Building a Memex

Diagram of the 1945 Memex

In 1945, the Memex was proposed as the ultimate personal library for a user’s books, correspondence, and records. In addition to just storing this data, users could navigate, organize, link, and share it with others.

Unfortunately, zero were ever built but the Memex had a direct influence on the first interactive computers and the development of hypertext and the internet. In an age when computers were room-sized analog devices for simulating missile trajectories or calculating payroll, this idea presented an alternative vision of of what computers should be able to do.

Though computers are more powerful and ubiquitous than ever, our digital histories are often inaccessible, fragmented, or locked behind corporate platforms. As a long-time journaller, note-taker, and digital packrat, the idea of the Memex resonated with me. Inspired by this seventy-year-old vision, I'm now attempting to build an app for making my personal history accessible for search and introspection.

Here's a conference talk that goes over more details:

What I've built so far:

  • Real-time importers for all the digital history I generate (email, browser history, photos, podcast listening, ebook reading, etc). Each of these activity streams gets processed into a graph-like schema, accessible through a unified API.
  • An interface for searching, filtering, and analyzing all this personal data.
  • A flexible authoring tool for composing, organizing, and annotating information.

I'm working towards publishing more details but if you’re interested in learning more now, I'd love to chat by email or you can sign up for the development newsletter:

Newsletter Archive

(I haven't stopped working on the Memex! I just haven't done a newsletter in a while. But below are the archives:)

Crystals, ESP, and Mind Control
Jun 4, 2018
Using my Memex to chat with my past
Mar 27, 2018
The Hunt for the Missing Memex Reference
Feb 25, 2018
Bad remembrance machines
Jan 28, 2018
Three origin stories about the internet
Jan 21, 2018
The implicit lie of the blank page
Dec 17, 2017
Imagining the Memex
Dec 3, 2017
A European interlude
Nov 26, 2017
Five centuries of logging
Oct 22, 2017
A 45-ton personal archive
Oct 14, 2017
Leaves on the family tree
Oct 8, 2017
The Memex heads to StrangeLoop
Sep 23, 2017
Fractals of memories
Sep 17, 2017
Sep 10, 2017
A week of beta testing
Sep 3, 2017
Modelling my brain in the Memex
Aug 27, 2017
Getting the Memex ready for beta
Aug 20, 2017
Pass by reference; pass by copy
Aug 13, 2017
Fifteen years of conversations
Aug 6, 2017
Being on nodding terms with the past
Jul 30, 2017
The dangers of Memex'ing
Jul 23, 2017
Maps! Maps! Maps!
Jul 16, 2017
The Memex vs Quantified Self
Jul 9, 2017
The Memex becomes weather-ready
Jul 2, 2017
A Memex for dreams
Jun 25, 2017
Improving the onboarding experience
Jun 18, 2017
The Memex becomes installable
Jun 11, 2017
Javascript tries to keep the Memex down
Jun 4, 2017
The Memex learns to read
May 28, 2017
Putting the Memex into a container
May 21, 2017
The Memex does New York
May 14, 2017
Prince, force diagrams, and New York
Apr 30, 2017
Climbing up and down stairs
Apr 23, 2017
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