We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities. The aim would be to allow a place to be found for any information or reference which one felt was important, and a way of finding it afterwards. The result should be sufficiently attractive to use that the information contained would grow past a critical threshold.
The hypertext visionaries
Vannevar Bush (B.11.1), creator of the “Differential Analyzer” machine, wrote the very influential paper “As We May Think” in 1945, reflecting on the wartime explosion of scientific information and the increasing specialization of science into subdisciplines:
There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers – conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.
Bush concluded that methods for scholarly communication had become “totally inadequate for their purpose.” He argued for the need to extend the powers of the mind, rather than just the powers of the body, and to provide some automated support to navigate the expanding world of information and to manage this information overload.