Ted Nelson is part of the reason you're reading this today. His early research into hypertext and his dogged determination to make computers accessible to the masses contributed greatly to the eventual invention of the World Wide Web. Not that Ted would take credit for it, as he hates the way it all turned out.

Born in 1937, he got a BA from Swarthmore in philosophy, a Maters degree from Harvard in sociology, and later a PhD from Keio University in Media and Governance. In 1960 he started working on a word-processor type program that would enable multiple documents to be linked together. He coined the word hypertext in 1965 in a paper submitted to the Association for Computing Machinery.

His ideas were wonderful, but they were far ahead of their time and he had a hard time communicating them in a way that technical people could implement. In 1967, he named his visionary system Xanadu and hired the first of what would be generations of programmers to work on it. As of this writing, Xanadu is still being developed (see http://xanadu.com/).

In 1973 he wrote the cult classic Computer Lib/Dream Machines. The book is an ecclectic, hypertext-like collection of snippets that both explained computers to the masses and expressed Ted's vision for the computerized future. In many ways the book was prophetic.

He still holds on to his counter-culture value system from the 1960's; which he has boiled down into four maxims: "most people are fools, most authority is malignant, God does not exist, and everything is wrong."

As for the WWW, Ted has this to say:

The Web isn't hypertext, it's DECORATED DIRECTORIES!

What we have instead is the vacuous victory of typesetters over authors, and the most trivial form of hypertext that could have been imagined.
Of course, the difference is that the Web works, something Xanadu never quite managed.

Here's what Xanadu is supposed to do that the Web doesn't:

What we still need are stable publishing links that can be followed in both directions, a variety of link types, a micropayment system for buying small parts of documents at a time for very small amounts of money, a copyright system permitting republishing of unrestricted quotations, and a way for documents to change without invalidating connections to them. These are the persistent goals of Project Xanadu; our new methods turn our old methods inside-out for today's Internet environment.

Who knows? Someday, he may make it happen.

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