JPG = 1000 Words

We came across this recently in the 1959 Canadian Law List: The Law Library of the Future!

Law Library of the Future in 1959

Let’s compare the concerns of 1959 with 2012: Economy (the new tech costs less), Space saving (we all have better uses for space), Convenience (a.k.a. ease of access, dare I say on your desktop?), No binding costs or problems (a thing of the past), No bookshelves (see space). Does this sound familiar?

I do note that this new technology wasn’t cheap. Using the Bank of Canada inflation calculator: The SCRs that cost $118 in 1959 would cost $941.69 in 2012; this represents a 698% change. Similarly the viewer which cost $195 in 1959 would cost $1556.18. I thought technology was supposed to make information cheaper?


  1. I find it most interesting that there is no mention of printing. I wonder if, in 1959, you could quote a case to a judge and provide its citation without including a copy of it for the court?

    Some day, perhaps, rather than trial binders or electronic casebooks with the full text of decisions we will provide authorities in a list of hyperlinks.

  2. Here’s a picture of the “Microlex Viewer”

  3. “No binding costs or problems” is quite a well-spun (and hilarious) way to sell microform over book format. “Dustproof boxes” is a bit of a stretch for the sales pitch mind you. Do you really want to suggest that the product you are flogging may be used so irregularly that dust is a major concern?
    Obviously, with respect to microform, the irony remains that you have introduced a technological reader/intermediary into the mix with bulbs, handles, trays, lenses and all manner of components that could go bust. And certainly if a book’s binding falls off (after 50 years or more of use I suspect), you can still read the pages.
    That said, this reader being from the ’50s would likely still be in some kind of working order today. Who today wouldn’t spend $1,500 for a laptop that was built to the bomb-proof standards of the ’50s?

  4. I had no idea that factums were available that far back. I remember Balfour Halevy in the Seventies telling me that he had hoped to get copies of the factums for the Osgoode Hall library up at York. But way back when Cartwright and Company had already started converting the factums into fiche.

    Microfiche is still the preferred method of accessing complete files in the Registry at the SCC.

  5. I don’t believe that one routinely provided copies of cases to the court in those days – or even before law offices normally had photocopiers. There were not as many series of law reports, and the court was expected to have access to them. It seems to me that making up a volume of authorities was a bit of a novelty when I articled in the mid-70s. (Others who did more litigation may have more accurate memories.)