The Ancient and Ultimate Document Viewer?

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The Ancient and Ultimate Document Viewer?

#1  Postby lpetrich » Jun 19, 2019 1:25 am

quotes - Quotation about the future of technology being paper - Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange

Isaac Asimov once wrote an essay called "The Ancient and the Ultimate" ("The Tragedy of the Moon", "Asimov on Science"). He wrote that as a response to the notion that high-tech document viewers might someday replace books.
You’ll have to admit that such a cassette would be a perfect futuristic dream: self-contained, mobile, non-energy-consuming, perfectly private, and largely under the control of the will.

Ah, but dreams are cheap so let’s get practical. Can such a cassette possibly exist? To this, my answer is Yes, of course. The next question is: How many years will we have to wait for such a deliriously perfect cassette?

I have an answer for that, too, and a quite definite one. We will have it in minus five thousand years–because what I have been describing… is a book!

Post-Kindle
What goes around, comes around. There's a 1968 Isaac Asimov story called "The Holmes-Ginsbook Device", set in a world of advanced digital reading technology. The title's two innovators devise an ingenious system of printing page images and assembling them into a kind of codex, a physical entity that needs only hands and eyes to read. Of course the inventors are unfairly forgotten when the device bearing their names is shortened by popular usage to "book". Oh, sorry, was that a spoiler?

Though a physical book does require light from outside.

Furthermore, such books have a great deficiency compared to most electronic document viewers: they do not have any built-in search facility. Computer text editors go back to 1960 (the Colossal Typewriter) and searchable ones go back to 1964 (TECO). It is nowadays pretty much universal in document viewers (PDF, e-books, web browsers, ...) and document editors (text editors, word processors, spreadsheets, ...) Searchability is also common for file systems and server-based software like messageboards, and search engines are an important part of the Internet.

Such books are also much more massive and bulky than the corresponding amount of electronic storage. For text, I estimate a factor of a million, relative to a typical USB thumb drive.

Such books are also very difficult to copy.

For my part, I am giving away most of my old books as bulky and heavy, though I've kept Isaac Asimov's science essays because they have not been reissued as e-books.
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Re: The Ancient and Ultimate Document Viewer?

#2  Postby lpetrich » Jun 19, 2019 1:51 am

Curiously, IA himself once wrote about information search. In 1955, he wrote "The Sound of Panting" ("Only a Trillion"). The panting that he described was for him as he tried to keep up with the biochemistry literature.

Asimov Suggests Science of Data | News | The Harvard Crimson
Science's rapid accumulation of data, Asimov said, has created the need for a new branch of science, information retrieval. The new field, he said, should attempt to make the data scientists need available to them simply "by pushing the right button."

Regaling his audience with a Jackie Masonesque style, Asimov then launched into a lengthy example of how Mendel's theories of heredity were overlooked for a generation, the delay producing misconceptions that may ultimately have led to two world wars.

What IA talked about is now commonplace, in the form of search engines and search features. Abstract-indexing sites like PubMed are searchable, as are preprint archives like ArXiv.
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Re: The Ancient and Ultimate Document Viewer?

#3  Postby felltoearth » Jun 19, 2019 11:25 am

lpetrich wrote:Curiously, IA himself once wrote about information search. In 1955, he wrote "The Sound of Panting" ("Only a Trillion"). The panting that he described was for him as he tried to keep up with the biochemistry literature.

Asimov Suggests Science of Data | News | The Harvard Crimson
Science's rapid accumulation of data, Asimov said, has created the need for a new branch of science, information retrieval. The new field, he said, should attempt to make the data scientists need available to them simply "by pushing the right button."

Regaling his audience with a Jackie Masonesque style, Asimov then launched into a lengthy example of how Mendel's theories of heredity were overlooked for a generation, the delay producing misconceptions that may ultimately have led to two world wars.

What IA talked about is now commonplace, in the form of search engines and search features. Abstract-indexing sites like PubMed are searchable, as are preprint archives like ArXiv.

If only we had the right kind of internet we could rid ourselves of Nazism.
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