Blogger Unearths Cultural History in 'NYT' Archives Jason English of Mental Floss Magazine has been mining the archives of The New York Times for the newspaper's very first references to things like cell phones, Labrador retrievers and iPods.
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Blogger Unearths Cultural History in 'NYT' Archives

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Blogger Unearths Cultural History in 'NYT' Archives

Blogger Unearths Cultural History in 'NYT' Archives

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So when was the first time the word iPod got mentioned in the New York Times or the first reference to the Internet? What about the context for the first story on the Walkman? When the Times puts its archives online, Jason English decided to investigate these and other first-mentions in the newspaper.

Jason English has been blogging about his discoveries at and joins us now from our studios in New York City.

Mr. English, thanks very much for being with us. What kind of terms have you been looking for?

Mr. JASON ENGLISH (Associate Web Editor, Mental Floss Magazine): We've gotten lots of stuff from the political to the technological to just the absurd, words that ended up being gateways to very interesting learning that we never knew about.

SIMON: Such as?

Mr. ENGLISH: Labrador retriever. The first mention of Labrador retriever isn't something many people would care about, but the article from May 3rd 1914 is rather interesting.

(Reading) An innovation has lately been made by a player on the Tyneside golf course at Rytown, which is likely to be adopted on other courses, particularly where engaged couples like to indulge in the game without human observers. At Rytown, in order to overcome the difficulties created by a scarcity of caddies, the player in question trains his dog, a Labrador retriever, to carry his clubs and hunt for lost balls.

SIMON: A Labrador retriever as a caddie, I've never seen that.

Mr. ENGLISH: Maybe this will catch on again. I have a dog - I can't imagine that Bailey(ph) would bring you your ball back if you lost them.

SIMON: Let me ask you about a few more terms. When is the first time they used the term the Internet?

Mr. ENGLISH: The Internet…

SIMON: And if you tell me a biography of Al Gore, I'm going to be very crossed, yes.

Mr. ENGLISH: An Al Gore op-ed from 1985, no. The Internet was first mentioned November 5th, 1988.

(Reading) The virus was detected in part because a design error led it to create many copies rather than a single copy on each machine it attacked. Computer researchers said the copies were like echoes bouncing back and forth off the walls of canyons. The program eventually affected as many as 6,000 computers, or 10 percent of the systems linked through an international group of computer communications networks, the Internet.

SIMON: Any other thing you'd like to draw our attention?

Mr. ENGLISH: Yes, the Walkman, the Sony Walkman. July 7th, 1980.

(Reading) Mr. Lansing and the young blonde had never even met before, but as they passed each other on Madison Avenue, she waved and smiled and he tipped his headphones in salute. What the two well-dressed strangers first noticed about each other was that they were both possessors of the newest status symbol around town - the Walkman. It's just like Mercedes-Benz owners honking when they pass each other, explained Mr. Lansing, whose cassette hung from his Gucci belt.

SIMON: Old times have changed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Try reading anything but a look of contempt if you have a Walkman now.

(Soundbite of song, "Just Me & My Walkman Lyrics")

DUTCHMASSIVE (Rapper): (Rapping) It's just me and my walkman. When I wanna here the classics. I don't wanna hear that loud-mouth ish. It's just me and my walkman.

SIMON: Mr. English, thanks so much.

Mr. ENGLISH: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Jason English, an associate Web editor at Mental Floss magazine.

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