As we may think
ID: Bush (1945) PDF: (afstuderen:bush-1945-as-we-may-think.pdf|)
===== About Vannevar Bush ===== *Harvard and MIT *In 1919 he joined MITs Department of Electrical Engineering, becoming Vice-President of MIT and Dean of the School of Engineering in 1932. *Carnegie Institute in 1938, and during the war held a number of very high level government positions, *coordinating the activities of six thousand scientists and a central figure in the development of nuclear fission and the Manhattan Project. In 1944 President Roosevelt asked Bush for recommendations on applying lessons learned from World War II to peacetime problems. *led to the creation of the National Science Foundation. *As We May Think, was published in ‘The Atlantic Monthly and Life’ in 1945.
=====Summary===== Vannevar Bush 1945: “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.”
*’'’Dr. Bush calls for a new relationship between thinking man and the sum of our knowledge.’’’
==As we may think - 1945== *This has not been a scientists war; it has been a war in which all have had a part. *What are the scientists to do next? *For the biologists, and particularly for the medical scientists, there can be little indecision, for their war work has hardly required them to leave the old paths. *It is the physicists who have been thrown most violently off stride, who have left academic pursuits for the making of strange destructive gadgets, *Now, as peace approaches, one asks where they will find objectives worthy of their best.
*Of what lasting benefit has been mans use of science and of the new instruments which his research brought into existence? *Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so that knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual. *There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. *Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is, correspondingly, superficial. *Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing, the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose. *Mendels concept of the laws of genetics was lost to the world for a generation because his publication did not reach the few who were capable of grasping and extending it; *But there are signs of a change as new and powerful instrumentalities come into use. Photocells capable of seeing things in a physical sense, advanced photography which can record what is seen or even what is not, thermionic tubes capable of controlling potent forces under the guidance of less power than a mosquito uses to vibrate his wings, cathode ray tubes rendering visible an occurrence so brief that by comparison a microsecond is a long time, relay combinations which will carry out involved sequences of movements more reliably than any human operator and thousand of times as fastthere are plenty of mechanical aids with which to effect a transformation in scientific records. *Two centuries ago Leibniz invented a calculating machine which embodied most of the essential features of recent keyboard devices, *for at that time and long after, complexity and unreliability were synonymous. *Machines with interchangeable parts can now be constructed with great economy of effort. *Note the automatic telephone exchange, which has hundred of thousands of such contacts, and yet is reliable. *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 camera hound of the future wears on his forehead a lump a little larger than a walnut: It takes pictures 3 millimeters square, *The lens is of universal focus *stereoscopic *The only fantastic thing about it is the idea of making as many pictures as would result from its use. *If the electrical potential on the pointer is varied as it moves, the line becomes light or dark in accordance with the potential. *facsimile transmission. *photocell which is similarly scanning a picture. *It would be a brave man who could predict that such a process will always remain clumsy, slow, and faulty in detail. *record is made by a moving beam of electrons rather than a moving pointer *The Encyclopaedia Britannica could be reduced to the volume of a matchbox. *Mere compression, of course, is not enough; one needs not only to make and store a record but also to be able to consult it, *That introduces the next aspect of the subject.
*At a recent World Fair a machine called a [[Voder]] was shown. *No human vocal cords entered in the procedure at any point; the keys simply combined some electrically produced vibrations and passed these on to a loud-speaker. In the Bell Laboratories there is the converse of this machine, called a [[Vocoder]]. The loudspeaker is replaced by a microphone, which picks up sound. Speak to it, and the corresponding keys move. *stenotype, …. device encountered usually at public meetings *From it emerges a typed strip which records in a phonetically simplified language a record of what the speaker is supposed to have said. *Our present languages are not especially adapted to this sort of mechanization, *scientific jargon would become still less intelligible to the layman. *creative thought and essentially repetitive thought are very different things. *Machines have been made which will read typed figures by photocells and then depress the corresponding keys; these are combinations of photocells for scanning the type, electric circuits for sorting the consequent variations, and relay circuits for interpreting the result into the action of solenoids to pull the keys down. *All this complication is needed because of the clumsy way in which we have learned to write figures. If we recorded them positionally, simply by the configuration of a set of dots on a card, the automatic reading mechanism would become comparatively simple. In fact, if the dots are holes, we have the punched-card machine long ago produced by Hollorith for the purposes of the census, and now used throughout business. Some types of complex businesses could hardly operate without these machines. *temporary storage of results, *Machines for these purposes are now of two types: keyboard machines *and punchedcard machines *Both forms are very useful; but as far as complex computations are concerned, both are still in embryo. *count cosmic rays. *counting electrical impulses at the rate of 100,000 a second. The advanced arithmetical machines of the future will be electrical in nature, and they will perform at 100 times present speeds, or more. *far more versatile *They will be controlled by a control card or film, they will select their own data and manipulate it in accordance with the instructions thus inserted, they will perform complex arithmetical computations at exceedingly high speeds, and they will record results in such form as to be readily available *One of them will take instructions and data from a roomful of girls armed with simple keyboard punches, and will deliver sheets of computed results every few minutes. There will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things.
*The repetitive p r o c e s s e s o f thought are not confined, however, to matters of arithmetic and statistics. In fact, every time one combines and records facts in accordance with established logical processes, the creative aspect of thinking is concerned only with the selection of the data and the process to be employed, and the manipulation thereafter is repetitive in nature and hence a fit matter to be relegated to the machines. Not so much has been done along these lines, beyond the bounds of arithmetic, as might be done, *The needs of business, and the extensive market obviously waiting, *very small part of the population. There are, however, machines for solving differential equationsand functional and integral equations, for that matter. *There are many special machines, such as the harmonic synthesizer which predicts the tides. There will be many more, appearing certainly first in the hands of the scientist and in small numbers. *The abacus, with its beads strung on parallel wires, led the Arabs to positional numeration and the concept of zero many centuries before the rest of the world; and it was a useful tool *mathematician is not a man who can readily manipulate figures; *He is not even a man who can readily perform the transformation of equations by the use of calculus. He is primarily an individual who is skilled in the use of symbolic logic on a high plane, and especially he is a man of intuitive judgment in the choice of the manipulative processes he employs. *All else he should be able to turn over to his mechanism
*The scientist, however, is not the only person who manipulates data and examines the world about him by the use of logical processes,
*bulk … Selection … The personnel officer of a factory drops a stack of a few thousand employee cards into a selecting machine, sets a code in accordance with an established convention, and produces in a short time a list of all employees who live in Trenton and know Spanish.
*Even such devices are much too slow when it comes, for example, to matching a set of fingerprints with one of five millions on file. Selection devices of this sort will soon be speeded up from their present rate of reviewing data at a few hundred a minute.
*This process, however, is simple selection: it proceeds by examining in turn every one of a large set of items, and by picking out those which have certain specified characteristics. There is another form of selection best illustrated by the automatic telephone exchange. You dial a number and the machine selects and connects just one of a million possible stations. It does not run over them all. It pays attention only to a class given by a first digit, then only to a subclass of this given by the second digit, *it could be made extremely fast by substituting thermionic-tube switching for mechanical switching *No one would wish to spend the money necessary to make this change in the telephone system, but the general idea is applicable elsewhere. *the prosaic problem of the great department store. *Conceivably the cards might be of the dry photography type I have described. Existing totals could then be read by photocell, and the new total entered by an electron beam. The cards may be in miniature, so that they occupy little space. They must move quickly. *At the end of the month a machine can readily be made to read these and to print an ordinary bill. *some interesting combinations possible. One might, for example, speak to a microphone, in the manner described in connection with the speech-controlled typewriter
*The real heart of the matter of selection, however, goes deeper than a lag in the adoption of mechanisms by libraries, or a lack of development of devices for their use. Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing. When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. It can be in only one place, unless duplicates are used;
*The human mind does not work that way. It 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. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature. Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. *’'’Selection by association, rather than by indexing, may yet be mechanized.’’’ *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. *It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.
*In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm *Most of the memex contents are purchased on microfilm ready for insertion. Books of all sorts, pictures, current periodicals, newspapers, are thus obtained and dropped into place. Business correspondence takes the same path. *direct entry. On the top of the memex is a transparent platen. On this are placed longhand notes, photographs, memoranda, all sort of things. *photographed onto the next blank space in a section of the memex film, dry photography being employed. *indexing. If the user wishes to consult a certain book, he taps its code on the keyboard, and the title page of the book promptly appears before him, projected onto one of his viewing positions. Frequently- used codes are mnemonic, so that he seldom consults his code book *supplemental levers. On deflecting one of these levers to the right he runs through the book before him, *steps through the book 10 pages at a time; still further at 100 pages at a time. Deflection to the left gives him the same control backwards. A special button transfers him immediately to the first page of the index. 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. As he has several projection positions, he can leave one item in position while he calls up another. He can add marginal notes and comments, taking advantage of one possible type of dry photography, *by a stylus scheme,
*All this is conventional, except for the projection forward of presentday mechanisms and gadgetry *associative indexing, *The process of tying two items together is the important thing. *Before him are the two items to be joined, projected onto adjacent viewing positions. At the bottom of each there are a number of blank code spaces, and a pointer is set to indicate one of these on each item. The user taps a single key, and the items are permanently joined. *The owner of the memex, let us say, is interested in the origin and properties of the bow and arrow. *First he runs through an encyclopedia, finds an interesting but sketchy article, leaves it projected. *building a trail of many items. Occasionally he inserts a comment of his own, either linking it into the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item. When it becomes evident that the elastic properties of available materials had a great deal to do with the bow, he branches off on a side trail which takes him through textbooks on elasticity and tables of physical constants. He inserts a page of longhand analysis of his own. *And his trails do not fade. Several years later, his talk with a friend turns to the queer ways in which a people resistinnovations,
*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. *chemist … historian … *There is a new profession of ‘'’trail blazers’’’, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record *Technical difficulties of all sorts have been ignored, certainly, but also ignored are means as yet unknown which may come any day to accelerate technical progress as violently as did the advent of the thermionic tube. *sounds into the nerve channels of the deaf in order that they may hear. *transforming electrical vibrations to mechanical ones *With a couple of electrodes on the skull the encephalograph now produces pen-and-ink traces which bear some relation to the electrical phenomena going on in the brain itself. *Presumably mans spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems.