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The memex (a portmanteau of "memory" and "index",[1] like Rolodex an earlier index portmanteau common at the time) is the name given by Vannevar Bush to the theoretical proto-hypertext computer system he proposed in his 1945 The Atlantic Monthly article As We May Think. The memex is a device in which an individual compresses and stores all of their books, records, and communications which is then mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. A document can be given a simple numerical code that allows the user to access it after dialing the number combination. Documents are also able to be edited in real-time. This process makes annotation fast and simple. The memex is an enlarged intimate supplement to one's memory.[2] The memex has influenced the development of subsequential hypertext and intellect augmenting computer systems.

A memex consists of a desk, where on top are slanting translucent screens on which material can be projected for convenient reading. Within the desk were mechanisms that stored information through microphotography. Most of the memex contents are purchased on microfilm ready for insertion. On the top of the memex is a transparent platen. When a longhand note, photograph, memoranda, and other things are in place, the depression of a lever causes it to be photographed onto the next blank space in a section of the memex film, dry photography being employed.[2]



A proto-hypertext system

In Bush's 1945 paper, he describes a memex as an electromechanical device that an individual could use to read a large self-contained research library, and add or follow associative trails of links and notes created by that individual, or recorded by other researchers.

The technology used would have been a combination of electromechanical controls and microfilm cameras and readers, all integrated into a large desk. Most of the microfilm library would have been contained within the desk, but the user could add or remove microfilm reels at will.

The memex is "'a sort of mechanized private file and library'.-Bush. It uses methods such as microfilm storage, dry photography, and analog computing to give postwar scholars access to a huge, indexed repository of knowledge-any section of which can be called up with a few keystrokes." [3]

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