The Web Imagined in 1934 Using Index Cards, Telegraphs, and Other Analog Tools

In 1934, Belgian Paul Otlet wrote a book in which he envisioned a worldwide "mechanical, collective brain" that would store and make accessible the world's knowledge. By that time, he had created with co-visionary Henri La Fontaine a "database" of over 12 million index cards and was responding to over 1,500 queries a year. Unfortunately, the project's sponsor, the Belgian government, withdrew support, the Nazis invaded, they displaced the project to make way for a Third Reich art exhibit, and Otlet died in relative obscurity in 1944.

Read more about it at "Paul Otlet," The Universe of Information: the Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organisation, "Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1868-1944) and Hypertext," and "The Web Time Forgot."


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