Key Quotes

Selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized. One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage.

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.

Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His 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.

A way will be found for converting into some form of mechanism the kind of fluid indexing and cataloging that takes place in our minds. There is here a feature which man has not yet introduced into his machinery, a feature of great power, the pursuit of paths through a complex record by means of association of ideas. Modern electronics can do for us almost anything we ask in the way of rapid, involved operations upon masses of data. But we still tell our research findings to one another in much the same old way, and we record our research results in a mass of paper from which their extraction becomes increasingly laborious.

I believe that an essential aspect of a fully successful system is that it should automatically improve by reason of its use. It is easiest to consider this in the case of a professional library, perhaps one on the law. If the attorney, turning to this, and finding the exact reference for his purposes, found also the comments and criticisms of his colleagues who had passed that way before, and if he added his own thought, the value of the library would be continuously enhanced. I realize that this would have to occur, at first, in situations where conflict of interest is absent.

Selected Works


As We May Think


We are in danger of building a Tower of Babel


Remarks of Vannevar Bush to Project INTREX Planning Conference


Pieces of the Action


From Memex to Hypertext

Vannevar Bush and the Mind's Machine


Endless Frontier

Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century

External Links