June 2, 2003

Reading Nelson

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 11:10 pm

In the Narrative as Virtual Reality comments thread, I’ve suggested rather strongly that those who plan to discuss hypertext should read the work of Ted Nelson — as both the term “hypertext” and the ideas it describes come from his writings.

Of course, such suggestions often lead to the question, “Where can I read Nelson’s writings?” Unfortunately, they aren’t found in the local chain bookstore, and perhaps not even in the local research library. So I’ve put together a few pointers.

2 Responses to “Reading Nelson”


  1. andrew Says:

    Noah, I just read up on ZigZag, following your link. It’s an impressive and ambitious set of ideas, worth reading up on. It connects with our current discussion of artist programmers in its proclamation, “It is time to return real programming to users and even beginning users, to whom it has been denied since 1984.” (In the spirit of ZigZag, I’ve attempted to create a two-way link between this Nelson comment thread and the artist programmer comment thread.)

    Here’s some snippets from an essay on ZigZag programming, from 1999:

    “We want to make it easy for users to program, creating their own scripts and loops of function– especially position and animation of contents in space, response to users, numerical functions. … The problem of programming is fundamentally the problem of human visualization and understanding of what we tell want our machines to do, and relating such plans to what we *want* them to do. The popular and conventional programming systems represent particular compromises and styles of trying to manage this complexity. … [B]ecause ordinary programming lacks an intrinsic structure of connection, the structure of connection is managed by a variety of conventions and utilities that have to be too complicated. However, since ZigZag has an intrinsic structure of connection, it should be possible to skip most of that cross-referencing and maintain connections between program parts directly. For instance, there may be relatively little need for variable names or labels.”

  2. Grand Text Auto » You Can and Must Understand Giant Brains Now! Says:

    [...] In Computer: A History of the Information Machine by Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray I found a reference to this book, which was apparently the first “semipopular” book about computers. Berkeley’s book expresses hopes and concerns from its own historical moment, collects a useful bibliography of important early writing on computers, and issues the first call for popular engagement with and understanding of computers. With its simple but thorough descriptions of how computer systems work, it is an ancestor of The Elements of Computer Systems, but the book is also notable as a predecessor of the populist and manifesto-like Computer Lib / Dream Machines. [...]

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