Technological Evolution

While reading an article by, Vannevar Bush, regarding scientific applications for the future during peacetime I found myself lost in Mr. Bush’s hopes and dreams for technology in the years to come.  I was engrossed in the article finding myself lost and somewhat confused about the technology that was being discussed. I made an oversight of the date in which the article was written, and found the technology somewhat pertinent to modern times, but also seemingly dated. On further inspection, I found the article to be written in 1945!

Upon discovering the true origin of the article I reread the information with new insight and fervor. I was fascinated by Mr. Bush’s ideas on maintaining data, small cameras for collecting information, dry processed film, and mass storage of large quantities of information. It was incredible to me how the author’s desires had come to fruition all be it not in the exact manner in which he described, but very similarly.

Some of the technology put forth by Mr. Bush included forms of mass storage, “Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. 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” (Bush 10). I found an uncanny resemblance to the invention he entitled ” memex” to similar technology and branding called ” Memorex”  which was a form of recording with tapes via cassette cartridges. While the correlation to branding is of less significance than the technological purposes Bush proposes, he still encouraged forms of media to preserve and continue humanity.

The ultimate question is could Bush’s theory of using microfilm as a form of data storage stand the test of time? Could such a seemingly dated concept be viable in the world of LCD monitors, smartphones, and tablet PCs? According to Christoph Voges and Tim Fingscheidt of IEEE not only is Bush’s idea possible it is being tested and implemented  now, “The limited lifetime of today’s storage media makes reliable long-term data storage a challenging task. A promising alternative is digital data storage on microfilm that offers a data storage solution with expected lifetimes of up to 500 years, depending on the specific material and storage condition” (Voges 2046). Voges and Fingscheidt have been actively following, researching, and testing the idea of storing massive amounts of data using ideas proposed by Vannevar Bush and scientists of his yoke.

The preservation of human culture and knowledge was obviously of great import to Bush, but his methodology and inventiveness truly stand out when reading his article. The use of a walnut sized camera on the forehead of an archivist is something Bush brings to light while addressing the need for storing information. Contemplating the idea of a man or woman wearing a walnut sized camera on their head seemed ridiculous and laughable. Or is it? I tried to imagine how Bush might have felt if he skipped ahead to my present, and watched as people rotated a handheld box-like phone to take instant pictures. How laughable would we seem chasing our children down the street with our smartphones waving in the air?

I realized that not only is a camera the size of a walnut on someone’s head not laughable, in many ways it is currently being used every day. We do not have our cameras strapped to our cranium at the present, but who knows how far we are from such technology. Movies and books abound with fictional tales of cameras and chips being implanted in our brains which will constantly download our very lives to servers for our entertainment and nostalgic travels at a later date. The military, police forces, sports enthusiasts, and may other professionals use small cameras attached to helmets or gear to record events, crimes, or operations for their or agency use. Bush seemed to not only predict the route in which our technological advances would turn, he seemed to understand the need for it in great detail.

The final technological advancement Bush discussed that I found fascinating was the use of what Bush called “dry photography.” The use of photography without plates, or chemical aides was something that Bush had dreamed of documenting its great importance throughout his article. Instantly, I began to make the connection between Bush’s dreams and my reality. The use of digital photography has revolutionized the photographic arts placing cameras in the hands of almost every person regardless of their socioeconomic background. Bush had a more noble use for the idea of chemical- free photography, other than iPhone pictures in bathroom mirrors. However, I seriously doubt he would argue or negate the current use of digital photography. I believe Bush would revel in the idea that now with technology so easily accessible to so many individuals the act of keeping records of humanity becomes all the easier.


For Works Cited

Bush, Vannevar; , “As We May Think,” The Atlantic Online,  pp.1-14, December 2010 URL:

Voges, Christoph; Fingscheidt, Tim; , “A Two-Dimensional Channel Model for Digital Data Storage on Microfilm,” Communications, IEEE Transactions on , vol.59, no.8, pp.2046-2050, August 2011 URL:


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