Mr. Nelson anticipated and inspired the World Wide Web, and he coined the term “hypertext,” which embodies the idea of linking a web of objects including text, audio and video.
In his self-published new book, “Geeks Bearing Gifts: How the Computer World Got This Way” (available on lulu.com), Mr. Nelson, 71, takes stock of the computing world. The look back by this forward-thinking man is not without its bitterness. The Web, after all, can be seen as a bastardization of his original notion that hyperlinks should point both forward and backward.
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, organized all the world’s content through a one-way mechanism of uniform source locators, or URLs. Lost in the process was Mr. Nelson’s two-way link concept that simultaneously pointed to the content in any two connected documents, protecting, he has argued in vain, the original intellectual lineage of any object."
Like many computer geeks, if I've been excited about online services in the eighties and the emerging world of the commercial internet in the early nineties, it was due to my exposure to Ted's ideas, especially around his Project Xanadu, which built ferociously on the ideas put forward by Vannevar Bush in the 1940s around the Memex. As this Wikipedia entry explains:
"In Bush's 1945 paper, he describes a memex as an electromechanical device that an individual could use to read a large self-contained research library, and add or follow associative trails of links and notes created by that individual, or recorded by other researchers.
The technology used would have been a combination of electromechanical controls and microfilm cameras and readers, all integrated into a large desk. Most of the microfilm library would have been contained within the desk, but the user could add or remove microfilm reels at will.
Whether Ted Nelson gets sufficient credit for his contributions to what we now know as the internet, it's good to see a contribution to the record from one of the original folks who was there before the beginning. I look forward to my copy of "Geeks Bearing Gifts".