Emanuel Goldberg, Electronic Document Retrieval, And Vannevar Bush's Memex

“As We May Think” has been constantly cited ever since, a development that has been analyzed by Smith (1981), who noted that the article has been used as a symbol for a number of different concepts. However, references to it often have little substance. The paper has become a fashionable icon of modern information science, typically used as a convenient point of departure, or as an invocation of respectability. Bush has even been hailed as a “Father of Information Science” (Lilley & Rice, 1989).

It is difficult, now, when reading “As We May Think”, not to think of
how Bush’s
suggestions are coming to be realized through the increasing power and
versatility of modern
digital computers. Viewed in relation to developments in information
systems since 1945, it is
easy to see Bush’s Memex as a beacon pointing out what should follow.
But this is an
incomplete and unhistorical perspective. Although published in 1945,
the paper was originally
written in 1939 (Nyce & Kahn, 1989) and it had nothing to do either
with digital computers,
which were only then beginning to be invented, or with the analog
computers on which Bush
himself had worked. —Buckland

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