Let your fingers do the walking.

Posted On: Tuesday - March 19th 2024 10:04PM MST
In Topics: 
  General Stupidity  Internets  Humor  History  Americans

We're running into Peak Stupidity mission creep here. This is one of these deals by which one potential post has quickly turned into four in my head. The original is about what I think is somewhat of a scam on-line - partly my bad search capabilities, I'll admit - but I needed some background that would make it go on too long. Therefore, here I'll give that background, and it's kind of a fun look at the recent past. The Curmudgeonry tag won't even appear this time, as I believe this change is generally for the better.

For those PS readers under 30 y/o, maybe even 35, if there are any, this may be an interesting revelation and for the rest, hopefully it'll be some nostalgia. For the former, let me explain that the internet has not always been "there".

"When you needed to know something, what did you do then?"
We might have asked someone who knew, or failing that, would have had to go get a book. One might have had to buy one or perhaps find one at the library.
"Yeah, your phones were these old "brick" things, right?"
No, they were on the wall or on a desk.
"OK, so you couldn't use them for this, but you could just sit down and search it up..."
No, I mean there was no internet.
"Surely, you could go to the library to use the computers and ..."
No, I mean there was no internet, and don't call me Shirley.
"Hah, that's a new one! Anyway, what the... well I guess you'd just have had to look up an expert on LinkedIn or, well, no, then email a bunch of people who might be able to help ..."

See that guy - his name is Jean Luc Picard. His predecessor in the 1960s Star Fleet didn't have the internet either, and neither did this guy, in the 1980s.
"Yeah, well, sure, when you're thousands of parsecs away, the signal can be pretty weak, and ..."
Do you want me to have to paste this picture in again?

No, see, to look up the phone numbers for people and businesses there were these big books we'd get from the phone company every year called "the White Pages" and "the Yellow Pages", respectively. (In case you're wondering, no, there were no Black! pages for residences and people of the ghettos, and the Yellow pages didn't just cover Chinatown. We were all integrated, phone book wise.).

In a small town, the white and yellow pages might be combined into one book 1/2" or 3/4" thick, while in a medium sized city each of them could be up to 2 1/2" or so thick. They'd get delivered to one's house every year around the same time. Though the white pages had the names that appeared on residents' phone bills in alphabetical order, the yellow pages had business names and bigger ads categorized, then in alphabetical order within. I imagine categories would come and go. Buggy and Buggy Accessories might have been taken out in the 1940s or '50s, while Internet Companies* may have been added in either 1995 or '96, by my best guess.

Speaking of internet companies, it took a few years before there was enough information on the internet to make a search for people or businesses worthwhile. Of course, there were websites made based on the old white pages and yellow pages information, such as, well, yeah, whitepages.com and yellowpages.com. At this point the latter don't work worth a damn for the finding of phone numbers. Those land lines for which information used to be (at least) readily available are almost a thing of the past, and people are loath to give out their cell numbers due to the robo and other junk calls.

I'm no early adopter of "Tech", but by the turn of the century it was usually easier to sit down and try a search for a business before going to the yellow pages. Something we are used to now is that we can find out information for places out of town. Well, no, it was NOT easy back with the phone books! To get information on businesses out of town one might have to go, yes, to the library, where they'd have at least phone books for around the State. Being able to search nation- and world-wide for stuff is something we take for granted, but it has been thus for only one quarter of a century.

There was a long lag, when the phone books kept coming, and they were good for the shooting range only, for most of us. Interestingly, at one point, we got more than one, maybe even three different, yellow page books. There was competition, but this was late in the game. I don't know exactly, but I will say it's been 8 to 10 years since the phone books stopped coming. The web had been more useful for a decade prior already.

That was a lot of paper being used and a big effort with the yearly delivery of these millions of 5 lb books. Peak Stupidity has noticed that Green is the new cheap-ass, meaning not so much that becoming more efficient and saving on materials and energy makes one a cheap-ass. It's just that this being economical is usually advertised as "going green" because "we care about the carbon", rather than what it is, good economics.

Now, about the post title here. That was an ad on TV - "Let your fingers do the walking". I got the clever line, but I didn't get the point. The yellow pages were the yellow pages, with no competition then. Who were they selling this service to? By this time, even contemporary oldsters would not have found walking all around to shop useful. The small Mayberry downtowns were gone, and the walkable White inner cities were LONG gone.

That's some background for people under 30-35. I want to relate some humor about the yellow pages, then write a short post about how the white pages worked, and finally get to my point about internet business searches.

* "Providers" was the term used later on.

Thursday - March 21st 2024 6:13AM MST
PS: Mr. Hail, regarding the 4 suggestions:

1) On the incidents (and accidents, going back to the 737-MAX) I have some insight with detail that are often written about by confused people. (Oops, I sound like Run Unz here, haha!) As for the big picture on Boeing, I know something, but mostly would be speculating. The story is very political too now, and with that Q/A guy suicided in the parking lot in Charleston, SC, this is getting to be a complicated story.

2) Maybe as a comparison to what could happen here, the military Junta's taking over the government might be interesting, if that's what you mean. Otherwise, sorry to say it, but I AM inclinded to say "That's Africa for you". ;-}

3) Yes, good idea. I "noticed" on VDare that Mr. Sailer's book is finally out, a relief because I'd noticed every week or two when thinking about it, that "hey, I never got my 3 copies." That's good to know. Yes, I should look at the date and put a post up to help, as little as it may. I can also review it, but if it's a compendium of columns, I'd have read it all, and it would be too much to try to review it all. I could remark on how the book is organized, what the concentrations are (of subjects), etc.

Haha, prone to seasickness. I did notice that one of the blurb suggestions had his name spelled wrongly this way.

4) We can do that anytime. I should start asking more if commenters are OK with this. There are lots that could be posts.
Adam Smith
Thursday - March 21st 2024 4:38AM MST
PS: Good morning, Tim!

Many thanks for the link. I don't have much time this morning, but at a quick glance sgammo looks like they have good prices and good availability on some of the hard-to-find-in-stock flavors of ammo.

I'll take a better look after work. I'm inclined to buy some of their 000 buck...


(I haven't seen that available in ages.)

Thanks again! ☮️
Thursday - March 21st 2024 3:41AM MST

"I probably can't get to any posts today though, as many as I have built up..."

Can we submit requests for post-topics, to cram into the potential-post pipeline?

Let me take the liberty:

1.) Your ideas on the Boeing crisis (if it can be so called, a crisis). See also PS No.2910, on Fischer King's Theory on Boeing's Decline, ca. 2000 to 2025 (and ongoing);

2.) Haiti crisis, in which politicized paramilitaries ("gangs") have toppled the government, being maybe of more interest to examine than saying "That's Africa for you";

3.) Imminent general-release of the Steve Sailer book. He requested assistance with marketing. I suggested on Twitter than he create a character called "Sailor Steve" or "Steve the Sailor" to help boost interest, but he said he couldn't pull it off because he's "prone to seasickness."

4.) An "Post Ideas" thread encouraging regulars to submit post-ideas (like the above three), or chatter away about anything, from which post-ideas could come.
Thursday - March 21st 2024 12:20AM MST

-- Phone Book, Internet searches, spamming, "gaming the system," and social-trust decline, continued --

Moderator wrote: "There are more choices now, say for searching business, but will they all find the all-encompassing list the yellow pages would have?"

Besides the "all-encompassing list" part, you also don't know the provenance of much of what you find online, when it's found "cold." (This doesn't apply to looking up a phone-number or street-address for a known company.)

The cost of scams of some kind, or "gaming the system" in various ways, is considerably lower in the Internet-search era, although some basic principles from the phone-book era persist: the Google top-result "sponsored ad" is the digital equivalent to the big-size block-ad in the phone-book; both acquired by paying a great deal extra money to the distributor of the info.

But the gaming-the-system part of the Internet adds to the parallel-reality nature of it. Peak Stupidity has often mentioned the huge fall-off in quality of "Google Results" that occurred over the course of the 2010s. This is related. It's hard to imagine any social-situation in which a phone-book would have a similar fall-off in quality, the phone-book filling up with fake listings and scams and idiots spamming nonsense, and so on, while the good people are often banned entirely.

(I can add here that the biggest Youtube "content-creators" do not actually produce things that are by some objective standard "best"; they get big in part by studying the "algorithms" and "SEO" and doing exactly what is necessary to exploit all the little loopholes.)

In the age of Wokeness and Big Tech, it's always possible to directly undermine a local guy who runs any kind of business who is known to be anti-Wokeness, just by a few hidden waves of a few hands in far-flung locations, which would have all been quite difficult or impossible in the phone-book era.

In the phone-book era, I don't know that there were ever, or ever could have been, cases of a cabal within the phone-book company conspiring to silence voices of people they disliked. Someone thinking this was going on to him might well qualify the man for being a sufferer of "paranoid delusions" back then ("the electric company is out to get me"). The thing is, by the time of the mature Internet era some time in the 2010s, it's not only "true," it also became somewhat obvious and well-known, at least to the few who pay attention and care. Back in the phone-book era, the listings were just a neutral public record, treated like weather-reports, baseball-scores, or tv-show listings.

-- --

In other news, and related to much of the above thematically: former senior Trump advisor Peter Navarro has now reported to prison.

On Monday, the African attorney-general of New York may move to seize all of the Trump Organization's assets for (something-something reasons), including his jet.
Tim Berline
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 6:02PM MST

Adam Smith

Try these folks
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 5:40PM MST
PS: "Remember the scammer callers who would call small businesses and sell them ad space in the Yellow Pages? Right up there with cold callers to sell you copier & fax toner." I think my business was too obscure to even warrant that, Alarmist. I missed out.

I did have some phone with some of the telemarketers though. It's more phone when they are human, not software.

Mr. Blanc, yes, 4-1-1, but maybe that code came after the time you mean. I was going to write about that in the post on the White Pages. I probably can't get to any posts today though, as many as I have built up ...
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 5:36PM MST
PS: Also, Mr. Hail, sometimes I get lazy about looking up details - in this case on things that happened before my memory of the yellow pages and that add. I appreciate your additional info.

From Adam Smith:

:Phone books. This post is about phone books.
My comment should be about phone books..."

Haha, I don't at all mind reading about the deals on ammo, though I wasn't looking for .410. I should probably know this, but how many shells are in each of these boxes (sounds like a standard "box'"). I was just talking to someone about suppressers right before making this comment.

Paul Craig Roberts, eh? What about MTG? I would be shy about calling her to ask her out. ;-} Back before caller ID, at least shy guys could hang up 5 times, and she MIGHT not know it's you. Caller ID changed "the dynamic" long ago in a way too, though not nearly as much as the internet or smart phones.
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 5:27PM MST
PS: Thank you for the synopsis of the difference in mentality the internet has caused between generations, Mr. Hail. That adds a lot to this post.

While I was writing this one, I did think about what you discussed in your 3rd and 4th paragraphs. Yes, things were more structured and dependable. There are more choices now, say for searching business, but will they all find the all-encompassing list the yellow pages would have?

No, I've never knowingly seen anybody use the chat bots as you wrote about, but maybe I'm not hanging around with enough younger people to have seen this.

The whole manner of thinking has been changed by internet search. This is a subject for much writing - one I've been reading is from the Atlantic about the mind of the young generation that cannot remember a time before the internet.
The Alarmist
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 4:13PM MST

But “magneto reluctance” sounds like a bad thing, like vaxx hesitancy. No wonder the government put the kibosh on the Turbo Encabulator.

Fred the Gator
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 3:14PM MST
PS I don't know why I thought of this when "trannys" were mentioned:

Adam Smith
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 12:35PM MST
PS: Good evening, Mr. Alarmist!

I do remember the before times. When "dropping a tranny" meant wrenching under the car. Before it was a hate crime. We talked a little about trannys in the comments under this post...


Hope you and the missus have a great evening.

Cheers! ☮️
The Alarmist
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 11:38AM MST

Afternoon, Mr Smith et al....

Remember when a Tranny was an auto part, and talking about dropping one wasn’t hate speech?

Wednesday - March 20th 2024 10:06AM MST
PS Phone books. “Information please”. The Sears and Wards catalogs. The card catalogue at the library. Not as spiffy as the things we have now, but things got done. And I believe that you’d find that just about everyone was more content.
Adam Smith
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 10:05AM MST
PS: Well aren't I a Chatty Cathy today...

BTW. angine = engine...
But you all knew that.

Later... ☮️
Adam Smith
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 9:58AM MST
PS: Good afternoon, Messrs. Hail, Alarmist & Moderator!

Remember the rack full of parts catalogs at the auto parts store?



Now they just do all the parts searching on the computer.

My local parts store still has these old catalogs behind the counter. Every so often, almost always when working on something old, we can find some part interchange number or some other such info that helps us locate the part we need.

One time this proved especially handy when I was working on a mid 60's Chrysler Industrial 318. It was damn near impossible to find a proper water pump for it. (I ordered several that I had to return before I finally found the right NOS one on ebay.) 'twas even more impossible to find proper crankshaft and water pump pulleys for it. (Unfortunately, the catalogs were of no help in finding the pulleys.) I eventually ordered pulleys from these people...


And it was a mismatched set of sorts. I ended up using an underdrive crank pulley designed for a chevy small block as it was the only one that would fit this beast of an angine. There was a little trial and error involved and cvfracing was very helpful.

While the old catalogs helped us locate some part numbers, we 𝑛𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟 would have found the parts without the interwebs.

Perhaps things were better 35 years ago?


As Achmed might remember, I recently went on a quest to find .410 handgun ammo. It used to be easy to find, and relatively cheap, but that is no longer the case. I've always bought ammo locally, as I live in a very gun friendly place, but I just couldn't find it anywhere. (Not that I traveled far and wide searching for it.) Which lead me to the interwebs...

The first place I found some was here...


So I bought a few boxes, (then a few more), and before too long opticsplanet ran out and placed it on backorder.

Probably because of the lack of availability in general and the state of the U.S. more specifically, I decided I didn't have enough and that I'd like some more. So I resumed my search. Then late one night I found 5 boxes at this store...

(They only list stuff that is in stock on their website.)

And while it was a little pricier than it should be ($30/box with tax and shipping), they had it in stock. So I ordered the 5 boxes. The next morning they had it in the mail before 11am. It arrived a few days later. (Shout out to the good folks at Gable Sporting Goods for handling my order quickly! Always happy to buy from a small, local business.)

But given the state of the world, and the alleged powder shortage, and the shortage of 410 ammo in general and the ongoing primer shortage and the possibility that I'll never find this ammo again in the future because the world is so stupid, I decided to buy some more. So after a bit of searching I finally found another retailer that had some in stock...


So I ordered 15 more boxes. (Apparently they had 17 in stock. Someone else bought the other 2 boxes a short time later.) And sure enough they got them in the mail to me in a timely matter. A few days later they arrived. (When you order ammo from Mile High Shooting they require a signature upon delivery. Probably a good idea. Maybe even a better idea than just leaving it on the porch like the other companies do. Just be sure there is an adult at home to sign for the package come delivery time.)

So now I feel like I probably have enough 410 handgun ammo for the [s]zombie apocalypse or the[/s] race war that is likely headed our way. (I've also stocked up on other flavors of ammo for the same reasons listed above. And because prices are unlikely to go down. And also because I can trade boxes of ammo for other goods and services if the SHTF.)

Not sure why I'm telling this story here. I guess in the old days I would have to find this stuff local, which in this case was not an option. Without the interwebs I would not have found any 410 handgun ammo. (Which isn't the end of the world as my revolver also shoots .45lc and .45acp and because we have other guns.)

Well, actually, I did find a couple boxes of federal 410 #6 shot at the local WalMart the other day. And they wanted $30 a box for it!


I don't know why there is a shortage of 410 ammo. Some people say it is due to the popularity of the 410/45 revolvers. Some people say it is an artificial shortage. I don't know. Fortunately I don't need any more 410 varmint as I have a few boxes so I'll pass at $30 a box.


(I haven't done business with these companies, but they do seem to have some 410 in stock. The more well known retailers, that I know of, are all out of stock.)


Phone books. This post is about phone books.
My comment should be about phone books...

I still get a phone book delivered to the house about once a year. It's small, because it only lists land lines and because I live in a somewhat rural area, but it does have some yellow pages and the white pages for several of the surrounding counties.

Fun Fact: Paul Craig Roberts landline phone number is listed in my local phone book.

And if I ever want to call him (can't imagine I would) I won't have to look it up on the internet.

Score +1 for the paperback phonebook! (I guess?)

Generally, the phonebook doesn't make it much further than my fire pit. So I guess that's another +1 point for the phonebook. Can't start a fire with a search engine, even if google's main purpose in the world is to make hot water...




Cheers! ☮️
The Alarmist
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 8:35AM MST

Remember the scammer callers who would call small businesses and sell them ad space in the Yellow Pages? Right up there with cold callers to sell you copier & fax toner.

Wednesday - March 20th 2024 5:45AM MST
PS: Yes, I just read through your recent comments on the site, Mr. Hail. Thank you so much for spending the time to write serious theses here. I have quite a bit to reply to, especially on the PanicFest and your opinion of a mass stampede, in so many words, more than just millions of people who abandoned common sense of their own volition. I'll find the time later in the day to write back.

I know it's not easy to navigate and find everyone's (or ANYone's) writings as it is on unz.com. My apologies are due for that. It's my laziness in just continuing the writing rather than spending the time it will take to make better functionality here.
Wednesday - March 20th 2024 2:57AM MST

Re: the specific slogan "Let your fingers do the walking"

Someone came up with it in 1960 or 1961. It sounded like a good slogan, and was put into use already by 1962, almost immediately becoming recognizable as a slogan.

The marketing-slogan continued to be recognizable as of the 1990s. But by that time, as you say, it was a real anachronism.

When introduced in the early 1960s, well, it was still considered the norm to have downtown shopping districts, wherein you could walk down "Main Street" to find businesses, or ask around if needed, also in the central business district. Things worked like that then.

It was a valid and good strategy for he who sought some good or service to show up, and walk up and down main street or the wider central business district; you really could get things done, but would impose on yourself what are called "shoeleather costs."

Also recall that adults in their thirties as of 1961 would have been born in the 1920s. It would take a while to fully get away from this mental-model. By some time in 1980s, or so, it was largely complete in most places.

The b.1990s cohort I think most would no longer recognize the slogan "Let your fingers do the walking." Many more of the b.1980s cohort would probably recall it. But it doesn't make much sense at all in the age of "Just Googling it." (That also applies to the radical transformation in the concept referred to by the word "phone.")

I like the idea of putting in "walking"-type costs in exchange for securing goods or services. It helps reinforce communities, and helps get better information and connections and little side-experiences that spice up life in all ways. There was a time when we all understood that better. In the USA, the Race Problem is also not the only blockage to reachieving something of this, but it is a central one. Some of the pathologies of Wokeness are also caused by this lack of a "commons."

A symbolic moment for the decline of central business districts does very much tie-in with the Race Problem, specifically the mid-late 1960s riots During the April 1968 riots in Washington D.C., Black rioters targeted the city's downtown shopping district by about the second or third day. That central business district never really recovered, despite the huge magnet of money that Washington D.C. was already then and became even more by now. Competition from suburban malls and things easily picked up the slack, and Whites largely abandoned Washington as a living city. Within a few years the Blacks remaining had elected a crack-addict as mayor (and later funded a giant statue of him).

In the April 1968 riots in Washington, the national guard had been placed under orders to cede the downtown White business district to the rioters, after the rioters had arson'ed their own Black business districts in outerlying areas of the city. The decision to cede the business district was because the decision-makers decided all resources should focus on protecting the federal buildings and the White House area, which was done successfully with no real damage or casualties to White federal-workers or property (but a few Whites were said to be beaten to death in outlying areas). "Haiti" existed in Washington D.C. by that time, but it was always contained; a policy which held all over the USA, of course.

A for the man who coined "Let your fingers do the walking" back in 1960 or 1961: Could he have envisioned the coming few decades?
Tuesday - March 19th 2024 10:38PM MST

Americans of the b.1980s range would all remember the Yellow Pages (and White Pages). And most b.1990s would know of them, would remember them, too. Towards the later years of the b.1990s group, it would increasingly seem like some "old thing," like how people from the CD era would remember cassette-tapes. But the b.1990s group would all still remember them and know of them.

The b.2000s cohort would increasingly NOT know of the Yellow Pages. It would sound at best like talk of the "eight-track" to a generation born after they went out of use sometime in the 1980s: a vague awareness, at most, never having seen or used them oneself.

People occasionally like to talk of Generation dividing-lines, and this is clearly one of them, so it's a valuable topic, and one I've never really seen cast in this was. It's the idea that a central, basically-trusted, communal source would exist, and (importantly) one that is unchanging -- in this case, printed once or twice yearly, but often with the same local names and things in there over years and decades.

This trusted-communal source could be consulted for all needs by locals and visitors alike. Otherwise, you trusted what you yourself knew, or what your immediate circle and/or associates and neighbors knew or could do. It helped to know people. That sounds trite to say, but today it is actually, and bizarrely, no longer true that it helps to know people in many cases. for a lot of people's lifestyles, there is more "use" in being good with apps and things than knowing anyone who knows anything. They manage everything via "apps" on phones and things, including even grocery-delivery.

In the age of chatbots, some people I know now outsource lots of even simple decision-making to the chatbots, further removing analog-reality from their world view-screens. (At an unknown food-court with ten options, How do you decide? In the past, you might ask the friend your with, or the staff, or just pick randomly and try something new; now, there is a class of people that ask chatbots to decide for them, maybe based on a set of criteria like calories and fat-content, or something. I don't know how often the Peak Stupidity staff have seen this in action, but at least for me it has been a little disturbing.)

I can also say that versions of the "Yellow Pages" and "White Pages" (city and business directories) already existed back through the 19th century, and of course continued all throughout the 20th century. So the early-21st-century loss of these directories -- into a digital etherea of no one knowing for sure what's what -- is a big dividing-line.

The b.2000s cohort would tend to have no frame-of-reference for this being done in paper form. By the 2010s, when something comes up, say you need a plumber, it would simply be Googled. Whatever Google spits out at you, you trust by default. There is no other possibility.

A digitally-managed reality began to emerge in the 2000s, which became dominant by some point, maybe in the middle or later 2010s. Managed by unseen forces, completely dominating the world of possibility and reality for most people, it was n fact a new parallel-reality of its own. we were not prepared for it.

My comment here has begun to overlap significantly with my views on "the Corona-Panic of 2020" and how it happened, which I've recently commented on a lot in other posts here at Peak Stupidity.
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