Vannevar Bush (1890-1974) envisioned a future where human knowledge would be collected and made accessible on screens to anyone in their home or office, in an influential essay called “As We May Think” published in 1945 in The Atlantic magazine.
Bush had coordinated the work of some 6,000 scientists during World War II as Director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development. With the War winding down, Bush hoped that scientists, especially physicists, would take on the challenge of helping to develop technology that would organize the inherited knowledge of the human race.
Before there was a transistor or an integrated circuit, at a time when there only a few computers existed that were the size of small buildings, Bush imagined that information would be published on microscopic pages of microfilm that could be projected onto screens for reading. These pages could be linked to each other, much like the concept of hypertext some 30 years later. Bush called his system a “memex.” He described it as “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.”
- full text of “As We May Think”
- 50 year anniversary symposium held at MIT
- account in Wikipedia
- National Academy of Sciences biographical memoir of Bush