I recently watched a film suggested by Prof. Lockman entitled Pirates of Silicon Valley. Researching the film, I saw a comparison of ‘the Social Network done ten years earlier’, and I suppose they were correct in describing the film, but this story is much bigger.
Watching this film was a stacking of ideas, a stacking of development in the world of computers. Decades before these guys were building computers in their garages, there were men constructing the ideas and possibilities of their creation.
Heading back to the late nineteenth century a man by the name of Vannevar Bush was born. He is vital to the work of Jobs and Gates through his vision of technology’s capabilities. Enter- the Memex.
The Memex was Bush’s concept of an extension and aid to the human, expand and organize memory. What are the capacities of human, and therefore, how can they be stretched? His vision of an ordinary looking desk fixed with a keyboard and endless catalog of information shrunken to a barely visible state. Bush explains this idea through his article As We May Think.
Through research, I’ve come to think of Vannevar Bush as a technological humanitarian. Yes, he worked closely with the American government through war times and aided the development of the atomic bomb, but after the fact, Bush wanted to push the extent to which computers could be used in times of peace. This feeling of computer usage with regular people and to assist them was furthered by a man named Douglas Engelbart.
Engelbart was a heavy link in the technology chain connecting Vannevar Bush to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Engelbart focused on the extension of human ability, what can person do? He imagined the functions of a person and divided them into two categories, generally conscious and unconscious functioning. Conscious actions are more memories, but unconscious actions include languages and reflex, what people think without knowing the are thinking.
A machine that could connect the human through an extension of these functions, people can speak, but how can they communicate more efficient with distance? Therefore, Engelbart considered how people communicate. A fascinating aspect of his analysis was the consideration of culture into the communication and functioning process. Taking into account the manner through which culture shapes and molds the intake of information, he wanted to make the link between person and machine more natural.
This resulted in Engelbart’s creation of the graphical user interface, he began the process to the personal computer. Though his colleagues at the time mocked the idea of computers for the everyday person, his ideas and creations carried on to inspire the boys in Silicon Valley.
Today, we see their visions coming to fruition.