A lament for the wildcard

How times have changed.

When I first started out in the world of Tech it was 1984, IBM had just released the first PC and Excel was an obscure program on a niche computer called the Apple Macintosh. Most small business transactions were recorded on paper.

Back then, before the birth of Google, searching for electronically stored information meant querying a database using a specific word or phrase. And the results were almost always far too narrow. Imagine it: too little information was being returned.

The ingenious solution was the Wildcard. Ever more ingenious queries could be created using a combination of Exclamation Marks (representing any single character), Star Signs (representing any group of characters) and Caret Signs (representing any character other than the one quoted).

So, for example, I wanted to know about all the Customers called Marie or Marina or Muriel but not called Mary, I could enter something along the lines of … SELECT WHERE Name LIKE ‘M!r^y*’. I cannot for the life of me remember why we did this kind of stuff, but it seemed cool at the time. Apologies to those of you who are fluent in Wildcard Queries and who may have spotted some errors in my syntax.

The Web Searchers of today seem to possess ever shorter attention spans, so the idea of having to learn this shorthand would never cut the mustard.

Too little information has given way to information overload and then some. Wildcards and Search Syntax are pretty much things of the past, confined to those dusty basement offices where SQL Programmers and DBA live.

I must say I am a little sad to see their passing. They have served us very well over the years.

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