"A MEMEX is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory. It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works" -- Vannevar Bush, 1945.


Part of Steve Jobs' original vision for the Apple Macintosh was that it be an appliance -- something as easy and intuitive to use as a toaster.

Forty years before, Vannevar Bush had expressed his sense of the Memex in somewhat similar terms: as a "piece of furniture."

The Memex 2015 updates this basic metaphor for the digital age. Rather than mimicking a craft object of the 19th century (a desk) or a basic electric device of the 20th century (a toaster), the Memex 2015 will be patterned on the essential medium of the 21st century: television.

By 2015, almost no one alive will remember life before television, and people will be thoroughly accustomed to watching the screen with a minimum of interaction. The main unit of the Memex 2015, then, will be in people's living rooms, not on their desks. (It will be assumed that people would prefer to work on the detachable portable unit.)

Also like television, the Memex 2015 will have its bandwidth provided by the cable company -- along with the ability to download (and record) 500 channels, people will be able to download from and upload to the World Wide Web using the television cable.

In addition to television, the Memex 2015 also replicates and expands upon the capacities of the current video-cassette recorder. Memex owners can use 1-terabyte cartridges in their Zip 2015 drive that hold self-recorded, self-downloaded, or store-bought movies, music albums, or text -- basically, anything that can be reduced to digital form and displayed on a screen.

Like Bush's Memex, the Memex 2015 will use technology wherever possible to mechanize repetitive thought and action. Cable companies will assign a unique code to each television show and movie, making it possible for viewers to record a show without even knowing that it was on (the show will be held in RAM until a cartridge is provided for storage). Advances in intelligent agents and push technology will allow Memex owners to see only those news stories and advertisements that would be of interest to them, without having to wade through a lot of other clutter.

These capabilities are basic to all Memex 2015 machines, but are not the limits to what it can do. Memex owners can customize to their heart's desire, just as they can with personal computers today -- getting more memory, larger cartridge drives, larger monitors, different input options, telephony, etc. There will also be a variety of software available for the Memex, just as there is today.

The bottom line of the Memex 2015 is that though most people will not use it in ways that would have gladdened Vannevar Bush and vindicated his vision, some people can use it in those ways.