In 1945, the Director of the wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development, Doctor Vannevar Bush, used his position to promote a new era of scientific research into information technology. As scientists had expanded our physical capabilities with machines, Dr. Bush suggested that we expand our mental capabilities with technology. Scientific Atlantic published his popular essay, "As We May Think", in which he described a personal machine for the extension of human memory and for the sharing of information. While many of Dr. Bush's ideas were not unique or new, the synthesis and popular presentation reached many scientists (and budding scientists) and is often regarded as a trigger for the development of personal computers, the Internet, and the world wide web.
This project, the Memex Simulator, examines the ideas of the Memex and implements them as faithfully to Doctor Bush's original specifications as is possible given the small amount of information available on the as-of-yet unrealized physical design. Because of the prohibitive complexity and cost of film and hardware for a device such as the Memex, this project uses modern software and computer hardware in the place of film, projectors, and analog mechanical controls. This allows greater flexibility for discovery of how a Memex might work, as well as making it easier to distribute for others to experience.
The information technology field has been evolving rapidly since 1945. The Memex design was caught in a unique moment after the realization that science was poised to provide radical tools for thought but before the startling scale up of cheap digital electronic computational devices. The use and evaluation of a Memex Simulator (MemexSim) provides us with one view of the state of information technology in the 1940s so that we can engineer better information technology in the future.