Memex: a proto-hypertext system

In «As We May Think» Bush describes a memex as an electromechanical device enabling individuals to develop and read a large self-contained research library, create and follow associative trails of links and personal annotations, and recall these trails at any time to share them with other researchers. This device would closely mimic the associative processes of the human mind, but it would be gifted with permanent recollection. As Bush writes, «Thus science may implement the ways in which man produces, stores, and consults the record of the race»[4].

The technology used would have been a combination of electromechanical controls, microfilm cameras and readers, all integrated into a large desk. Most of the microfilm library would have been contained within the desk, but the user could add or remove microfilm reels at will.

The top of the desk would have slanting translucent screens on which material could be projected for convenient reading. The top of the memex would have a transparent platen. When a longhand note, photograph, memoranda, or other things were placed on the platen, the depression of a lever would cause the item to be photographed onto the next blank space in a section of the memex film.

The memex would become “‘a sort of mechanized private file and library’[5][page needed]. It would use microfilm storage, dry photography, and analog computing to give postwar scholars access to a huge, indexed repository of knowledge – any section of which could be called up with a few keystrokes.”[6]

The vision of the memex predates, and is credited as the inspiration for, the first practical hypertext systems of the 1960s. Bush describes the memex and other visions of “As We May Think” as projections of technology known in the 1930s and 1940s – in the spirit of Jules Verne or Arthur C. Clarke‘s 1945 proposal to orbit geosynchronous satellites for global telecommunication. The memex proposed by Bush would create trails of links connecting sequences of microfilm frames, rather than links in the modern sense where a hyperlink connects a single word, phrase or picture within a document and a local or remote destination.

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La idea de Bush va influïr directament a alguns pioners de la computació com Licklider, (gràcies a aquest text he descobert el personatge i papers com Man-Computer SymbiosisAugmenting Human Intellect de Enelbart),  tot i que també va despertar interessants crítiques com les de Michael Buckland… Arqueologia de la computació que m’agradaria i intentaré processar en clau de ciència ficció

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