Vannevar Bush publishes his influential essay

July 1945
Vannevar Bush publishes his influential essay

The July 1945 issue of The Atlantic Monthly contained the essay, "As We May Think" by Vannevar Bush.

Bush describes a theoretical machine he called a "memex". The machine was intended to enhance human memory by allowing documents to be stored and retrieved by association, rather than a traditional index and hierarchical system as you might find in a library.

This description of associative linking is very similar to what we now call hypertext, the system on which the World Wide Web is built.

Bush described the memex as 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."

Bush also made predictions that appear close to what we would recognise as the World Wide Web:

"wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified”

The name of the memex came from the words "memory" and "index". The concept of the memex influenced the creators of early hypertext systems such as Ted Nelson, who coined the terms "hypertext" and "hypermedia". These ideas eventually led to the creation of the World Wide Web.

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  • Vannevar Bush
    Credit: United States Federal Government Office for Emergency Management. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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