Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Beginnnings of the Computer and it's Internet

In the early 1900s, the flood of knowledge aggregation was compiled into an information highway that would culminate into the modern day computer. Beginning with minor advances in technology, many prototypes served as stepping stones to the now pocket sized electronics we own today. In 1934, Paul Otlet, has been credited as the forefather of the World Wide Web. His breakthrough ideas aided in setting the foundation for the present day internet. His ideas included a classification network that connected “links” based on similarity of context. His invention, the Mundaneum, that was a collection of over 12 million index cards, attempted to create a mass bibliography of all written works. With this type of system, students and advocates of knowledge would thrive in such a highly attainable and efficient method of searching out specific works.
Building upon this thought process; Vannevar Bush envisioned a machine, rather than paper, that could accomplish such a citation feat. Bush’s hypothetical Memex was anticipated as a machine that could simplify the gathering, storing and retrieving of data (McMahon). Each piece of data would be tied to each other by “trails” that would allow for backtracking and association. And maybe most imperative aspect of the Memex was the idea that knowledge should not fade. This idea of permanency of information that was created by the written word could now be elaborated and would allow for educating generations consistently. Bush desired this to be a personal machine, furthering the expertise and knowledge of each individual that uses it. He wanted to use collaboration as a catalyst for technological advancements and therefore conceptualized the two-way authoring system that allowed the creation and editing of material. This idea ensured that the teachings in education would be continually perfected, specialized, and updated.
Otlet and Bush’s innovative thinking and adaptations of networks within the system of information technology allowed for the eventual creation of personal electronics and the internet. More than 35 years ago the United States Defense created ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency) as a failsafe against a nuclear war. This initial prototype to the internet would protect government computers against a disaster by maintaining connections. In the 1970s and 80s, networks connected were increasing at a rapid rate, until in the early 90s, it would no longer be an exclusive governmental project but rather a worldwide affair.