Vannevar Bush was an American engineer who rose to prominence during World War II. Credited with a large amount of work surrounding the creation of computers and their evolution in importance to society, Bush is also well known for his visionary article, "As We May Think," which predicted numerous things about the computer and what would be included when the World Wide Web came into existence. His predictions could list him as one of the prophets of New Media's arrival amongst Mass Communication theory.
Inventor - Differential AnalyzerEdit
Bush began as an inventor. His ability with analog computers at MIT during the 1920s and 30s lead him to the creation of the "Differential Analyzer." This machine allowed for mathematical problems thought to be incredibly difficult to be approximated with ease. Bush worked on his machine throughout the 30s, upgrading it with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1935. This machine was considered the most powerful computer in existence until it was replaced in the mid-1940s with the onset of digital computers.
Created in 1945, "As We May Think," was an article that was published in the Atlantic Monthly, which discussed a device called the Memex. Memex is a "...thoretical desklike machine that would hold a whole library of information on micriofilm," (Poole, 2005, 14). The instrument was Bush's vision of the future, which essentially would store information which would be accessed through a computer.
The idea was a reaction to the information explosion from the early 1900s and was formulated several years before the war in 1945 because of certain circumstance of the time. Later on, after being published in Atlantic, the article reappeared in Life, where the article reached a bigger audience.
As proposed by Bush, Memex was a desk that held a lot of information that was compressed down and onto microfilm. Users would sit at a desk and access information by an operating board of levers and buttons, because Bush's vision believed people would be able to share resources with a tap of just a few buttons. Desired information would then appear on screen that would be upheld on a desktop. Bush also envisioned the advancing of technology with computers having applications and programs ebyond mathematical calculation (Poole, 2005, 14).
"As We May Think," inspired numerous endeavors in building and creating a memex machine during the first couple of decades. Unfortunately, microfilm was not cheap or refined enough to allow any real success, but Bush's work remained important until the 1960s, where he influenced J.C.R. Licklider, Ted Nelson, and Douglas Engelbart to develop a computer networking and a hypertext system.
Relevance to Mass Media - "As We May Think"Edit
Bush's essay predicted an incredible amount of aspects of what would become the New Media in Mass Communication theory. Specifically, multiple hallmarks of the Internet were predicted half a century before is everyday use by the public. Bush predicted the onset of a new type of encyclopedia," "Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, read-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified." In this quote as well, the predictions of hypertext and hyperlinking are made. Sites that have trails running through them. Bush's essay was the inspiration for many who would go on in computer science, creating this new medium, the Internet, as we know today.