The World Wide Web: the beginning and now

 Navigate this site:

 About this site

 What is the Web?
 Early Ideas
 Bush & Memex
 Xanadu & Hypertext
 Berners-Lee & the Web


 Other sites:

 UM Coursetools
 UM Gateway
 WWW Consortium

[ Logo, Xanadu ]

Xanadu & Hypertext

Theodor (Ted) Nelson, a philosophy and sociology major, was greatly influenced by the ideas of Vannevar Bush. Nelson is most notably known for his introduction of the word "hypertext" to the world. According to Nelson, "the "trails" he (Bush) spoke of - suitably generalized and now called hypertexts - may, and should, become the principal publishing form of the future" (Nyce & Kahn, 246) Similar to Bush's frustrations with the existing system of indexing, Nelson believed that linear text was a limiting medium as well. Upon these frustrations, in 1960 Nelson constructed the vision of Xanadu - the name taken from Coleridge's well known poem "Kubla Kahn."(Segaller, 287)

The main idea of project Xanadu was a networked system that would store and index all of the world's literature and other forms of public and private information. One would access it through a system called hypertext - a "non-sequential" pattern of branches going in different directions, based on association.(Xanadu: Ted Nelson's Vision) Through this definition, Bush's influence on Nelson is evident. Nelson also included other visions within Xanadu: a system that would automatically bill a user for the delivery of copyrighted material, and thus reward the author; a historical record of each document, so a user could view changes made to it over time; a graphics console for the everyday user that included a keyboard and a pointing tool; and a unique way of linking documents, called a Parallel Textface.(Nyce & Kahn, 252)


back | Xanadu & Hypertext | continue...