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Activate Design Limited

MyLifeBits Project


MyLifeBits is a lifetime store of everything. It is the fulfillment of Vannevar Bush's 1945 Memex vision including full-text search, text & audio annotations, and hyperlinks. There are two parts to MyLifeBits: an experiment in lifetime storage, and a software research effort.

The experiment: Gordon Bell has captured a lifetime's worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings and stored them digitally. He is now paperless, and is beginning to capture phone calls, IM transcripts, television, and radio.

The software research: Jim Gemmell and Roger Lueder have developed the MyLifeBits software, which leverages SQL server to support: hyperlinks, annotations, reports, saved queries, pivoting, clustering, and fast search. MyLifeBits is designed to make annotation easy, including  gang annotation on right click, voice annotation, and web browser integration. It includes tools to record web pages, IM transcripts, radio and television. The MyLifeBits screensaver supports annotation and rating. We are beginning to explore features such as document similarity ranking and faceted classification. We have collaborated with the WWMX team to get a mapped UI, and with the SenseCam team to digest and display SenseCam output.

Support for academic research: Our team helped administer the Microsoft Research Digital Memories (Memex) request for proposals. Winners are now posted. We also helped establish the ACM CARPE Workshops: CARPE 2004    CARPE 2005   CARPE 2006

NEW! See our on-line virtual demo



  • Gordon Bell's SIGMOD Keynote (June 14, 2005): MyLifeBits, A Transaction Processing Database for Everything Personal. The talk included project history, demonstration screens, architecture, size and shape of the Bell database (200,000 items, 100 GBytes), and research challenges for the database community. PowerPoint (22 MB)
  • Jim Gemmell's MyLifeBits talk given at a number of universities: Feb 2005 version PowerPoint (10 MB) 
  • Gordon Bell's talk, given at BayCHI, on 11 February 2003 at PARC, Palo Alto (4.8 MByte PPT) and U.S. Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey on 6 February 2003.
  • MyLifeBits: A lifetime personal store beginning at 1:22.  Streaming webcast of Bell by Austrian Telecom at Austria's European (Technology) Forum Alpbach, Plenary Session speaker, "The World of Tomorrow", held Thursday 26 August 2004.  See also the PowerPoint presentation (approx. 10 MB).

MyLifeBits In The News

Don't forget to back up your brain, Fox News, 11/14/2007
Remember This?, The New Yorker, May 28, 2007
Total recall becomes a reality, The Telegraph, 4/21/2007
Your Whole Life is Going to Bits, Sydney Morning Herald 4/14/2007
Researcher Records His Life On Computer, CBS Evening News 4/9/2007
Perfect Memory,WATTnow, March 2007
Lifeblogging: Is a virtual brain good for the real one? Ars technica, 2/7/2007
On the Record, All the Time, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/4/2007
Digital Diary, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/28/2007
The Persistence of Memory, NPR Radio "On the Media" show, 1/5/2007
How Microsoft’s Gordon Bell is Reengineering Human Memory (and Soon, Your Life and Business), Fast Company, Nov 2006.
Digital age may bring total recall in future, CNN 10/16/2006.
El hombre que guarda todos los recuerdos de su vida en bits, La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico), 7/16/2006.
That's My Life, Aria Magazine April 2006.
The ultimate digital diary The Dominion Post 5/31/2006
In 2021 You'll Enjoy Total Recall Popular Science 5/18/2006
The Memory Machine, Varsity.co.uk, 3/2/2006
Life Bytes, NPR Radio "Living on Earth" show, 1/20/2006
The man with the perfect memory - just don't ask him to remember what's in it The Guardian, 12/28/2005
Bytes of my life, Hindustan Times, 11/17/2005
Total Recall, IEEE Spectrum, 11/1/2005 Podcast on IEEE Spectrum Radio (Choose arrow on October 2005 show and select "MyLifeBits -- the digitized life of Gordon Bell")
Turning Your Life Into Bits, Indexed, Los Angeles Times 7/11/2005
Wouldn't It Be Nice The Wall Street Journal 5/23/2005
Life Bits IEEE Spectrum Online May 2005
How To Be A Pack Rat, Forbes.com 4/29/2005 - see also blog entry by Thomas Hawk at eHomeUpgrade
Computer sage cuts paperwork, converts his life to digital format The Seattle Time 4/9/2005
Channel 9 video interviews 8/21/2004 Intro Gemmell Lueder
Slices of Life Spiked-Online 8/19/2004
Next-generation search tools to refine results CNET 8/9/2004
Life in byte-sized pieces The Age, 7/18/2004
Removable Media For Our Minds TheFeature 3/25/2004
This is Your Life San Jose Mercury News 3/6/2004
Navigating Digital Home Networks New York Times 2/19/2004
Offloading Your Memories New York Times Magazine Year in Ideas issue 12/14/2003  "Bright notions, bold inventions, genius schemes and mad dreams that took off (or tried to) in 2003"
Logged on for life Toronto Star 9/8/2003
This is your life--in bits U.S. News & World Report 6/23/2003
My Life in a Terabyte IT-Analysis.com 5/14/2003
How MS will know ALL about you ZD AnchorDesk 4/18/2003
Memories as Heirlooms Logged Into a Database The New York Times 3/20/2003
Microsoft Fair Forecasts Future AP 2/27/2003 (This story ran on many newspapers and news sites, including USA Today, The Globe and Mail, The San Jose Mercury News, and ABC News)
This Is Your Brain on Digits ABC News 2/5/2003
A life in bits and bytes c|net News.com 1/6/2003 (run also by ZDNet)|
Your Life - On The Web Computer Research & Technology 12/20/2002
Saving Your Bits for Posterity Wired 12/6/2002
Microsoft works to create back-up brain Knowledge Management 11/25/2002
Microsoft Creating Virtual Brain NewsFactor Network 11/22/2002
Microsoft solves "giant shoebox problem" Geek.com 11/22/2002
Would you put your life in Microsoft's hands? Silicon.com (run also by ZDNet News) 11/21/2002
Microsoft Plans Digital Memory Box, a Step Toward "Surrogate Brain" BetterHumans 11/21/2002
E-hoard with Microsoft's life database vnunet.com IT Week 11/21/2002
Microsoft plans online life archive BBC News 11/20/2002
Software aims to put your life on a disk New Scientist 11/20/2002

Related links

As We May Think, by Vannevar Bush, The Atlantic Monthly, 176(1), July 1945, 101-108.

Many more links can be found at the CARPE Research Community web site