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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Autosecretary (Autosec)  
  A software agent able to accept your query and then seach the public net for related information.  

Interesting pre-search engine idea of how to make sense of a global information network.

Her autosec flashed the queue of her clipping program... a backlog of fifteen thousand headlines culled from news services and Net-zines in every time zone. She flushed everything having to do with the accident, and the tally dropped below a hundred. Those she might scan later, to catch up with what was happening in the world.
From Earth, by David Brin.
Published by Bantam in 1990
Additional resources -

Here's another bit:

...was the die-off just a local "adjustment," restricted to south Texas? A few words to her autosecretary would send a ferret program forth to fetch the truth in milliseconds. But then, what good would knowing do? The Net was such a vast sea of information, sipping from it sometimes felt like trying to slake your thirst from a fire hose.

Brin takes a backseat to the venerable Arthur C. Clarke for the general idea, though: see the Personal Interest Profile from Clarke's 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise.

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