What is the earliest instance of a SciFi work describing a system satisfying the following criteria (basically a massive computer database coupled with the networking system to access it available to everyone)?

  • Database contains 100% of available knowledge (or as practically close to it as possible), necessarily including but not limited to:

    • scientific information

    • personal data

    • news/events

  • All of that information can be queried out, possibly with some controls to satisfy privacy needs.

  • Universal access (e.g. practically any person on Earth can connect as a person, not just select few or limited by profession/organization). This one trips up many possibilities, e.g. H2G2 which arguably might fit the other criteria.

The precise implementation doesn't matter, some supercomputer, a super-AI, a whole planet ala H2G2 or a who-knows-how-it-works black box - doesn't matter. But it must satisfy the rules above.

The earliest one I can think of is from 1978, but it's in Russian (for those who care but can't guess, "BVI" - Big World Informatory - from Strugatsky brothers).

7 Answers 7


Mark Twain's short story, From The 'London Times' of 1904, from 1898 is often regarded as the first writing that describes a world-wide communications network for information sharing although I'm not sure if it fits your requirement for a database. While it does mention a level of interactivity and such that would probably require a database of some sort it doesn't explicitly state it outright.

The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster, published in 1909 might fit your requirements better. It's about the dystopian world that develops when a machine that's controlling everything and facilitates the endless discussion of secondhand ideas (sound familiar?) breaks down. Read it and see what you think.

  • I was about to suggest The Machine Stops.
    – Marcin
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 16:26

I think most of the Multivac stories written by Asimov are some of the earliest examples of this. Namely, The Last Question which contains, especially near the end, a galaxy spanning super computer that anyone in the human race can access. The earliest of these stories were written in the mid 1950s.


Paris in the Twentieth Century (French: Paris au XXe siècle) is a science fiction novel by Jules Verne, written in 1863 but first published in 1994, where a worldwide "telegraphic" communications network is mentioned, a possible premonition of the Internet, that I think satisfy the rules above.


The oldest version of this idea that I know of is not strictly science fiction; it's called the Akashic Records which is a Hindu belief dating back to at least the late 18th century that there is a record kept of all experiences by every living thing. The records can be accessed via near-death experiences or by achieving certain Astral mental states.

Like I said, not actually sci-fi but if you're looking for old I think the Akashic Records are your best bet.


"The Life and Times of Multivac" (1975) is one of a series of short stories that describe a very big computer called Multivac, the computer is first mentioned in the short story Question (1955).

  • It would be nice if you included the date of the story. Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 21:35
  • 1
    @Pearsonartphoto I took some liberties in my edit...and added the date for him. :)
    – NominSim
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 21:48

Well.. I am not sure if it qualifies for a book or not but Hindu mythology talks about a recordkeeping of all the good and bad stuff that every human does based on which the person's after life "benefits"/Quality of life are decided..

  • Many religions do this (eg Christianity) but I suspect this Hindu story is the oldest. Can you add a date to this answer? Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 11:22
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    Although, I'm not sure Hindu mythology counts as a "sci-fi" work as requested in the question... Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 13:13
  • @Wikis - it isn't, according to site rules Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 22:21

Ernst Jünger's Eumeswil (1977) (see German wikipedia article for more detail - English wikipedia article is quite short and omits discussion of the SF aspects) describes a sort of wikipedia like database of historical-only knowledge called the Luminar. The user can query it over things in the past which are then displayed on a monitor.

  • 1
    But the question is asking for the earliest instance, and other answers have already gone well earlier than the 1970s.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 4:46

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