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#16 Andrew Louis on Memex & Designing the "Internet" Before Digital Computers

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Hosted By
James M. and David K.


Different room & floor this time: this event on April 6th will be held in unit 201 of the same building at 80 Spadina. Use either the elevator or the stairs to go to the 2nd floor, and unit 201 is just to your left as you exit the elevator. (Note that this is the only unit on the 2nd floor that is Shopify's.)

Important: please arrive before 7pm, which is when the front door locks! If you arrive after 7pm, use the keypad beside the outside door and buzz 8882 to be let in.


Fresh from his experiences during World War 2, scientist Vannevar Bush wrote an essay entitled "As We May Think" (1945) about a physical device that could help people deal with information overload with a hope that it could prevent our species from accidentally destroying itself. His “Memex” would store and organize an individual’s library and allow for annotating, linking, and sharing with others. In an era when “computer” meant a room full of people manually calculating numbers, Bush’s gave us a vision of how computers could empower individuals.

We’ll explore:

• The state of computing at the time the paper was written.

• The nature of Bush’s device and his technical solutions for retrieving, annotating, and linking information (mechanical algorithms using microfilm!)

• How the paper directly lead to the first PCs and creation of the internet and in particular, its influence on Douglas Engelbart's work in the 1960s (the person who pioneered GUIs, the computer mouse, e-mail, computer networking, and much else.)


Though not originally published in an academic journal, Bush’s essay is one of the most cited pieces of literature in computer science history.


If you prefer an abridged version with goofy diagrams, you’re in luck:

Doors open at 6:30 pm, presentation will begin at 7:00 pm. There will be food and refreshments provided by Shopify.


Andrew Louis is software engineer from Toronto. After graduating from Computer Science at UofT, he co-founded and CTO’d ShopLocket, an ecommerce service which was acquired in 2014. He is currently working on a secret new project not terribly unrelated to the Memex.
Shopify @ Unit 201
80 Spadina Ave, Unit 201 · Toronto, ON
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