational discount, but the poor salesman didn’t know what to do. He had a spiel and we weren’t letting him do it. Finally, we just let him do his thing and THEN we bought it.
I took it to Israel with me where my cockatoo ate it. I do not know if he was in pursuit of knowledge, or just liked the taste of leather bindings and high quality paper.
Just a story. About an encyclopedia.
I spent most of my youth, especially the latter half of it, drawing and writing and developing the warped sense of humor I’m known for. I doubt I could’ve built a tree fort… the only arboreal skill this squirrel had was falling out of them…
I always hated those commercials..thanks for ripping that guy a new one!
My pleasure! I missed ripping all the stupid shit of yesteryear… gotta get back in that habit!
Yay for retroing retro day! OMG I remember that kid with his doofy glasses and Daryl Hall shirt. I didn’t click your play but I can hear his voice in my head. Didn’t the have Encarta by 1988? Well, maybe not Encarta, but at least Grolier’s?
My grandma has a set of Britannica’s from the 30s (the Dionne Quints were a new entry!), but I prefer World Book. My sister opened the front door in 197…. and let a World Book salesman in the door. They used to sit in the dining room and everybody (especially my dad) would grab a volume when they sat down with some cereal or some kind of snack and just start reading. Maybe that’s why I know so much random shit. Now they’re in my office aka the back bedroom and I still pull one out once in a while for fun. Good times…..
Also, the analemma is the best thing I’ve ever learned from your blog! Every time I see a globe (generally on tv) I look for the ribbon.
PS: You’re welcome for the shit and syphilis.
Hey, that didn’t come out right……
I have no idea what computer software was available at the time since my only exposure to computers (prior to the ancient year of 2002) was at school. Back in, oh around 1989, one of the local stores had a deal where they were selling one volume of the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia each week. We built up our collection to N before money became too tight to buy any more. So for the remainder of my school career, I had a tendency to do reports on subjects only in the first half of the alphabet!
I’d say the knowledge of the analemma is a fair trade for the shit to syphilis Dadism… and yes, I knew as soon as I started this post that I was gonna end on that gag…
1. You didn’t have a computer unti 2002? and
2. You had computers in school??? Damn, we didn’t even have electric typewriters until we got to high school. And that makes me sound so much damned older than I even am…..
I got my first computer in 1993 (I still remember….it was $1199 and that didn’t even include the monitor or the Epson daisy printer.) and it had Grolier, but I don’t remember if Encarta came a little bit later.
See what you missed not being around on the Bored much during my first few years there? I was infamous for my “Web TV Thingie” (as KT so dubbed it), a cable knockoff of the original internet over TV device. When the cable company canceled the service in October 2002, it was finally time for us to get the real thing…
I’d imagine computers were in most schools by the 80’s. We had Apple IIe’s…. damn, I miss those things! I even learned to write simple programs in BASIC on them… but mostly, they were for playing “educational games”…. like dying on the Oregon Trail or chasing criminals across the globe in Carmen Sandiego….
The good old days when animated movies weren’t made solely with the idea of licensed merchandise in mind!
That was one of my favorite Robin Williams movies.
Since there’s apparently a limit on replies…..
No, I know about the WebTV but I wasn’t talking about internet access, I was talking about just a computer. I had Prodigy dial up with my groovy 28.8 modem, which was like AOL when the web was a separate thing, but I don’t think I had actual free-range internet until 1997-8 or thereabouts.
Before that I mostly used the computer from computer games like 7th Guest, which were like 70-80 bucks a pop back then. You know, when I wasn’t rockin’ the 8 bit ‘tendo…..
OK… nope, no real computer of any kind until ’02. Best we had was a word processor that looked more like a fancy typewriter (It also sucked for doing reports, so I kept doing them on my handy dandy electric typewriter I had, even through college).
I think the reply button goes away after a reply to a reply… at least in my theme. I’ve seen blogs where a reply link will be on every comment regardless of how far right they go. You can still reply “in thread” by responding via the Notification link in the upper right corner…
OMG the hours I put in tracking down obscure articles to pad out I mean support my theories! I still love libraries but love not having to travel and wait and wade and photocopy and… 😀
And naturally, all of this had to come out literally right after I got out of school! I was the last generation of students who couldn’t just research a paper on the internet. I don’t miss those microfilm machines at all!
Wow, it’s, like, Wikipedia but in book form! And even after several years when it’s hopelessly out of date, probably still more accurate 🙂
You are probably right about that! It’s hard for some clueless geek to edit an Encyclopedia Britannica article….
I came from a World Book family. Nothing so highbrow as Encyclopedia Britannica in my life. Don’t think I even knew about them until I got to college.
However, vis-à-vis “cootie spray” I’ll share with you that in my town we were more sophisticated than a mere spray. Instead, we inoculated each other from cooties.
Circle, circle. Dot, dot. Now you have the cooties shot.
Ha! These need to be advertised like the flu shots are. Have you had your cooties vaccine this year?
I remember how annoying these commercials were. “I think we made that abundantly clear.” People get their asses kicked for saying stuff like that.
There are times when kids get beaten up for perfectly legitimate reasons. I think it’s abundantly clear that this would be one of them….
And growing up, I had a set of World Books from the 60s. They were quite useful in learning what vice presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson had to say about visiting the moon.
Well, he was a governor of my home state of Illinois, and managed not to end up in prison. That’s quite an achievement there….
I’m reminded that really, really big glasses were fashionable then. Took me years past their Fashion Expiration Date to switch out mine.
I think we had the World Book at home. Also, a series of children’s books called Childcraft. My favorite was Make and Do, which included a sewing pattern, **that I still use to this day,** for a marionette/plush figure. Good times.
My first computer was in 1985, and not due to a rich mom, but because it was the top prize at my high school graduation. Oh, the vivid memories of my fellow students booing when my name was announced (I was… not a popular person).
An Apple 2C, 128K and all. Floppy disks back when they were actually floppy. Mostly it was just a word processor for college papers, where I slaved away on papers about diverse subjects such as Science. Not branches of it. I said SCIENCE!
By the way, the narrator in the commercials sounds like Stan Freberg. He might have written/produced them, in fact. His specialty was “snark” in ads, and this is right up there.
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