By Alex Wright
The dream of taking pictures and organizing wisdom is as previous as historical past. From the files of old Sumeria and the Library of Alexandria to the Library of Congress and Wikipedia, humanity has wrestled with the matter of harnessing its highbrow output. The undying quest for knowledge has been as a lot approximately details garage and retrieval as inventive genius.
In Cataloging the World, Alex Wright introduces us to a determine who stands proud within the lengthy line of thinkers and idealists who dedicated themselves to the duty. starting within the past due 19th century, Paul Otlet, a librarian through education, labored at increasing the potential for the catalog card, the world's first details chip. From there common libraries and museums, connecting his local Belgium to the realm by way of an unlimited highbrow company that tried to prepare and code every little thing ever released. 40 years ahead of the 1st computer and fifty years earlier than the 1st browser, Otlet expected a community of "electric telescopes" that may permit humans in every single place to look via books, newspapers, photos, and recordings, all associated jointly in what he termed, in 1934, a réseau mondial--essentially, a world web.
Otlet's lifestyles success used to be the development of the Mundaneum--a mechanical collective mind that may apartment and disseminate every little thing ever dedicated to paper. choked with analog machines corresponding to telegraphs and sorters, the Mundaneum--what a few have referred to as a "Steampunk model of hypertext"--was the embodiment of Otlet's pursuits. It used to be additionally short-lived. by the point the Nazis, who have been pilfering libraries throughout Europe to gather info they proposal worthwhile, carted away Otlet's assortment in 1940, the dream had ended. damaged, Otlet died in 1944.
Wright's attractive highbrow heritage supplies Otlet his due, restoring him to his right position within the lengthy continuum of visionaries and pioneers who've struggled to categorise wisdom, from H.G. Wells and Melvil Dewey to Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Tim Berners-Lee, and Steve Jobs. Wright exhibits that during the years on account that Otlet's dying the area has witnessed the emergence of an international community that has proved him correct concerning the possibilities--and the perils--of networked details, and his legacy persists in our electronic international at the present time, captured forever.
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