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Even Before Memex, a Plan For a Networked World

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the da-vinci-invented-everything dept.

The Internet 119

phlurg writes "The New York Times presents an amazing article on 'the Mundaneum,' a sort of proto-WWW conceived of by Paul Otlet in 1934. 'In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or "electric telescopes," as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a "réseau," which might be translated as "network" — or arguably, "web."' A fascinating read." (You may be reminded of Vannevar Bush's "Memex," which shares some of the same ideas.)

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119 comments

Good for him ... (4, Insightful)

YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822021)

It shows the difficult part of ideas isn't dreaming them up, it's actually realizing them.

Re:Good for him ... (4, Insightful)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822073)

I'm not sure I would agree with that. The best ideas are ones that seem obvious in retrospect, but had never been considered before. In some cases, implementation can be trivial, the real revolution is in proposing the solution.

Re:Good for him ... (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822279)

I think parent is confusing, "best" with most celebrated/lucrative. What defines a great idea should have as much to do with its effect as how hard it was to conceive.

Re:Good for him ... (5, Informative)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822577)

That's my cue to point out that E.M. Forster not only predicted the network and it's social effects, but forecast doom when the system runs out of capacity and engineering clue. If you haven't read it yet, read it now - it's short and great.

The Machine Stops [uiuc.edu] . (Written in 1909, as in ninety-nine years ago. In England.)

Re:Good for him ... (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822785)

Wow!

You have just opened my eyes to a new E M Forster - far from the A Passage to India that I was subjected to at school.

It's almost Michael Moorcock in it's imagination.

Thanks :o)

Re:Good for him ... (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 5 years ago | (#23825109)

WOW, great read. I wonder if THX1138 took just a little inspriration from this, because the imagery is about the same.

Re:Good for him ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23826465)

Tesla came up with a pretty good picture of the uses, but not the medium.

Re:Good for him ... (4, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822415)

Seeing as no one else did it in the intervening 50 years, I'd not be too quick to call that the easy part.

What's interesting to me is to see if any of this stuff can be submitted as prior art to invalidate as many of the recent web patents as possible.

Re:Good for him ... (4, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822815)

That's actually why I think patents aren't very useful.

If someone is really innovative even 30 years of monopoly isn't enough to help them - since most people won't get it.

But 30 years of monopoly would be terrible for > 99.99% of the approved patents (which are mostly pretty obvious - e.g. once you encounter the problem, the solution is easily found by anyone competent in the field).

The real innovators are so many steps ahead - they'll think of various problem, then the solutions, and then the problems with the solutions, and then the solutions for those problems, and so on, till they are decades ahead of everyone else.

As for those who say you should actually implement stuff to be able to claim a patent, I give the example of Douglas Engelbart and his team - they actually implemented a lot of stuff, and most people didn't get it till many decades later.

So to me I don't really think there should be patents on inventions - nowadays > 99.99% of them are just trivial junk that clutter up everything and get in the way of real progress. As is they are a net minus to the world. Giving 20 year monopolies to such "innovators" is a travesty, and allowing them to make a minor change and thus extend the monopoly for even longer is crazy - how does that encourage innovation?

If you want to reward innovators, I'd say we should have Prizes for Innovation that are awarded years after - much like the Nobel Prizes. After 10 or 20 years we should be able to tell whether something is really innovative and important.

Perhaps the application fees could go to a fund used to award the prizes and for administrative costs. Money could also come from other sponsors.

Re:Good for him ... (2, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824009)

That's actually why I think patents aren't very useful.

If someone is really innovative even 30 years of monopoly isn't enough to help them - since most people won't get it.


The stated purpose of patents is to put innovative works into the public domain -- after a limited exclusivity period as a reward for doing so. The alternative to patents is going back to trade secrets and exclusive guilds, and that's really throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I don't think any system can be fully prevented from being gamed, but it would be nice if there were at least some sensible refereeing.

Re:Good for him ... (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824179)

But it rarely satisfies the stated purpose. How many people read patents to find out how something works? Really? Many large companies even explicitly ask staff NOT to read patents, because they'd then encounter the risk of a court finding willful infringement with resulting higher judgements, or the risk of being forced to list prior art they'd prefer not to know about.

If most patents are never actually used to find out how something works, then we get the downsides without the benefits.

Re:Good for him ... (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 5 years ago | (#23825153)

I fully agree with you. I think the patent system needs a huge overhaul in order to get back to its original principle. This overhaul doesn't include abolishing it entirely.

First of all, it'd be nice to be able to search only expired patents. But of course the whole "patent fence" nonsense going on makes even that risky. Back to the overhaul...

Re:Good for him ... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#23828121)

I have news for you, we're already living in a world where that "baby" is already _dead_. So if we throw it out with the bathwater, I don't see how things would get worse.

1) There are so many examples of cases where people/companies/organisations/countries kept secrets, but complex stuff was still reverse engineered or reinvented independently.
2) People are using patents to hold monopolies for very long periods (as technology changes slightly, they patent a variation and so on), and for anticompetitive tactics.

The fact is most (ignoring the perpetual motion junk) patents are keeping competitors out far longer than it would take to reverse engineer or reinvent them if they were kept secret.

So where's that benefit you cite?

Give me an example of something currently patented that when kept secret could not be reverse engineered within 10 years once it gets to market (national security stuff doesn't get patented, or is effectively kept secret anyway once the Gov finds out).

It currently takes very many years to get a patent (in various countries too). So shortening the terms isn't going to be useful - you might as well throw the system away.

Re:Good for him ... (4, Informative)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822467)

It shows the difficult part of ideas isn't dreaming them up, it's actually realizing them.

I disagree, look at the sketch books of Da Vinci, the man was clearly a genius. Just because he didn't have the technology to create the parts he needed, doesn't detract from the thought and creativity required to conceive them.

Otlet was definitely a visionary. He saw a need for an accessible and indexable catalog of information that was linked by context. Even 100 years ago people began choking on massive amounts of paper. Otlet was arguably the first to conceive of a novel solution to this problem. Just because he didn't have access to electronic mass storage and computing power doesn't mean that his idea wasn't brilliant.

As other posters have mentioned, just because hyper links and networks seem obvious today, 70 years ago the idea was just starting to form. Someone had to have the insight to envision them.

Re:Good for him ... (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822845)

Someone had to have the insight to envision them

Damn you and your sig - I read 'envision' as 'embiggen', you cromulent git!

Re:Good for him ... (1)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823073)

As we all know, invisioning technology can embiggen even the smallest mind.

It is very important to check your grammar and make sure your usage is cromulent at all times.

Re:Good for him ... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822543)

"It shows the difficult part of ideas isn't dreaming them up, it's actually realizing them."

Actually they are equally hard, idea quality matters and so does execution, the idea is ultimately a guide towards goals. Most of us when we think of great ideas do not have the understanding or necessary tools to realize them. Just like the fellow in the article above, he had a great ideas but to actally implent it would take enormous amounts of effort, willpower, desire and knowhow. Whole industries were founded on ideas no one thought of.

Re:Good for him ... (1)

UnixUnix (1149659) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822779)

And timing them right. Video-conferencing was technically possible and indeed became available -- before its time.

Re:Good for him ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23823003)

Murray Rothbard actually had great insight on this topic. His argument [mises.org] was that the availability of capital is the critical factor in technological progress, and not the generation of new ideas, which there are plenty of.

Not to say that coming up with ideas in useless, indeed we'd be nowhere without them either. But so many good ideas like this one sit idle and never materialise because priorities of investors focus elsewhere.

Must be registered user, apparently... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23822045)

No article to be slashdotted...

Re:Must be registered user, apparently... (2, Informative)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822743)

NY Times registration is free (as in beer) and painless. I get an email from them mybe once a month. They don't hassle me otherwise.

Reseau (4, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822083)

He called the whole thing a "reseau," which might be translated as "network"

Indeed, "reseau" (but with an accent, which didn't show up when I pasted it) is the word used in French for "network", in both computer and other senses.

This is not like Memex (5, Informative)

sp332 (781207) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822115)

The Memex was (or would have been) a personal workstation, not a networked device. True, it had hyperlinking, but only among documents on the same device. This Mundaneum seems to be entirely network-centric.

Prior Art (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23822127)

The ultimate in prior art for the US Patent office. :-)

What a visionary! (1)

aceofspades1217 (1267996) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822145)

What an amazing visionary. Well I guess he was right on the button. Heck that basically describes web 2.0 before web 0.1 was invented. He is right on target.

This kind of reminds me of the guy who wrote a 10 page article on the year 2008. He was right about a lot of things but was wrong about a ton of things (trailer homes, bubbles, going 300 mph in a computer driven car).

But I must say this guy is a genius. He was 70 years ahead of his time because the whole concept of "online communities" is a rather new idea (about 3 to 5 years at the most)

Re:What a visionary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23822285)

I absolutely agree, could not believe it. I am curious to see the documentary (there is a short piece in the article)

Re:What a visionary! (4, Informative)

oliderid (710055) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822307)

Well I remember watching a documentary over the mondaneum (I'm belgian). Pre WWII he enjoyed a relatively popularity in Belgium and amongst the intelligentsia around the world. Besides the mondaneum I remember that he tried to create somekind of a 'universal city' where human knowledge would have been concentrated and archived.

He did try to settle it somewhere near Antwerp (If I remember well) but nobody truly wanted it. I think he tried to settle it somewhere in Switzerland but it didn't work either (or maybe just part of his project, I really don't know anymore).

During the occupation, Nazi (and/or collaborators) were truly concerned about his pacifism, the mondaneum was located in the cinqantenaire (a famous building in brussels). I think (but it should be checked) that they did whatever they can to force him to leave. His real tragedy was when thugs came in and took all his archives, with no regards for their complex classification, loosing parts of it...Everything became unclassified and thus almost lost entirely too.

Then the remaining mundaneum archived have been moved to Mons. He did his best to revive his project and it never worked like before WWII.
Sad story.

Re:What a visionary! (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824579)

The article has details on most of the stuff you are questioning there, it's probably worth a read just to brush up on what you already know. It is interesting to wonder what would have happened had WWII not got in the way of this guys work, it is pretty sad..

I found the end of the article quite amusing though:

"The problem is that no one knows the story of the Mundaneum," said the lead archivist, Stephanie Manfroid. "People are not necessarily excited to go see an archive. It's like, would you rather go see the latest 'Star Wars' movie, or would you rather go see a giant card catalog?"
Personally I'd much rather see a giant revolutionary card catalog system than watch the latest Star Wars movies again! :)

Re:What a visionary! (3, Insightful)

actiondan (445169) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822333)

the whole concept of "online communities" is a rather new idea (about 3 to 5 years at the most)


I must have imagined usenet then I guess.

Even in the strict web-based sense of online communities with registration, member profiles, forums and so on, I was working building them in the late nineties so they have definitely been around for longer than 3-5 years.

You could argue that online social networking communities (i.e. systems that create networks of users based on their relationships) are a more recent development, but there are some older examples of them around - they just didn't get into the mainstream.

Re:What a visionary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23822419)

yes, see also dialup bulletin board systems -- there were even "doors" that did create networks of users based on their relationships, and even exchanged them with other bulletin boards. NONE of it is new.

Re:What a visionary! (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822523)

I must have imagined usenet then I guess.
And BBSes and FidoNet and CompuServe and 'QuantumLink' (now known as AOL). Please.

Re:What a visionary! (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822755)

Even in the strict web-based sense of online communities with registration, member profiles, forums and so on, I was working building them in the late nineties so they have definitely been around for longer than 3-5 years.
Errm.. and this guy envisioned that in the 1934, before electronic computers existed. His picture ought to be next to "visionary" in the dictionary.

Envisioning something 5 years before it's widely used is future thinking, but not exactly an OMG type of revelation, but envisioning something 70+ years prior is one.

Re:What a visionary! (1)

actiondan (445169) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822951)

Taking issue with a specific statement in a post does not mean that I was disagreeing with the whole thing - that's why I quoted the part I was correcting.

Otlet certainly was a visionary, but that doesn't change the fact that online communities are more than 3-5 years old.

Re:What a visionary! (1)

makapuf (412290) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822827)

uuuhhh, maybe some site [slashdot.org] some of us know about can be labelled as an online community and was there before 3-5 years ago ?

Re:What a visionary! (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824121)

the whole concept of "online communities" is a rather new idea (about 3 to 5 years at the most)
I must have imagined usenet then I guess.
yeah and I must have imagined IRC too

Re:What a visionary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23824373)

Hi,

One or two more details from another Belgian who had access to the remains of this crazy idea.

The Mundaneum was started at the end of the 19th century and produced millions of quarter-page sized snippets of infos with lots of footnotes on each of these cards. They were stored in woodden drawers. Besides those, the collection contains hundreds of posters and photos. It +/- fills a whole hangar.

It was first at the Cinquantenaire then moved to the Leopold Parc laboratory (now a school) just before the war. The Gestapo later took the building over and the collection ended in a hangar. In the 1990's a restoration work was started and it now forms a country side museum/conference hall (mundaneum.be) sadly very poor in pictures and unilingual French.

The whole idea was already very utopian/left-wing 100 years ago and the venue is mostly used for left-wing intellectual gatherings, the museum side is giving way but you can see a sample of the original drawers and cards.
It it had materialized, "Brazil" would not have been a fictional work.

some pics in this pdf: http://www.mons.be/images/lib/Mundaneum.pdf

Re:What a visionary! (1)

aceofspades1217 (1267996) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824415)

What I meant was this whole idea of web 2.0 in general. Web 2.0 is a rather new idea. Before everything was basically content handed to you by a content creator now in days users make the content. And yes your right online communities have been around for more than 3-5 years. What I should have said was the Web 2.0 has only been around for 3-5 years.

So yea we all make mistakes :P "Musta been a typo a typo a typo".

I almost put 5-10 years that seems more reasonable.

Re:What a visionary! (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822911)

He didn't just write about it - he realised it in concrete (well, card) form.

Only technology stopped him from being the father of the Web.

Damn - I wish I'd known about this guy in the 70s - I'd have sewn the whole lot up in patents :o)

Re:What a visionary! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23823043)

the well [wikipedia.org] disagrees with you

"Might" be translated as network? (5, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822163)

He called the whole thing a "réseau," which might be translated as "network"
What do you mean by "might" be translated as network?

Réseau is the french word for network!

It's all hypothetical (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23822341)

French is a fictional language, much like Klingon or Tolkien's Elvish languages. No one speaks it natively, so what words might mean is of little practical value.

Re:It's all hypothetical (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822941)

Baise mon cul, putain!

Re:It's all hypothetical (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823289)

Google can't help you being credible insulting in french. I would have said

"Va te faire foutre, connard!"

or

"Casse toi, pauvre con!" (Wich is politically correct since our president said it.)

In fact, I think even a french troll wouldn't say that. It would have been a little longer with maybe some good godwin point. And he would probably had written in english with the help of google.

Re:It's all hypothetical (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823465)

Je m'excuse - j'apprenais Francais jadis :o)

Ta gueule, espece de con!

Re:It's all hypothetical (1)

Darfeld (1147131) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823697)

C'est mieux! :o)

With little work, you could be good at it. ^^

Re:It's all hypothetical (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823947)

As I said, it's a long time (nearly 30 years, so 'un vrai mec' was still cool :o)) since I learnt the language, and I use it only occasionally.

Thanks for your time, though ;-)

Re:It's all hypothetical (3, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823293)

No one speaks it natively, so what words might mean is of little practical value.
You are so off target. Just as certain trekkies try to teach their children Klingon from birth, there have been two experiments by Francophiles to teach children French. Louisiana was one, but it failed when the U.S. bought the Louisiana purchase from the Japanese. Quebec is the other, and it has actually worked to the point of many "French" Canadians moving to the southern portion of the German state of Belgium and making a fake country. Now everyone in Belgium speaks French, and only 1/15 of Belgium is considered Belgium today.

Re:It's all hypothetical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23823533)

Professor: And this is my Universal Translator. Unfortunately, it only translates into an incomprehensible dead language.
Cubert: Hello.
Translator: Bonjour.
Professor: Crazy gibberish!

Re:"Might" be translated as network? (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822725)

Timothy: "Yo guys, what's the french word for 'network'."
CowboyNeal: "Réseau!"
Timothy: "Are you sure?"
CowboyNeal: "Fairly."
Timothy:

Would _you_ trust CowboyNeal on French?

Re:"Might" be translated as network? (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822829)

What do you mean by "might" be translated as network? Réseau is the french word for network!
The problem with the French is they don't have a word for reseau or entrepreneur. --George Bush











(yea yea yea) [snopes.com]

Best of Otlet's Original Writings in English (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822233)

As Paul Otlet's Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] notes:

His 1934 masterpiece, the Traité de documentation, was reprinted in 1989 by the Centre de Lecture publique de la Communauté française in Belgium. The original edition has recently been digitized ( https://archive.ugent.be/handle/1854/5612 [ugent.be] ). Unfortunately, neither the Traité nor its companion work, "Monde" (World) has been translated into English so far. In 1990 Professor W. Boyd Rayward published an English translation of some of Otlet's best writings (available at http://hdl.handle.net/2142/4004 [handle.net] ).


Otlet would probably be very satisfied that we'd come far enough to his life's vision that we can just hear about him, then click to read his vision (of hearing about him then clicking to read his vision).

even before man, plans for a peaceful existence (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23822249)

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whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece

Google video: The Web That Wasn't (1)

tsvk (624784) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822315)

Everybody interested in the history of the web and its predecessors in the line of networked electronic information storage, management and retrieval systems should check out Alex Wright's talk at Google called "The Web That Wasn't": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72nfrhXroo8 [youtube.com] . Very interesting!

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23822355)

Interesting that the NYT should run an article on this precisely a month after New Scientist did.

Re:Interesting (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822439)

Wow, yeah, very interesting, its also a month after May 17th too, in 2008 no less, which follows 2007...

The shitty part about New Scientist, is that it requires a subscription, whereas NYT/IHT doesnt, albeit some stories are a month late, but then again, isnt the entire story well over half a century late?

Science fiction to science fact (2, Interesting)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822421)

That ranks right up there with Jules Verne, Victor Appleton (The house name author of five generations of Tom Swift Novels), and (sadly) George Orwell in the Accurate Vision of the Future category.

Tom Swift?? Accurate? (1)

Burb (620144) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822465)

I'm still waiting for my repelatron drive and my visitor from Planet X.

Re:Science fiction to science fact (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822637)

and (sadly) George Orwell in the Accurate Vision of the Future category.

Oh pleez, dramatic much? Spare me.

If anything, Huxley's [wikipedia.org] work was far more accurate in predicting modern culture. Hell, there's even a muscle relaxant called Soma on the market!!

Why didn't he pick up... (3, Interesting)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822471)

...some surplus machines from Babbage & Co.?

Kidding aside, anyone who can look at an enormous, overwhelming task of such mind-boggling complexity and think "I can do that." is deserved of high praise, regardless of whether he succeeded or failed.

Re:Why didn't he pick up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23823283)

anyone who can look at an enormous, overwhelming task of such mind-boggling complexity and think "I can do that." is deserved of high praise, regardless of whether he succeeded or failed.


Youtube is littered with "nut shot" videos that force me to disagree with you. Great ambitions are a dime a dozen, which makes great achievements that much more impressive.

Overly romantizing what in all likelihood was simply this man's ignorance of the logicistics of his idea aside, it is neat that he thought of this, but nothing more in my opinion

A Logic Named Joe (1946) (2, Interesting)

objekt (232270) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822475)

Twelve years later than, but more accurately predicting the internet and sites like Google.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Logic_Named_Joe [wikipedia.org]

The story's narrator is a "logic" (that is, a personal computer) repairman nicknamed Ducky. In the story, a logic named Joe develops some degree of sentience and ambition. Joe proceeds to switch around a few relays in "the tank" (one of a distributed set of central information repositories analogous to servers on the World Wide Web) and connect all information ever assembled to every logic, and simultaneously disables all of the censor devices. Logics everywhere begin offering up unexpected assistance, from designing custom chemicals to alleviate inebriation to giving sex advice to small children or plotting the perfect murder. Information runs rampant as every logic worldwide crunches away at problems too vast in scope for human minds.

The Geeks Can't Do Marketing (2, Funny)

neuromancer23 (1122449) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822495)

I'm surprised that we aren't using it today. With a name like Mundaneum, people are sure to come running in droves.

Re:The Geeks Can't Do Marketing (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823915)

"Mundus" is Latin for "world". So, unless I'm mistaken, A "Mundaneum" is essentially "where the world is kept".

Re:The Geeks Can't Do Marketing (1)

neuromancer23 (1122449) | more than 5 years ago | (#23825105)

Once I had to install some Veritas client back up software on an executive's laptop. This individual had an MBA. Do you know what he asked me?

"What are Veritases?"

The majority of the American population can't even speak english let alone latin.

Communities new? (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822585)

We had communities before the internet. They were called Bulletin Boards Services (BBS) where people could hang out and exchange ideas. And back when the internet was this mythical thing that only people who lived in ivory towers could experience we had CompuServe followed later by the hideous beast AOL.

Re:Communities new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23823145)

Yep. And 20 years olds think the world is the pathetic Facebook, or throwing gang signs (learned with MTV Rappers raised in suburbia and not on the ghetto...) in MySpace.
We been there before, with our black boxes and 3300 baud modems...
Move on, you hippies! Get out of my lawn!

(And thanks God this guy Otlet was not an American, or he should have patented this Idea and now we will spend our lives paying royalties to his heirs...)

no, this was not the WWW (1)

doug (926) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822609)

Folks,

Réseau is the French word for "network", and we all know what France's only contribution to networking is. This was a proto-minitel. It is kinda like the internet, but you have to pay per-minute access fees, have slower connections, limited functionality, and have to work through a monopolistic PTT.

- doug

PS: Yes, he was Belgian, but who really can tell the difference?

Re:no, this was not the WWW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23823025)

UUUhh maybe you forgot one thing or two , like
* RNIS (ISDN)
* ATM
* Optical networks (no specifics, sorry)
* minitel
* some fax protocols
* Jpeg
* Mpeg ...
all of those not alone of course, but still advances.

then,
"It is kinda like the internet, but you have to pay per-minute access fees, have slower connections, limited functionality, and have to work through a monopolistic PTT" in the early eighties., while on dialup, 10 years later, the general public paid per-minute, had slow connections, limited funcitonnality (1994), and had to work through a monopolistic PTT. (PTT who gave the terminal for free (not on the beginning) while 1% ppl I knew only had Z80 amstrads.)

and still millions (litterally) could do (and did) ebanking, ecommerce (& porn) in the eighties with it.

Of course it is outdated. It faded out when internet came along. What a surprise !

Re:no, this was not the WWW (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824275)

It is kinda like the internet, but you have to pay per-minute access fees, have slower connections, limited functionality, and have to work through a monopolistic PTT.


As opposed to what the telecoms are pushing for today with metered usage, P2P obstruction, throttling, etc., which is kinda like the internet, but you have to pay per-gigabyte access fees on top of monthly capacity fees, have slower connections except where the other end has paid a premium to be allowed to send you data at full speed, and have to work through a monopolistic telco.

OTOH, when the minitel was first around, what you mostly had in the US was dialup local BBS's, which mostly had eitehr no or non-realtime connections between eachother, or walled-garden services like CompuServe, etc., which were either pay-per minute or had there most attractive features charged that way.

Re:no, this was not the WWW (1)

doug (926) | more than 5 years ago | (#23826075)

Nope, not quite the same thing. I lived in France from 95-98, and I used the minitel for everything from directory assistance (ie - electronic phone book) to buying train tickets. Wait. That was about it. At 14.4 my dial up was faster, and only had phone usage rates. (No free local calls in France.) Mintel 1 (the only free one) was 1200 baud down and 75 baud up. One of the problems with the French (I saw this several times) is that they don't layer protocols worth a damn. Basically the signal processing folks designed the whole thing, instead of having a low level transport layer, and higher level services on top of it.

Content providers billed France Telecom for access, and that was added to the monthly phone bill. Note that content was text, not the pretty pictures available on the internet. Since only the first 3 minutes of looking up phone numbers was free, if you needed several numbers, you get a few, hang up, and reconnect. Oh, the joy.

I was much happier before in the US using the internet. The internet wasn't as big as it is now, but it was better than anything I ever saw with the minitel. I could get to usenet. I never used CompuServe, so I can't compare with those services. I haven't touched a BBS since the 80s, so I don't think that is a fair comparison.

- doug

BTW: I'm not trying to say that metered usages, throttling, and so forth are good stuff, just that minitel sucks more.

Re:no, this was not the WWW (1)

xlv (125699) | more than 5 years ago | (#23826751)

I lived in France from 95-98
I think you've tried it too late as by then the internet was way better and the minitel was already on the decline. The BBS comparison mentioned in this thread was more accurate in the early-mid 80s before the internet was available to common folks and people were connected their C64/PCs to minitel to get extra services on top of the "online" shopping services available for the standalone minitel.

Re:no, this was not the WWW (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#23827031)

I lived in France from 95-98, and I used the minitel for everything from directory assistance (ie - electronic phone book) to buying train tickets.


Yeah, by 95-98, I'd imagine the Minitel probably seemed pretty lame compared to the WWW. But the Minitel was introduced in the early 1982, and compared to what the US had readily available then, it doesn't look so bad.

the most fascinating part of the article, to me (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822627)

concerns otlet's upbringing:

Otlet, born in 1868, did not set foot in a schoolroom until age 12. His mother died when he was 3; his father was a successful entrepreneur who made a fortune selling trams all over the world. The senior Otlet kept his son out of school, out of a conviction that classrooms stifled children's natural abilities. Left at home with his tutors and with few friends, the young Otlet lived the life of a solitary bookworm.

When he finally entered secondary school, he made straight for the library. "I could lock myself into the library and peruse the catalog, which for me was a miracle," he later wrote. Soon after entering school, Otlet took on the role of school librarian.

In the years that followed, Otlet never really left the library. Though his father pushed him into law school, he soon left the bar to return to his first love, books. In 1895, he met a kindred spirit in the future Nobel Prize winner Henri La Fontaine, who joined him in planning to create a master bibliography of all the world's published knowledge.


obviously you can see how his upbringing shaped his life's work and life's focus. to me, there are all kinds of crazy pluses and minuses to this idea of stifling your child's social upbringing in order to encourage his intellectual upbringing. of course, you need social skills in life to really succeed. at the same time, there is something genuinely valuable to be said about focusing a child's intellectual development in solitude. there's obvious trade offs here, but otlet seems to be a success, in a narrow focused way. one wonders at examples of lives that are failures of this kind of upbringing though

people always mention the successes of this kind of focused upbringing, like tiger woods or the williams sisters in tennis (parents focusing their kid's athletic talents). or parents who focus their children to be masters of the piano or cello. but for every yo-yo ma, one never hears about the hundreds who wind up as burn-outs, drug addicts or prostitutes

its an interesting subject, the focused childhood solitary education

Re:the most fascinating part of the article, to me (1)

urcreepyneighbor (1171755) | more than 5 years ago | (#23822985)

one never hears about the hundreds who wind up as burn-outs, drug addicts or prostitutes
Except if you talk to them. Then, wow, they never shut up about how goddamn great they were and how much potential they had.

its an interesting subject, the focused childhood solitary education
Hm? /. is full of intelligent people with the social skills of Oscar the Grouch. I'm one of them, you twat. ;)

the reason it failed (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823059)

was that it was called the mundane-um

why not call it the snore-ium or boring-um

anyone with knowledge of advertising or public relations knows you have to give something like this a snazzy name, the excite-o-porium, nor the neato-gonzo-hyperium, or the whatsthat?-OMFG-ium

Re:the reason it failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23825171)

The word "mundane" comes from a word meaning "wold".

Thus, "mundane" as it's used commonly means "worldly" -- as in ordinary, as oppose to "out of this world" or "otherworldly" or something similarly exiting.

However, win the Mundanium, I presume that it means "World" in the same way that it's used in "Word Wide Web"-- rather than "worldly" as ordinary, its "worldly" as in global.

This is why patents are bad (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823141)

Different people will get the same idea at different times. Just because you are first does not mean the other did not have the same original idea.

Prior Art (1)

Miykayl (841085) | more than 5 years ago | (#23823411)

Why hasn't anyone mentioned this documents' potential as prior art? (Or have they).

Are there any patents that would could be revoked based on prior art found in this document?

"Fascinating, Jim."

This is more like Wikipedia than the whole Web (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824445)

The archive's sheer sprawl reveals both the possibilities and the limits of Otlet's original vision. Otlet envisioned a team of professional catalogers analyzing every piece of incoming information, a philosophy that runs counter to the bottom-up ethos of the Web.

This seems more like a real-time encyclopedia than the entirety of the web, like the next step beyond the Encyclopedia Britannica with its professional editing of contributed articles. The Britannica would have been in the process of switching to updating through supplements when he conceived this, and he could hardly have missed the controversy surrounding that move. This was a grand vision, and the fact that he was able to implement it even in abbreviated form is remarkable.

1844: Telegraph as the first InterNet (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#23824455)

In some respect the invention of the telegraph changed the world forever because communications could be simultaneous around the earth. This would prevent gaffs like the Battle of New Orleans fought 29 years earlier, TWO WEEKS after the treaty ending that war had been signed because communications were so slow.

The capital burden of laying wires across continents and oceans helped create the modern corporations and banks. (In conjunction with railroads, steel, coal and petroleum development). There were wild economic booms and busts, not unlike the mainframes in the 1960s. PCs in the 1980s and dot.coms in the 1990s. The telegraph fueled modern media with a desire for today's news rather than weeks old letter and magazines.

The telegraph spawned other modern inventions. Randall Stoss's recent biography of Thomas Edison re-interprets the inventor in light of the dot.com boom. Several of Edison's inventions were aimed at cramming more messages on precious telegraph lines. The telephone arose out of the effort to send messages at different messages at separate frequencies. Voice is just using all frequencies. Several people beat Edison here, but he invented the first practical microphone. The phonograph was originally intended to record telegraph messages offline, then transmit them and record them at super-human speeds across precious telegraph lines. Recording and playing messages by themselves without the intervening telegraph became its own invention - the phonograph.

The noosphere - even before the "even before" (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 5 years ago | (#23826495)

Even earlier, the concept of a world-spanning network of thought had previously been developed by other thinkers predominantly known in the French-speaking world as well (most notably dissident cleric Pierre Teilhard de Chardin [wikipedia.org] ) under the name of noosphere [wikipedia.org] - the field of mind(s).

It never seemed to have made much of an impact in English until famously picked up and popularized by Eric S. Raymond [catb.org] (and in another variant referred to by John Perry Barlow as "Cyberspace, the new home of Mind [eff.org] "), recognizing the importance in retrospect when The Net was young.

Why? (1)

gammygator (820041) | more than 5 years ago | (#23826515)

Why, when (insert some inventor/writer/anybody in particular) gets their life's work (jacked up by Nazis/eaten by elephants/some other horrible fate) are they always "broken"? Why not "pissed off for a couple of weeks" while they get really drunk, recover from the hangover and then update their resume so they can find a new job? Or, relieved that they can finally get on with their life and other things... like the honey do list the missus has been pestering them with since shortly after their honeymoon?

I'm just sayin'...

Hasn't Nicolai Tesla.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23827931)

What about N Tesla, hasn't he also dreamt up a network connecting the world through his coil, although he also wanted to distibute power with it?
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