9.179 serendipitous synergy on the Internet

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sun, 24 Sep 1995 19:59:48 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 179.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: James O'Donnell <jod@ccat.sas.upenn.edu> (28)
Subject: synergy

I don't know what to make of this, but it seems to be a sign of
something. On a Saturday night, addressing a greeting card, I wish to
know a zip code. It's in a city I know fairly well, but the precise zip
code escapes me. Post office not open. No ZIP Code directory handy.
Can't call up the addressee, because that would spoil the pleasure of the
greeting card.
Fire up the WWW and try Yahoo for "zip". Get lots and lots of
hits. Most of them either relating to the computer utility programs that
"zip" files into compressed format or else to business activities that
promise speed and perkiness. Get tired scrolling down, so try a "Find"
for "code" and land on a resource for Ham radio operators:
telnet://callsign.cs.buffalo.edu:2000/ -- offers to let you look up other
ham radio operators by name, callsign, city, or zip code. OK, I think,
I'll bite. Two seconds later I've clicked and telnetted in and get a
very slick and simple little search routine. One minute later I've
confirmed by comparing addresses that I've got the zip code I need. The
*other* think I've learned is that there are a *lot* of ham radio
operators out there -- not sure I know anybody who self-identifies
publicly that way, but gosh there were a lot of licenses out there, all
over this quiet residential neighborhood.
I guess my point is that these tools allow a lot of non-standard
search paths and a lot of synergies of kinds of information and a *lot*
of serendipity. Oh, we'll settle down to a nice quiet universal zip code
directory soon enough (it's probably out there *somewhere*: I just
didn't find it, and that's a negative about the current state of things),
but I'm betting the oddly useful juxtapositions continue as well.

Jim O'Donnell
Classics, U. of Penn