The World Wide Web: the beginning and now

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Xanadu & Hypertext cont...

[ Photo, Xanadu Connections at Work ]

The Parallel Textface that Nelson added to the Xanadu Project in the early 1970's was unique because it allowed a user to create links between documents, even if they were not related. As Nelson notes, "In Bush's trails, the user had no choices to make as he moved through the sequence of items, except at an intersection of trails" (Nelson, 1972, 253). Nelson's system would improve Bush's by giving the user a choice. Additionally, lines that showed the connections between two docuemnts would be displayed on the user's screen. These choices however, would be determined by the user who created the hypertext document.

Ted Nelson also proposed a transmission network, through which users and libraries could exchange documents and information. The network would consist of a computer on the user's end, and a "feeder computer" on the library's end. If a user wanted to find information on baseball, he would send a request to his computer, which would search his local storage device. If information on baseball was not found locally, his computer would send the request on to the library network. Once the information was found, it was sent to the user for a fee. All of the fees that a user accumulated were logged. These fees would include such things as network membership, hookup, log-in time, storage, and copyrights. Additionally, there would be different rates of service: fast and slow, with the fee being proportional to the speed of service. Many of these ideas have become reality in today's Internet system (Nelson, 1972, 255-257).

Nelson's ideas were very revolutionary, yet unclear at the same time. Specifically, Nelson did not know what type of computer to use as a feeder in the library network. Furthermore, input/output issues, file management issues, and facility sharing and networking were things that needed to be figured out before this system could become a reality (Nelson, 1972, 256).

Unfortunately, due to the use of such ambiguous terms, "far fetched" ideas and for other reasons, Xanadu has never materialized into the system that Nelson envisaged.


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