Technology: Paul Otlet's internet in 1934

Door San Daniel gepubliceerd in Verhalen en Poëzie

Some of us have a visionary mind. These are the people who analyze their own situation and invent a new gadget that connects to it. Leonardo da Vinci was one such a person, born in Florence in 1452 he was not only an artist but also an inventor. He designed and sketched the "helicopter". On the basis of these drawings, a "gyrocopter", the predecessor of the current helicopter, was constructed in 1920. Leonardo's idea worked well, only in his day he did not have the means or materials to carry out his ideas.


The creator of the internet

Paul Otlet was born in Brussels in 1868. He was the son of a wealthy businessman. He studied law and worked in the legal profession for some time, but his real passion was inventing systems to improve information gathering. He was a businessman but devoted his time to devising protocols for an organization that would emerge later and take over his ideas in full; The United Nations. In addition to his many hours spent on thinking about making the world a better place, he was one of the first peace activists. His political ideas, which he developed together with Henry de la Fountaine, resulted in Nobel Peace Prize for peace in 1913. This idea was incorporated into what is now called "UNESCO".

The father of information science

In 1895 Otlet developed an indexing search system for libraries. Against payment, an index system sought to answer a question posed. A bit like an early Google service. In 1896 he had 300,000 indexes and at the peak of this service, 15 million indexes could be searched. Then he developed a system to represent mathematical quantities in a highly simplified way and started his concept of "world citizenship". Central to this was a linking up of all kinds of collections, museums but also world cities and their important services.

The results did not lie, a linked Olympic stadium, embassies, a world library and a world documentation center. From the early 1900's, Otlet was active in recording data on microfilm together with a befriended engineer. This resulted in the first encyclopedia on micro fiche. "In 1920 he completed this work with" Encyclopediae Microphotica Mundaneum "or: the world encyclopedia available on micro fiche. In 1934 he wrote his" traite de documentation ", a vision on integrating all communication media into a world wide network.

Otlet's network

Decades before the Ipad or any other medium had access to the world net, Otlet designed his internet in 1934. He wrote the plans for an integrated system of information and communication, by combining television, telephone and radio in a network. No more workspace full of books was needed according to Otlet. Instead, he continued, a screen was needd and a telephone connection. The page you wanted to read would appear on your screen, or the answer to your question for that matter. He also described how several books could appear on the screen simultaneously. Think of the contemporary tabs, as we know them now. It was not until about 30 years later that Otlet's written plans were implemented.

The execution that brought it about was a military project in the 1960s. In California in 1969, a message was first sent from one computer to another in a side-by-side arrangement in an experiment that unlocked the true contemporary Internet for all of us.

Personally, I am happy with this development, it saves a lot of mail operations. The Internet brings the world closer together, although it is information addictive.


San Daniel 2020

  1. Michael Buckland, Paul Otlet, Pioneer of Information Management, biography of Paul Otlet for the School of Information at UC Berkeley, n.d.
  2. Alex Wright, Forgotten Forefather, Paul Otlet. Archived 3 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Boxes and Arrows, Nov. 10, 2003.
  3. Alain Deneef and Xavier Rousseaux (eds.), Quatre siècles de présence jésuite à Bruxelles, Kadoc, no. 58, Louvain, 2012. ISBN 9782930682006.
  4. Wright, Alex (2014). Cataloguing the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age (in Introduction). Oxford University Press.
  5. Rayward, W. 1. (1997). The origins of information science and the International Institute of Bibliography/International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID). Journal Of The American Society For Information Science, 48, 289-300.
23/03/2020 21:38

Reacties (2) 

28/03/2020 13:08
Almost everything starts with an Idea.
So let us think together.
29/03/2020 08:48
I quite agree
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