I really enjoyed this week’s reading’s – it’s always a blast to look at past prophecies of future technologies and see just how on track some people were! Here are some of the moments that made me think most:
“The world has arrived at an age of cheap complex devices of great reliability; and something is bound to come of it.” (In section 1)
- This is great because it emphasizes that affordability is an important part of success. Why is twitter such a huge deal? Because it’s completely free! We use so many tools online to write, but only because we have access to them. And that meant other people having access to cheap tools that allowed them to create these systems.
“Mere compression, of course, is not enough; one needs not only to make and store a record but also be able to consult it, and this aspect of the matter comes later. Even the modern great library is not generally consulted; it is nibbled at by a few.” (In section 2)
- This is important because if we think about the internet, and the most powerful company on it (Google!) we understand that merely being able to store a lot of information isn’t enough, something needs to efficiently be able to sort through it.
“The abacus, with its beads strung on parallel wires, led the Arabs to positional numeration and the concept of zero many centuries before the rest of the world; and it was a useful tool—so useful that it still exists.” (In section 4)
- I took the abacus as a symbol of building blocks – there are fundamental things that we must understand to be able to build upon them. This to me is, in a bizarre way, an emphasis on why I really need to learn more about code. Everything I do and use depends on code, and so while I may be able to use it, I don’t actually fully understand it. I wouldn’t be able to change it, alter it, or make it something new. I’m confined to do what other people have decided I should do with it.
“No one would wish to spend the money necessary to make this change in the telephone system, but the general idea is applicable elsewhere.” (In section 5)
- This made me chuckle – oh, Vannevar, if only you knew how important phones have become!
“It would certainly beat the usual file clerk.” (In section 5)
- Although this was a short and wistful comment, meant as a joke, I think that from the modern lens, it becomes a lot more meaningful. “Will a robot take over my job?” is a legitimate question that a lot of people fear. 70 years ago it would have been impossible to fathom, but now computers can do many of the things we can do cheaper and faster.
“Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it.” (In section 6)
- Another interesting perspective from the past – that computers cannot, even if they can be intelligent, possess the same type of intelligence we have. This is, at least in my opinion, not the way people feel anymore.
“He can add marginal notes and comments, taking advantage of one possible type of dry photography, and it could even be arranged so that he can do this by a stylus scheme, such as is now employed in the telautograph seen in railroad waiting rooms, just as though he had the physical page before him.” (In section 6)
- Though not exactly skeuomorphic, it is fascinating that even in designing future technologies, he is already hoping them to resemble a past technology.
“Mesh of associative trails” and “Is it not possible that some day the path may be established more directly?” (In section 8)
- He’s talking about hyperlinks! The ability to connect information and lead to other information.. he’s definitely talking about hyperlinks!