Edge-notched cards: stacks of papercraft hypertext

Kevin Kelly brings us an extraordinary reminiscence of the not-entirely-defunct (?) "edge-notched card," a punchcard hypertext technology that inspired visionaries and weirdos for decades before the PC came along.

Edge-notched cards were invented in 1896. These are index cards with holes on their edges, which can be selectively slotted to indicate traits or categories, or in our language today, to act as a field. Before the advent of computers were one of the few ways you could sort large databases for more than one term at once. In computer science terms, you could do a "logical OR" operation. This ability of the system to sort and link prompted Douglas Engelbart in 1962 to suggest these cards could implement part of the Memex vision of hypertext.


(Thanks, Daniel!)