Review T.H. Nelson, “A File Structure for The Complex, The Changing and the Indeterminate”

The purpose of T.H. Nelson’s paper, “A File Structure for The Complex, The Changing and the Indeterminate,” was to explain the significance of why we use files, how they are created and used, and why they are important through many facets and occupations. Nelson’s work began in the 1960’s while trying to create ways to organize file systems.  Nelson’s goal was to assemble the dream file which, was “the file system that would have every feature a novelist or absent-minded professor could want,” to organize their notes and content in a specific way catered to their own preference.

 Nelson stated that there were three obstacles that impede filing systems:

1. Cost-stating that although relatively high, having a device that could do the work of many individuals was ultimately more sensible because each individual could use the machine at any given time.

2. Matter of Fashion-computers are not just for corporations anymore. Any individual could benefit from the speed of acquiring anything we have previously written by using a computer.

3. Design-the most important of Nelson’s points, he then begins to introduce Bush’s paper, “As We May Think,” and quotes Bush throughout the next 2-3 pages of text.

* Nelson finds that Bush’s ideas coincide with his discussion of the composition of the computer system which hold these filing systems.

He then continues to discuss what constitutes as a good writer and the elements that coincide with writing. Nelson states that “writing is a matter of inspiration, writing consists of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair, and all  you  really  need  is  a  good  outline.” Nelson dismisses that any of these theories are correct by adding statistics and thoughts of his own towards what constitutes a good writer.

Nelson’s purpose was to demonstrate how writers can utilize a filing system to stay organized and have their content stored for any future use or references when needed. Nelson then links how filing systems play into philosophy and the ability to track information and ideas that have been rapidly changing in our world, such as data stored on files such as an ELF system.

I agree with Nelson’s perspective that computers and filing systems give individuals the ability to alter the information they seek, rather than reading a book and literally having what you get in front of you. Information online is constantly changing, therefore having stored data is crucial to the research and anyone seeking past information.

I found this content a lot to digest but overall I agree with Nelson’s perspectives and found the content relatively interesting. I liked that he linked his idea to Bush’s because it tied the two concepts together.


Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think”

If someone told me ten years ago that I would basically spend half of my day on some sort of computer or cell phone, connected to the internet, I would have told them they were crazy. To say that my generation is addicted to the web, from research tools such as or Google search, to interacting with people around the world via social media, is an understatement. Since the boom of the Internet, which was a blessing and curse if you ask me, we have been sucked into our machines and devices, weighting less than five pounds that spew out any information we desire with the click of a button.

 I found Bush’s prediction of the web to be incredibly intriguing. Although technology was on a rise at that time, for someone to have that amount of knowledge toward a concept that was merely on the cusp of invention, is slightly eerie. Bush’s successful attempt to map out how information should be stored and retrieved through databases is the premise of the Internet.

 His views may have be seen as radical to some, though, he was a visionary. Bush’s ability to understand that we needed a way to find information through an available source at any time was not something that was previously considered to an extensive degree.

His thought that, “The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain,” is spot on with how the internet serves our everyday usage of retrieving any information we seek.

 His association with how humans are able to track and memorize data is their ability to have what he calls a “private library.” This library is a machine that stores information and links it to its source as well as other information that is similar in sub categories.  Sounds a lot like a computer to me.

It will be far more reliable than “any human operator and a thousand times faster.” was his vision for the “meme” he associated a computer with.

Overall, I was impressed by Bush’s otherworldly predictions of what was to come for technology especially the web and computers. I found his reading somewhat dense, though to think about times when computers and the Internet were not the norm, it is hard to believe how far technology has come and will continue to grow with a new wave of devices and apps for that matter.