We’re featured on Very Short List—the e-mail newsletter that offers three interesting bits of culture per day—this afternoon. Welcome to anyone who’s clicked through from the embedded link, and thanks to the VSL folks for the attention.
A little more about the three recommendations:
• I’ve talked plenty about the 20×24 Studio on this site, so I don’t have to tell most Polaroidland visitors what it is. But I can tell you that interesting things are brewing there: Because of 20×24’s work with Bob Crowley’s New55 Project and an assist from the Impossible Project, it genuinely does appear that new large-format instant film is a real possibility for 2013. That’s amazing.
• In July 1945, an MIT professor named Vannevar Bush published an essay in The Atlantic, laying out his view of the future of information technology. In tech circles, it’s a legendary thing, but outside that world, it’s not well-known, and it’s amazing. The title is “As We May Think,” and in the latter portion of the piece he describes a future machine that he calls a memex. It’s a desk with a screen on top, and a huge, almost unfillable information-storage device within. Bush envisions a way in which information can be called up onto the screen, read, and its pages linked, in chains of thought, one to the next, and recorded so one can jockey back and forth from one document to the next. These memex machines are linked, so information can be passed from one to another. The thing is, shockingly, a pretty fair description of an Internet terminal, and what that means is that Vannevar Bush was trying to surf the Web in 1945. Nor did he just toss this idea out there: He went on to advise President Truman, and later helped start DARPA, the group that created the actual Internet. Read the essay—it will blow your mind.
•I’m just finishing Jon Gertner’s book The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, published last March, and like it a lot. It hits a number of the same themes as my own book, like the decline of corporate basic research in favor of straightforward product development, and the added value that results when a lot of smart people coexist in one place. It’s a bigger and more sweeping book than Instant, though, because Bell Labs had greater reach and more towering inventions. (Polaroid instant film is really interesting, but the solid-state electronics that came out of Bell Labs changed nearly everything you did today, and certainly made it possible for you to read this.) He’s a nice crisp writer, too, and does some fine work getting into the head of Bill Shockley, he of the transistor, the Traitorous Eight, and the unfortunate embrace of eugenics.
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