I am quite amazed after reading this article. Vannevar Bush was a visionary and an engineer in the true meanings of those words. Some of the technologies he talks about were definitely some 4 or 5 decades before their time of realization, while others have only just begun to be pursued. He talks about things that I can easily relate to today, like internet, blogging and even google’s voicemail transcription (or dragon dictation for that matter).
But the heart of his argument lies in the universal question of organizing and quickly retrieving information in the most productive way. A question which is even more crucial to today’s time than it was in 1945. Although I think we might have solved part of the problem- that of accessing data. But the other part- that of meaningfully indexing it remains unsolved. Every researcher, every Masters or PhD student goes through this problem. There is just so much information out there in the world for every field imaginable, but no way of finding the one that is most relevant instantly. Once you know what you’re looking for it’s much easier to find but getting there is still not convenient.
Although it doesn’t just end there. The third aspect of his argument is working with this data in the most productive way, the most human way. His imagined machine, the Memex, is an excellent solution in its nascent concept and we most certainly have the technology to build one today. It’s funny when interaction designers try to move away from the traditional desktop metaphor, while reading about visionaries like Vannevar Bush and Pierre Wellnor (“Digital Desk”) keep reminding us that the essence of the solution lies in augmenting or transforming it instead of making it extinct.