As We May Think by Vannevar Bush, July 1, 1945, The Atlantic.
What are the advantages of using science, thereby creating new tools? First of all, science helps a man to control certain things in our environment, secondly, science and technics improve our food, clothing and houses. They increase our knowledge of our own biological processes, so it helps to be partially independent from diseases. They clarify the interaction of the physiological and psychological functions, promising improvement in our mental health. Science provides faster communication between people, it allows you to store and record ideas, to extract ideas from the records and manipulate them the same way that knowledge evolves and changes along with the life of humanity, and not its individual members. We are plunged into the world of science, so one has to make an effort to build a connection between different fields of knowledge and to progress in science. From a professional point of view, our methods of transmitting and interpreting research results completely outdated and are totally inadequate for the purposes they are used. But nowadays there are new powerful tools that can fundamentally change things. Cameras that can record events and objects so quickly and in such detail that they completely change our understanding of the scientific record. Calculating machines of Leibniz and Babbage were unique. But their mass production was out of the question. Even if Pharaoh knew how to build a car, then this car would crash in one of the first trips. The current level of mass production allows the production of such records to be based on the affordable price and accessibility.
In the article “As We May Think,” which appears in The Atlantic in 1945, Vannevar Bush expresses his concern for information storage.
The author tells about the progress in photography, cinematography and television. Dry photography, facsimile transmission, microphotography. If the progress in this field continues so quickly, the material for the microfilm Britannica would cost a nickel and it could be mailed anywhere for a cent.
Vannevar Bush pictures a future investigator in his laboratory. In the process of movement he photographs and comments what he has observed. “Time is automatically recorded to tie the two records together. If he goes into the field, he may be connected by radio to his recorder”.
According to the author, a scientist is not the only person who works with data and explores the world, using logical processes. Every time when one uses logical processes there is an opportunity for the machine.Bush distinguishes the difference between data storage and mental processes. Our brain manipulates data with the help of associations, creating a web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. Considering a future device, the author names it “memex” – a device that help a person to store all his books, records and communications with other people. “Memex” looks like a desk with a keyboard, buttons and levers. One part of the desk is microfilms, the other part – the mechanism. All the books, newspapers, pictures can be easily and immediately obtained and dropped into place. There is also a transparent platen on the top of the memex that leads to all the notes, photographs and other things. This system uses a scheme of indexing – when the user wants to get an access to a book, he taps its code on the keyboard and this book or a page appears before him. The user can also tie two and more items together, he needs just to build a trail, to name it, to insert the name in his code book and to tap it out on his keyboard.
Vannevar Bush predicted many kinds of technologies, such as hypertext, personal computers, the Internet, the World Wide Web, speech recognition and online encyclopedias.