Last week saw online knowledge fountain Wikipedia turn 16, meaning the chap now has a National Insurance number and can legally drive a moped. Indeed old Wiki P could get hitched (with consent) should he meet the right URL and could celebrate with a glass of wine or beer (providing that wine or beer is supped alongside a meal and Wiki is accompanied by someone over the age of 18, say, CERN’s website, who has been rattling about the world’s widest ‘W’ since November 1992).
It is certainly an impressive age to have reached and I hope you marked the occasion accordingly by enjoying a cake that seemed almost-but-not-quite factually accurate. Perhaps it had 17 candles.
Or the jam layer was tomato ketchup.
It is remarkable to think that there is a generation of plucky young things studying for their GCSEs this year who have never lived in a world without Wiki P.
He has been there, a dependable rock, a trusty companion, throughout every homework assignment or essay since birth.
For me and my peers? We had the Microsoft Paperclip. And he was detestable.
Winking at random intervals and interrupting to ask whether we wanted help writing a letter.
Retired in 2002 (aged six) when he was turned off by default, Clippy was then wiped off earth’s digital face in 2007. Curtains. Which, with a little remoulding, he could conceivably act as a hook for providing he didn’t always ask them whether they wanted help letter writing.
The problem with fountains, especially those founting knowledge, is that they can often splutter, not work entirely or the water can run brown. Before we uploaded everything to clouds – and confused our grandparents who would look concerned and ask us, worriedly, what would happen if it rained – the inquisitive minds of Renaissance Europe gathered their marvels and oddities into a single physical cupboard or room known as a Cabinet of Wonder or Wunderkammer if you like efficiency and beer.
As with our birthday boy (“I suppose we ought to talk to him about the birds and the bees.” But he’s so young Brenda! “He’s 16 Arthur ... and have you even seen some of the articles he hosts?” No. “Don’t lie, I’ve seen your search history.”), it was sometimes hard to know quite how accurate the information contained in these cabinets or cupboards – London estate agents would refer to them as studio flats – might be.
The Danish doctor Ole Worm had a celebrated Bedsit of Wonder called the Museum Wormianum in which he correctly identified a narwhal’s tusk as being from a whale and not a unicorn but in which he also believed he possessed a splendid half-plant, half-sheep creature known as “The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary”.
It’s almost as ridiculous as someone writing a column about a website with a National Insurance number.
l Tom Taylor’s Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the St George Hotel, Harrogate on Wednesday, February 8 with Mock the Week regular and king of the one-liner, Gary Delaney.
Strong support is provided by Jonny Awsum (tour support and warm-up for Paul Hollywood), Jessica Fostekew (The Now Show, Psychoville) and MC Barry Dodds (Chortle Awards nominee).
Tickets and more information are available from the venue or www.sittingroomcomedy.com.
Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.