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You grappled with those really sophisticated methods of searching the internet for information. And then gave up. The moment of truth came when you suddenly had to do a really fast search for information. Not having done more, for some time, than occasionally type in a few possible words, you had forgotten all the tricks - like the difference between quote marks and a plus sign.

Well, be very afraid because complex search engines are about to be big.

Still, there's a cute diversion: search engines based on your sketch of what the thing roughly looks like. The ones I've come across call for quite a bit of user input as the shape becomes more and more refined. Or less and less blobfilike. I'm surprised that some enterprising product dealer hasn't signed one up.

Some URLs: http: // tools. ecn. html for Karthik Ramani's research at Purdue University; http: // shape. cs. html for the approach of Princeton's Thomas Funkhouser, with added text. Not to mention www. for Applied Search Technology's CADFind Sketch and Search. And you thought drawing was dead.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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