Reactions to the Bush Readings

The concept of a “memex” as described by Vannevar Bush was quite a modern concept for the time. Although computers existed, Bush looked towards a future in which a type of personal computer existed. Though the computers of his time worked by indexing, he suggested the usage of association to index the massive amounts of data that could be stored in computers. This would thus allow a person to keep their entire libraries on their “memex” machines, and create “trails” between different articles or books. The trails could link similar concepts as seen in different documents, and would thus lead to a catalog based upon association. These trails would never fade and could provide key links between different source materials. Bush also described the trend of repetitive data in some cases and a lack of acknowledgement of data in other cases. By creating trails, a person could see the links between different sources, which could then end the large amounts of lost or repetitive thoughts and ideas.

Although the way in which Bush described the processes that the memex was designed for, I thought the most interesting part of both essays was the physical description of the machine. Bush decided that a memex machine would appear to be a normal desk. Yet on top of the desk would be slanting translucent screens, onto which material would be projected. The desk would have a keyboard and a series of different levers and buttons. Because computers were so massive at the time, Bush’s description may have seemed unrealistic. Yet what he described is incredibly similar to (somewhat) modern day desktop computers. Although a modern desktop would have a mouse instead of many levers, it would be very similar otherwise to what Bush described. For example, a desktop from the early 2000s would have a computer monitor (which is similar to the screens Bush described) and a large case that may house a disc drive, hard drive, power supply, and other important components. The case would be similar to the inside of the “desk” of the memex that Bush described. Both would house the inner workings of the machines and thus are very similar in many aspects.

The similarities observed between Bush’s memex and desktop computers are important because it seems as though Bush’s ideas influenced the manufacturing of computers. Bush’s ideas seem to advocate for the manufacturing of computers for the common man. He did not strive for huge calculating machines, but wanted instead a machine that would allow a more common man to process massive amounts of data without having to learn difficult coding or indexing techniques. The compact design of the memex also suggests it may be used in a home or in an office for a regular person. In this way, Bush’s ideas were incredibly important in the marketing and development of computers.

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