Re: Originator of "hypertext"

Subject: Re: Originator of "hypertext"
From: Michael LaTorra <mikel -at- ACCUGRAPH -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 1994 16:11:21 MST

On Wed, 14 Dec 1994 Lisa Baker asked about the man who originated
the term "hypertext".

His name is Ted Nelson. He wrote a couple of books, the only title
I remember being _Dream Machines_. Ted is a visionary (i.e., he has
great and profound ideas but is somewhat deficient on the implementation
side). Ted's goal has long been to create a global hypertext system
that encompasses all the information currently locked up inside books
distributed among the world's libraries. The project Ted launched to
accomplish this goal was named Xanadu. (Lit. majors, please see
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem of that title. "In Xanadu did Kublai
Khan a stately pleasure dome decree....")

In addition to the technical problems of achieving this goal, problems
which are not insurrmountable, there is the sticky issue of copyright.
Ted's idea is that a user could call up the text on the system
(say, for example, the text of that Coleridge poem) and then annotate
it with the user's own commentary. Now the user would pay a fee for
accessing the work (if it were copyright protected, which isn't really
the case with that poem), and then subsequent users who access the
poem would have the option of accessing (via hypertext link) the
comments that were added by the first user *and pay for the privilege*.
The first user who wrote the commentary would receive royalties every
time a subsequent user accessed the commentary.

Keeping track of access to the copyrighted material, billing users and
paying royalties to authors, turns out to be a big task with heavy
overhead costs. Last I heard, it was estimated that such a scheme
would entail an overhead of approximately 25% of system resources.

And that's why Ted's "Dream Machines" are still just that. But he is
an inspiring guy. And, by the way, he was an English major back in
the early 60s when he first became fascinated by the punch card
spitting mainframes of that era.

Live long & prosper,
Mike LaTorra

Documentation Supervisor
Accugraph Inc.
mikel -at- accugraph -dot- com
The opinions expressed are my own, ][ "There could hardly be a more
and not necessarily those of my ][ unbearable -- and more
company -- but they probably ][ irrational -- world than one
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Free speech ][ were allowed to proceed
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