Ted Nelson  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Theodor Holm Nelson (born 1937) is an American sociologist, philosopher, and pioneer of information technology. He coined the term "hypertext" in 1963 and published it in 1965. He also is credited with first use of the words hypermedia, transclusion, virtuality, intertwingularity and teledildonics. The main thrust of his work has been to make computers easily accessible to ordinary people. His motto is:

A user interface should be so simple that a beginner in an emergency can understand it within ten seconds.

Ted Nelson promotes four maxims: "most people are fools, most authority is malignant, God does not exist, and everything is wrong". (See chapter II, 3rd paragraph, 3rd and 4th sentence in: "The Curse of Xanadu".

Career

Nelson founded Project Xanadu in 1960 with the goal of creating a computer network with a simple user interface. The effort is documented in his 1974 book Computer Lib/Dream Machines and the 1981 Literary Machines. Much of his adult life has been devoted to working on Xanadu and advocating it.

The Xanadu project itself failed to flourish, for a variety of reasons which are disputed. Journalist Gary Wolf published an unflattering history, "The Curse of Xanadu", on Nelson and his project in the June 1995 issue of Wired. Nelson expressed his disgust on his website, referring to Wolf as a "Gory Jackal", and threatened to sue him. He also outlined his objections in a letter to Wired, and released a detailed rebuttal of the article.

Nelson claims some aspects of his vision are in the process of being fulfilled by Tim Berners-Lee's invention of the World Wide Web, but he dislikes the World Wide Web, XML and all embedded markup - regarding Berners-Lee's work as a gross over-simplification of his original vision:

HTML is precisely what we were trying to PREVENT— ever-breaking links, links going outward only, quotes you can't follow to their origins, no version management, no rights management. – Ted Nelson (Ted Nelson one-liners )

Nelson co-founded Itty bitty machine company, or "ibm", which was a small computer retail store operating from 1977 to 1980 in Evanston, Illinois. The Itty bitty machine company was one of the few retail stores to sell the original Apple I computer. In 1978 he had a significant impact upon IBM's thinking when he outlined his vision of the potential of personal computing to the team that three years later launched the IBM PC.

Ted Nelson is currently working on a new information structure, ZigZag, which is described on the Xanadu project website, which also hosts two versions of the Xanadu code. He is also currently developing XanaduSpace - a system for the exploration of connected parallel documents (an early version of this software may be freely downloaded from [1]. He is a visiting fellow at Oxford University - based at the Oxford Internet Institute - where he works in the fields of information, computers, and human-machine interfaces.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ted Nelson" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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