Read the following lines and think about it for a minute:
[...] Certainly progress in photography is not going to stop. Faster material and lenses, more automatic cameras, finer-grained sensitive compounds to allow an extension of the minicamera idea, are all imminent. [...] The camera hound of the future wears on his forehead a lump a little larger than a walnut. [...] The lens is of universal focus, down to any distance accommodated by the unaided eye, simply because it is of short focal length. [...] There is [storage capacity] for a [large amount of] exposures [...]. It produces its result in full color. It may well be stereoscopic, and record with two spaced glass eyes, for striking improvements in stereoscopic technique are just around the corner. [...] The [button for the] shutter [is] within easy reach of his fingers. A quick squeeze, and the picture is taken. On a pair of ordinary glasses is a square of fine lines near the top of one lens, where it is out of the way of ordinary vision. When an object appears in that square, it is lined up for its picture.
When do you think those line were written? And by whom?
2012 when Google applied for getting patents D659,739, D659,740, and D659,741?
2011 when Google was designing the vision without going public yet?
What do you think?
Well, you probably missed the date of origin by approximately 67 years. Sixtyseven years!
Yes, this remarkable lines were written in 1945 by Vannevar Bush right after World War II ended. This brilliant mind wrote the article As We May Think for The Atlantic magazine, describing his thoughts on what scientists should concentrate on after the war.
In this very famous article, he described a many concepts that become real products only decades later - if ever! He anticipated things like digital cameras, fax machines, the advantages of digital copies, text to speech conversion systems, optical character recognition, the availability of general purpose computers for everybody, modern programming languages, relational databases, non-cash payment methods, magnetic information storage systems, brain computer interfaces, digitization of information of any kind, and so forth.
By far the most revolutionary thing he was mentioning was an apparatus he named "memex" (probably for "memory expander"). It is "a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library [...] in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications".
The physical appearances of a memex was described as a desk which "can presumably be operated from a distance". Using a keyboard, buttons and levers one can operate this device. Material is stored on microfilm. The storage capacity is that big that "it would take [the user] hundreds of years to fill the repository, so he can be profligate and enter material freely". Content can be purchased from third party and easily inserted into a memex. Bush clearly described the process of copy and paste, skimming and navigating through large documents, and annotating content.
As the "essential feature of the memex", he emphasized the possibility of being able to create links: "The process of tying two items together is the important thing". This way, memex got one of the first concepts of hyperlinks. Bush also describes how those joined items form a trail where items "from widely separated sources [are] bound together to form a new book".
This vision of Vannevar Bush was quite remarkable concerning the time it was written. Bush describes techniques and visions of tools of an information worker and not of an average clerk or scientist of that time. This single article inspired many scientists of the following decades and even up to the present. Not all of his dreams did become products available to us yet. One important idea which is also a very crucial point for this thesis, Bush described that way:
Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing. When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass. /It can be in only one place/, unless duplicates are used; one has to have rules as to which path will locate it, and the rules are cumbersome. Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path.
/The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association./ With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature. /[Emphasis by the author.]/
And this is, where my PhD thesis provides important research :-)