Myles na Gopaleen has your memex right here:
Similarly with our non-brow who wants his friends to infer from a glancing around his house that he is a high-brow. He buys an enormous book on the Russian ballet, written possibly in the language of that distant but beautiful land. Our problem is to alter the book in a reasonably short time so that anybody looking at it will conclude that its owner has practically lived, supped and slept with it for many months. You can, if you like, talk about designing a machine driven by a small but efficient petrol motor that would ‘read’ any book in five minutes, the equivalent of five years or ten years’ ‘reading’ being obtained by merely turning a knob. This, however, is the cheap soulless approach of the times we live in. No machine can do the same work as the soft human fingers. The trained and experienced book-handler is the only real solution of this contemporary social problem.1
And you can keep your Google Book scanners and your Index Thomisticuses. This is the originary moment for digital humanities I want.
- Flann O’Brien, “Dog Ears Four-a-Penny,” in The Best of Myles (Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive, 1968). Sitting at home with my well-thumbed copy of this volume, I don’t have access to the Irish Times archive. Let us simply agree that the original column predates those other impostors. ↩