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The Memex ( Mem ory Ex tender ; dt about: memory enhancer.) Is conceived as a human aspect and possible, easy-to-use Wissensfindungs- and recovery system compact analog computer , which in 1945 by Vannevar Bush in the article As We May Think ( Atlantic Monthly , July 1945, p. 101 ff.) Was fictitiously presented. The principle was also the basis of the statistical machine patented by Emanuel Goldberg in the USA in 1931 .

The machine is said to be in the shape of a desk and incorporate a combination of electromechanical controls and microfilming devices. Information content is to be projected onto two touch-sensitive screens lying next to each other. The user would be able to scroll forwards and backwards in this information with levers and save documents and call them up again. In addition, there would be the possibility of having pages referenced to one another through “associations”. The stored information could thus be linked to long paths. A few months after the article, Life Magazine showed illustrations of the possible appearance of the Memex, as well as a head-mounted camera and a typewriter that has speech recognition and is supposed to read the texts aloud using speech synthesis .

Bush's vision was to use the Memex for machine support of human memory and associative thinking :

“The human mind works [...] through association. As soon as he has obtained one piece of information, he already accesses the next, which is suggested by the thought link, corresponding to a complicated web of paths that runs through the brain cells. […] [The Memex is] a device in which an individual stores all of their books, records, and communications, and that is mechanized so that it can be consulted with increasing speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged appendix to his memory. "

Bush was a pioneer of the analog computer, consequently his image of the Memex as an electromechanical information system corresponds to the state of the art at the time (terminology, relation, indexing and microfilming). The possibilities of digital computers could not be foreseen back then. Although the Memex has always remained a technical and scientific utopia , it has consistently provided ideas for the “office of the future” ever since. It would not only have been the first hypertext machine, but also the microfilm-based forerunner of the personal computer .

In the digital age, the Microsoft research project MyLifeBits has adopted Bush's ideas as a guiding principle.


  • Vannevar Bush: As We May Think . In: Atlantic Monthly , July 1945, Volume 176, No. 1, pp. 101-108
  • Abridged version with new images in Life Magazine , November 19, 1945

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Buckland : Emanuel Goldberg, Electronic Document Retrieval, And Vannevar Bush's Memex , 1992.