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Internet Before Internet. Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Bush is writing in 1945, and begins by addressing the purpose of scientists in post-war peace.

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Presentation on theme: "Internet Before Internet. Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Bush is writing in 1945, and begins by addressing the purpose of scientists in post-war peace."— Presentation transcript:

1 Internet Before Internet

2 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Bush is writing in 1945, and begins by addressing the purpose of scientists in post-war peace Science and technology have improved life - including communication and research This has led to “information overload,” lack of scholarly communication, and other problems of increased specialization (lack of communication between disciplines)

3 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” The problem of overload is also a problem of reading… “Those who conscientiously attempt to keep abreast of current thought, even in restricted fields, by close and continuous reading might well shy away from an examination calculated to show how much of the previous month's efforts could be produced on call. Mendel's 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; and this sort of catastrophe is undoubtedly being repeated all about us, as truly significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential.” “Close and continuous” reading takes too long. Important works are not finding their ideal readers (those who can “grasp and extend” the work).

4 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Machines can solve these problems! (If we learn to trust them…) We are now (1940s) in the position to mass produce reliable machine. (This hasn’t always been the case.) Complex machines have been invented in the past, but were labor-intensive, unreliable, undependable, and cost too much to build and maintain. –Leibniz’s Calculating Machine –Babbage’s Analytical Engine

5 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Machines ahead of their time: –Leibniz’s calculating machine (~1670) Basic mathematical operations Had many features of “modern” keyboards Labor costs too high (pre-mass production, the costs of labor in construction exceeded the labor it saved)

6 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Machines ahead of their time: –Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine ( ) general purpose calculating machine designed to contain a memory or "store," an arithmetic unit or "mill" capable of performing the four operations of arithmetic an input/output system which used punched cards printer to display the results steam-driven and programmed by the punched cards The engine was designed in great detail on paper but it was never completed. Some argue that production was limited by the technologies of the time, others claim a slack of funding and political support Ada Lovelace –Lord Byron’s daughter –Considered the first computer programmer, since she was writing programs for Babbage’s machine –Foresaw capability for computers to beyond calculations

7 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine ( )

8 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” There must be better ways to store, disseminate, and reproduce knowledge! From codex to microfilm: “The Encyclopoedia Britannica could be reduced to the volume of a matchbox. A library of a million volumes could be compressed into one end of a desk. If the human race has produced since the invention of movable type a total record, in the form of magazines, newspapers, books, tracts, advertising blurbs, correspondence, having a volume corresponding to a billion books, the whole affair, assembled and compressed, could be lugged off in a moving van. Mere compression, of course, is not enough; one needs not only to make and store a record but also be able to consult it, and this aspect of the matter comes later. Even the modern great library is not generally consulted; it is nibbled at by a few.” Does this idealistic vision of compressed stores of knowledge sounds like anything else…?

9 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Let’s use technology and mechanization to make our work better, faster, and more accessible! “One can now picture a future investigator in his laboratory. His hands are free, and he is not anchored. As he moves about and observes, he photographs and comments. Time is automatically recorded to tie the two records together. If he goes into the field, he may be connected by radio to his recorder. As he ponders over his notes in the evening, he again talks his comments into the record. His typed record, as well as his photographs, may both be in miniature, so that he projects them for examination.”

10 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Let’s use technology to free our minds and memories! “Whenever logical processes of thought are employed—that is, whenever thought for a time runs along an accepted groove—there is an opportunity for the machine.” “[Man’s”] excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.”

11 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Let’s use machines to help us find the information we need! “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; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path.” “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.”

12 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Let’s use “The Memex”! “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library….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.”

13 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Solution: The Memex “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library….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.”

14 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” The Memex “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.”

15 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Associative Linking “All this is conventional, except for the projection forward of present-day mechanisms and gadgetry. It affords an immediate step, however, to associative indexing, the basic idea of which is a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another. This is the essential feature of the memex. The process of tying two items together is the important thing.”

16 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Associative Linking “Thereafter, at any time, when one of these items is in view, the other can be instantly recalled merely by tapping a button below the corresponding code space. Moreover, when numerous items have been thus joined together to form a trail, they can be reviewed in turn, rapidly or slowly, by deflecting a lever like that used for turning the pages of a book. It is exactly as though the physical items had been gathered together from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new book. It is more than this, for any item can be joined into numerous trails.”

17 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” The Modern Equivalent of Associative Linking “The closest analogy with the modern Web browser would be to create a list of bookmarks pointing to articles relevant to a topic, and then to have some mechanism for automatically scrolling through the articles (for example, use Google to search for a keyword, obtain a list of matches, and then use "open in new tab" in your browser and visit each tab sequentially).” Modern hypertext systems with word and phrase-level linking offer more sophistication in connecting relevant information, but until the rise of wiki and other social software models, modern hypertext systems have rarely followed Bush in providing individuals with the ability to create personal trails and share them with colleagues - or publish them widely.” (Wikipedia: “Memex”)

18 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Visions of the Future –New forms of encyclopedias, “ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them” –Lawyer’s personal archive of opinions and decisions –Doctor’s associative trails of patient cases –Chemist’s access to all the chemical literature –Historian’s specific paths through vast historical accounts –“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.” Are we living this vision of the future?

19 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” Visions of the Future “All our steps in creating or absorbing material of the record proceed through one of the senses—the tactile when we touch keys, the oral when we speak or listen, the visual when we read. Is it not possible that some day the path may be established more directly?”

20 Alex Wright, “The Web Time Forgot” Paul Otlet: “one of technology’s lost pioneers” “In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a “réseau,” which might be translated as “network” — or arguably, “web.””

21 Alex Wright, “The Web Time Forgot” Otlet & Henri La Fontaine Wanted to collect data on every book ever published, in addition to magazines, articles, photographs, posters, and ephemera (typically ignored by libraries) Created index card database with more than 12 million individual entries Established research service A familiar problem develops: information overload! Solution: get rid of the paper “He started writing at length about the possibility of electronic media storage, culminating in a 1934 book, “Monde,” where he laid out his vision of a “mechanical, collective brain” that would house all the world’s information, made readily accessible over a global telecommunications network.”

22 Alex Wright, “The Web Time Forgot” Otlet loses political support, funding, and space Nazis destroyed thousands of boxes of index cards Resurgence of interest in Otlet (and alternative histories of the Web)

23 Alex Wright, “The Web Time Forgot” Limitations of Otlet’s vision: Couldn’t scale up (couldn’t even handle paper database) “The archive’s sheer sprawl reveals both the possibilities and the limits of Otlet’s original vision. Otlet envisioned a team of professional catalogers analyzing every piece of incoming information, a philosophy that runs counter to the bottom-up ethos of the Web.”

24 Alex Wright, “The Web Time Forgot” Advantages of Otlet’s vision: Hypertext: “Otlet’s version of hypertext held a few important advantages over today’s Web. For one thing, he saw a smarter kind of hyperlink. Whereas links on the Web today serve as a kind of mute bond between documents, Otlet envisioned links that carried meaning by, for example, annotating if particular documents agreed or disagreed with each other. That facility is notably lacking in the dumb logic of modern hyperlinks.” Social networks: “letting users ‘participate, applaud, give ovations, sing in the chorus’” and the advantages of being able “to trade messages, participate in discussions and work together to collect and organize documents.” The “radiated library” and the “televised book” (video)video

25 Speaking of radiated libraries… (partial) map of the internet based on 1995 data Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses The length of the lines are indicative of the delay between those two nodes

26 Speaking of radiated libraries… 2007 map Volunteers sent probes from 12,000 computers Scientists followed probes and mapped the routes connecting each subnetwork to others Central core of tightly connected subnetworks (like Google)

27 Speaking of radiated libraries… 2007 map Red dots are Internet nodes Green lines are linkages


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