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Vannevar Bush and Memex cont...

[ Picture, Vannevar Bush ]

In "As We May Think" Bush describes the current situation of information overload within society, and continues by describing the Memex and how it would solve these problems, and more.

The Memex - a proposal on paper - consisted of a workdesk with viewing screens, a keyboard, buttons and levers. Within the desk were mechanisms capable of storing information through microphotography. Material could be entered into this information store by using microfilm, dry photography or a keyboard (Bush, 1945, 102).

Bush's main focus of the Memex was the notion of association, which is the pattern the human brain utilizes in assimilating information. He believed that the existing ways of indexing were limiting, and counterintuitive. The Memex would improve over this existing system by using associative trails, analogous to the mental association trail of the human brain (Bush, 1945, 101-105).

Bush was fixated on the human mind. All of his initial machines and visions were analog devices. Furthermore, he frequently used the analogy of electricity to the human brain. In doing so, he believed that he could improve on the imperfect biological processes that existed. Bush put forward the notion that in order for knowledge to be used, it has to be selected and retrieved. This is evident in Bush's use of association as a means of selection in the Memex. According to Bush, selection "is a stone adze in the hands of a cabinetmaker."(Bush, 1945, 99). By working through the "intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain," the Memex would serve man as "an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory."(Bush, 1945, 102).

The Memex personalized information by linking it together, based on the user's trails of association. This idea of retrieving information based on personal associations separates hypertext/media from traditional information retrieval systems. Bush focused on the personal associations by suggesting the importance of tying items through personally named trails, and codes. A user would either type a certain index code in, or pull levers to bring up the information he was looking for. The trails created in one's information search would not fade, allowing for quick and easy future reference (Bush, 1945, 104).


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