The memex

Others have already noted that it was recently the 60th anniversary of Vannevar Bush’s article As We May Think. This post is really just an excuse to use this image of the memex.

But while I’m on the subject, let me make this comment: I’ve always believed that Bush believed that someone would come up with a better name for his proposed device eventually. That if this device was ever built, or something like it, it would have a different name. I submit to you this:

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.

Now, I’ve always considered that line a bit disingenuous; if Bush had really chosen a name at random, he would have called it something like “mwavpwnrvt” (thanks to my favorite random-number generator for that). That aside, though, I suppose someone did come up with a better name: hypertext. Which brings me to the other point I wanted to make: the fact that the memex never got built & hypertext has taken over the universe, is absolutely a vindication of the principle of “never do in hardware what you can do in software”.