Computer memories were still very rudimentary at the time this article was published. This caused the the author to be pessimistic about their future capabilities.
The first thing to face is that we shall not store all the technical and scientific papers in computer memory. We may store the parts that can be summarized most succinctly-the quantitative parts and the reference citations-but not the whole.
If 6 decades ago it was unimaginable to store entire books into computer memory, today it is more than feasible. People can now store more books than they would ever need in their entire life in their computer’s hard drive (internal or external). Another alternative is cloud computing, which represents an even more evolved type of computer storage, where those books can just be stored online. We live in age of unlimited computer storage capabilities.
However, does this mean that hard books and like means of data storage in general will be substituted with digital ones? Licklider does not seem to believe so.
Books are among the most beautifully engineered, and human-engineered, components in existence, and they will continue to be functionally important within the context of man-computer symbiosis. (Hopefully, the computer will expedite the finding, delivering, and returning of books.)
Books are indeed beautifully engineered especially with their design as a whole and the organization of their content. However, I wonder what his opinion would be, had it seen the computers of today, and by ‘computer’ I means any type of electronic device that has a memory and data processing capabilities. Not only have computers expedited the finding, delivering, and returning of books, they are even able to provide an alternative to hard books, e-books. So far, nobody can say that computer memories have replaced hard books and ‘ink and paper’ ways of data storage. So then, will digital media and ‘ink and paper’ coexist? Well, at least they do today, but will this continue? Even more, will they be able to exist one for the other, i.e. in symbiosis? In hindsight, Licklider was mostly wrong in his prediction about his prediction concerning the capabilities of computer memories. This is very understandable though, the evolution of technology in the last few decades has been all but predictable.