In my junior year of high school I had a history teacher who went by the name of Mr. Klinefelter. I’m almost certain he had a first name but it was not the way of our school system to divulge teachers’ first names lest, for example, students use that information to find out where a teacher lives and then … and then …

We lived in a more innocent time when our plots never went too far beyond finding the home address for a teacher.

Nevertheless, Mr. Klinefelter challenged the class on the first day of school. He announced that any student who could reveal the identity of Fred C. Dobbs would get an “A” for the semester.

To be sure, we all diligently worked on that assignment. We asked friends and we asked family. We would have asked strangers but still being in high school, most of us had not yet acquired the skill of coherent conversations with strangers. We went to the library, hit the card catalogs and dissected volumes of “Who’s Who.” Exhausting all leads, we came up with nothing. There was no one by that name who we could identify to Mr. Klinefelter’s satisfaction.

This all happened 16 years before the internet was created and 23 years before the world wide web. Obscure information was hard to come by.

Anyone with access to the web today can tell you in a flash about Fred C. Dobbs. He was the character that Humphrey Bogart played in the 1948 classic film “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Of course, we couldn’t find him in Who’s Who or in any history or phone book; he didn’t exist, sort of.

Today, we have search engines and the internet. It’s the equivalent of having thousands of people at your disposal to find the information you need to get an “A” in history at a cost that is hardly noticed.

All of this searching for information has been text-based, but lately I’ve been fascinated by imaged-based searching. Image searches have been with us for a while where you could ask the software to find similar images, but now I’ve got an application on my phone called Google Lens.

Google Lens is object recognition software. It’s constantly been improved since first introduced in 2017. I can point my camera at a dog or a snake, invoke Google Lens and it will search the web for comparable images. Then it will let me know that not only am I looking at a dog or a snake but, this is very cool, it will usually specify the breed or species and point me to web sites that may inform me that I am standing way too close to the snake for my own good.

Point the camera at a foreign language sign to translate the text. Direct Lens at a book and get a summary, reviews and places to purchase the book. Artwork gets you information about the piece and the artist. Lens over a landmark for historical facts. A view of an events poster can put the event on your calendar. Lens will read bar codes, find the product and give you links to where it can be purchased. You can even hold a leaf up to the camera and Lens will tell you it’s poison ivy and give you the scientific name just in case it still matters to you at that point.

This is very exciting, but how far will it go? Does it have a dark side? When I Lensed a photo of Elvis, it identified it as Elvis Presley. A photo of Pope Paul VI took me to a book about the right Pope. Fine for celebrities. But will it get to a point where you can enter a face and search the web for that face? Would that be great or scary?

I Lensed over the picture I use for my column and found Lens still can’t identify me although it produced a selection of strange-looking men including Albert Einstein so I suppose I should feel flattered. I then did a traditional search for an image of Fred C. Dobbs and discovered he looks a lot like Humphrey Bogart.

It’s too late for me to get that “A” in history but if we cut back on searching for cute cat videos and use our new information superpowers to not destroy our world, we’ll all continue to make — and even have a — history.