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As We May Think (1945) (wikipedia.org)
67 points by benbreen on June 26, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 12 comments

This is one of those historic artifacts, like the Mother of All Demos, that really brings home the sense of possibilities that people had for computers a couple of generations back.

Back in 1995 MIT had a symposium with computing luminaries talking about the impact his essay had on them. When I realized that people like Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, Tim Berners-Lee, and Alan Kay gave talks, I realized this was someone that I should have known about. Videos of the presentations are still up at the Internet Archive and Engelbart's site has a list of the relevant links: http://www.dougengelbart.org/events/vannevar-bush-symposium....

Engelbart's site also has a PDF of his marked up copy of the essay from his SRI days.

What a great read. Skip the Wikipedia article and read the original thing. We still haven't fully realized all of his suggestions:

In the outside world, all forms of intelligence, whether of sound or sight, have been reduced to the form of varying currents in an electric circuit in order that they may be transmitted. Inside the human frame exactly the same sort of process occurs. Must we always transform to mechanical movements in order to proceed from one electrical phenomenon to another?

I would love to see that as much as he did.

Someone I know built a working Memex: http://trevor.smith.name/memex/

That doesn't seem all that related to Bush's Memex.

That looks amazing. I would really love to see video of it in action, details on its workings, and pictures of its construction.

This is just such an incredible gem. Certainly required reading for everyone on HN. The original, that is.

I find Vannevar Bush so interesting. There's lots of good material about him in the (excellent, albeit kind of depressing) Oppenheimer biography American Prometheus:


I know a little bit about him -- his Memex of course, but also his role in creating what became the National Science Foundation in "Science, the Endless Frontier":

Advances in science will ... bring higher standards of living, will lead to the prevention or cure of diseases, will promote conservation of our limited national resources, and will assure means of defense against aggression.

- Vannevar Bush, "Science, the Endless Frontier" (1945)

It's among the documents that set the way for technology to become a major national and economic initiative of the US.

I always thought he was in the line of political Bushes, but apparently not. A little Googling reveals that Vannevar is no more related to George than Kate.

NB, articles such as this (and, frankly, quite a few others) really make me wish HN offered more metadata on posts. Title, author, and date, at the least. A blurb as well (lede paragraph) perhaps. Microcontent matters.

Though avoiding editorializing becomes a challenge....

Bush is among the particularly interesting tech pioneers.

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