Before Memex: Robert Hooke, John Locke, and Vannevar Bush on External Memory

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Title Before Memex: Robert Hooke, John Locke, and Vannevar Bush on External Memory
Author Yeo, Richard Reginald
Journal Name Science in Context
Editor Leo Corry
Year Published 2007
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Abstract In 1945 Vannevar Bush proposed a machine that acted as a “supplement” to memory and met the particular information needs of its user. Because this “memex” recorded “trails” of selected documents, it has been seen as a precursor to hypertext. However, this paper considers Bush in relation to earlier concerns about memory and information, via the ideas of Robert Hooke and John Locke. Whereas Bush modeled the memex on the associative processes of natural memory, Hooke and Locke concluded that an external archive had to allow collective reason to overcome the limits of individual memory, including its tendency to freeze and repeat patterns of ideas. Moreover, they envisaged an institutional archive rather than one controlled by the interests and mental associations of an individual. From this early modern perspective, Bush's memex appears as a personal device for managing information that incorporates assumptions inimical to the strategies required for scientific analysis.
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Copyright Statement Copyright 2007 Cambridge University Press. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Volume 20
Issue Number 1
Page from 21
Page to 47
ISSN 0269-8897
Date Accessioned 2007-09-06
Language en_AU
Faculty Faculty of Arts
Subject History: European
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1

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