EDIT: I'm much worse at algorithms than I originally thought.
e.g. see https://vincent.bernat.im/en/blog/2017-ipv4-route-lookup-lin...
Later TCAMs came along for hardware lookups.
You say that like it's a bad thing, but isn't it good? If I think that something is of only academic interest, and then I find out about a real-world application, I feel that I have learned something that's worth knowing.