A distinguished engineer, Dean of MIT's School of Engineering, President of the Carnegie Institution, Director of the Office of Scientific Research during WW II, and author of As We May Think an article in the Atlantic Monthly, July 1945.

Bush described an invention he called the memex - which Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson and Andy van Dam cite as inspiration for the first hypertext systems which they built from the 1960's through 1980's. Like Everything, and the human mind, the memex works by association.

As head of the Office of Scientific Research (precursor to the current NSF/National Science Foundation), Bush also spearheaded the effort to develop atomic weapons despite the warnings of even Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer about the possible world reprecussions.

Being first and foremost a military scientist, Bush seemed to speak from a position of ambivalence about the fallout (if you'll pardon the pun) of global technological disparity. Rather, he was solely interested in securing and maintaining a wide gulf of technical skill between the USA and the rest of the world; to the point where even close war-time allies like Britian and France were left out in the cold.

In fact, the first applications of the Memex grl mentioned above were developed at the behest of the CIA, which in 1946 had inherited oceans of data collected by the Office of Strategic Services during the both world wars.

"By the end of the 1950s it (the memex) had millions, if not billions of records and its manual and electromagnetic indexing and retrieval systems were overwhelmed."1

In other words, the ur-invention of hypertext, Bush's Memex, had its roots in the State intelligence problems of domestic and international covert surveillance.



Source: Colin Burke, Information & Secrecy : Vannevar Bush, Ultra and the Memex (Scarecrow : Metuchen, 1994) p. 366

Vannevar Bush, an engineer who did much of his work in the mid-twentieth century, is especially well known for his proposal of the memex, a machine that in many ways predicted the world wide web, and for his series of differential analyzers, which were analog computers that saw a great deal of military and scientific use through the 1950s.

The development of the Vannevar Bush series of differential analyzers took place in the 1930s, in order to satisfy that era's increased demand for scientific calculation. The machines were very similar to a theoretical analog machine designed by Lord Kelvin in the late 1800s, though Bush denied knowledge of Kelvin's work prior to completing his design. In any event, although Thomson first put forth the design that would later be realized in the Bush Differential Analyzer (that of chaining n first-order differential analyzers to solve a differential equation of nth degree), he cannot be fully credited for the invention, since he was unable to build a working model. Therefore, Vannevar Bush and his assistant Harold Hazen (who colloborated with Bush to develop the servomotor that allowed the machines to be linked) share credit for developing the first differential analyzers capable of solving differential equations of second degree or greater.

Though Bush's differential analyzers were useful tools for calculation, they were in many ways limited by their technology. Difficulties due to the machine's mechanical nature, as well as the problem of configuring the machines for different problems, eventually led to their being replaced by newer, cheaper, and more readily adaptable computing technologies. Despite this, Bush's Differential Analyzers mark an important milestone in computing history. They were powerful general-purpose analog computers, and the interest they generated in general purpose computing was one of the factors that drove the computer industry onto the path that led to modern day computing.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.