As We May Think by Vannevar Bush
Below are a selection of quotes from the article.
He urges that men of science should then turn to the massive task of
making more accessible our bewildering store of knowledge.
Now, says Dr. Bush, instruments are at hand which, if properly
developed, will give man access to and command over the inherited
knowledge of the ages.
Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results
of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for
The world has arrived at an age of cheap complex devices of great
reliability; and something is bound to come of it.
A record if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously
extended, it must be stored, and above all it must be consulted.
The advanced arithmetical machines of the future will be electrical in
nature, and they will perform at 100 times present speeds, or more.
Moreover, they will be far more versatile than present commercial
machines, so that they may readily be adapted for a wide variety of
The human mind ... operates by association. With one item in its
grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the
association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of
trails carried by the cells of the brain.
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.
Any given book of his library can thus be called up and consulted with
far greater facility than if it were taken from a shelf.
...associative indexing, the basic idea of which is a provision whereby
any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically
another. This is the essential feature of the memex. The process of
tying two items together is the important thing.
The user taps a single key, and the items are permanently joined.
...when numerous items have been thus joined together to form a trail,
they can be reviewed in turn...
It is exactly as though the physical items had been gathered together
from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new
book. It is more than this, for any item can be joined into numerous
For the full article, see:
The majority of the hypertext discussion is in sections 6 and 7.
-- Andy Pryke
- 15 Jul 2001