Nugget of Hypertext Machine Dreaming

There it is, in Computer Lib/Dream Machines, on pages DM44 and DM45, just before the write-up of “Doug Engelbart and “The Augmentation of Intellect.”” There is Ted Nelson’s description of hypertext, of associative trails in concept space from his own vision and conceptualization. And he’s giving credit to Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think!”

And for several more pages he goes on about it, and describes his vision of Xanadu, his own proprietary concept space of intertwingularity.

While Ted Nelson is every bit a visionary as Douglas Engelbart and Vannevar Bush, might I suggest that hypertext-as-is isn’t so bad, and it isn’t so different from hypertext-as-envisioned? Here is a quote from Ted Nelson:

“Now the idea is this:

Make a link

Make a link
photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

To give you a screen in your home from
which you can see into the world’s hypertext

(The fact that the world doesn’t have
any hypertext libraries– yet– is a minor

To give you a screen system that will
offer high-performance computer graphics and
text services at a price anyone can afford.

To allow you to send and receive written messages
at the Engelbart level. To allow you to explore diagrams.
To eliminate the absurd distinction between “teacher” and “pupil.”

To make you a part of a new electronic literature and art,
where you can get all your questions answered and nobody will put you

And here’s the question you always ask Mom and Dad while in line at Disneyworld: Are we there yet?

Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?
photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

We have more than a screen system in our homes; we have computers. Our computers can compute, can act like screens, can store vast amounts of data, and (perhaps most importantly) interface via the Internet to all kinds of other computers with their vast amounts of data and computing capabilities. So what if “the world doesn’t have any hypertext libraries yet?” We are using search engines and hyperlinks in much the same way, vectoring down rabbit trails (I mean associative trails) with the click of a mouse or tap of a screen.

I know that as I work on my inquiry project, I will be finding documents, images, video, presentations, music, and more that I would not be able to find and access in the time given if I had to rely on pre-hypertext technologies. All of this thanks to the hypertextual system we currently have in place, and the augmentation of all that memory. What will the future give us?


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