This essay by Vannevar Bush was published in 1945 in the Atlantic Monthly. He describes a system called the memex, a tool for making knowledge more accessible, that is often considered to be one of the precursors of hypertext.

A quote from the editor of the Atlantic

Like Emerson’s famous address of 1837 on “The American Scholar,” this paper by Dr. Bush calls for a new relationship between thinking man and the sum of our knowledge.

And one from the essay itself:

The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square- rigged ships. (…)

Two centuries ago Leibnitz invented a calculating machine which embodied most of the essential features of recent keyboard devices, but it could not then come into use. The economics of the situation were against it: the labor involved in constructing it, before the days of mass production, exceeded the labor to be saved by its use, since all it could accomplish could be duplicated by sufficient use of pencil and paper. (…)

Babbage, even with remarkably generous support for his time, could not produce his great arithmetical machine. His idea was sound enough, but construction and maintenance costs were then too heavy. (…)

The world has arrived at an age of cheap complex devices of great reliability; and something is bound to come of it.

Reference: The Atlantic, July, 1945.