I am among the millions of users of Evernote, and I have been struck by its many similarities to a software package from the early 1990s called Thought Pattern™. This was a note-taking package that made little impact on the market but which I found very useful at the time.
As with Evernote, a Thought Pattern user can enter notes with text and pictures, and assign keywords to each note. This makes it possible to search later by the terms in the card, or by themes that the cards have in common, even if the name of the theme appears nowhere in the text of the card itself. Unstructured data can be challenging to manage. With a large unstructured database used by many people, communal usage patterns can train the system about related content even in the absence of identical terms. However, for smaller datasets and user bases, explicit tagging of the sort used by Evernote and Thought Pattern is much better. Highly structured data can be handled in a traditional database management system, but a lot of information in the real world doesn’t conform to any simple rigid system of fields and records.
Thought Pattern also allowed the user to link content from other applications to cards, where it was represented by icons and would open if double-clicked. The program had one major feature that Evernote lacks — it was possible to attach an alarm to each card. Thought Pattern also had a better logo.
I rode a bicycle across most of the United States in 1993 wearing a Thought Pattern t-shirt.
Thought Pattern lacked of course the networked ubiquity that makes Evernote so useful. Nonetheless, it was a great program that I found useful. Credit to Stephen Zagerman of Bananafish Software for being ahead of his time.