Vannevar Bush’s idea

This article was written in 1945 just after the Second World War. He bemoans the fact that after the war, physicists may find it difficult to go back to their mundane research. They, of all the scientists that participated in the war effort will have the most trouble converting their research from weaponry to useful everyday applications. Vannevar Bush’s main point in the article is that science has produced many machines that contribute to the ease and convenience of modern human living especially in the area of communication. Even back in 1945, the amount of  information to categorised and stored was an enormous amount. There were calculations machines and sorting machines but these were not enough to handle the amount of information that was in existence even then.

Vannevar Bush came up with the idea of the memex.

‘Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.’

In this post, and following posts, I will explore the possibility of the memex existing today.

The first thing I thought of when I read this part of the article was Google. Google, today has made it their mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,”. If a device as described by Vannevar Bush could be said to exist, it would be through Google. There are many Google products that allow for document production (Google Docs), document storage (Google Drive), communication (Gmail), multimedia (YouTube) and the list goes on. However, these are mainly software. The hardware as described by Vannevar Bush does exist to some extent. In fact, we can make improvements to his design.

Next time, I will talk more about the hardware.


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