Thirteen years he dedicated to these heterogeneous tasks, but the hand of a stranger murdered him–and his novel was incoherent and no one found the labyrinth.

the dreamfile: the file system that would have every feature…

in many ways, Nelson’s writing reminds me of the 19th and 20th century utopian thinkers who would carefully design (on paper) their brave new cities, occasionally making forays into building of them. much like Nelson’s experiments with links and filestructures, none of these utopias were lastingly used.

computers, once a branch of mathematics, are now their own field (but the development of fluid logic indicates a possible merger with the art of wind instruments).

like with the pile of discarded utopias, it’s worth wondering why Nelson’s ideas never found lasting traction. his idea of two-way links had very broad critical appreciation (and it’s still championed by thinkers like Jaron Lanier, who also happens to love wind instruments). yet the system we all use is Berners-Lee’s haphazardly-constructed HTTP, done as a contract job during his tenure at CERN.

yes, ARPA took up the ENQUIRE project and promoted it, yadda yadda, but why did they take up that system?

The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past

perhaps writing about plans is the whole problem. to my knowledge, Berners-Lee never published anything about hypertext systems. he simply built one. perhaps the HTTP/HTML-industrial complex gained traction simply because it existed.

why do you think Nelson’s ideas about two-way links didn’t catch on? why do you think they haven’t been implemented by someone else?

1 thought on “Thirteen years he dedicated to these heterogeneous tasks, but the hand of a stranger murdered him–and his novel was incoherent and no one found the labyrinth.

  1. I like the idea that the status quo is determined simply by what happened to have been designed at the time. It could be that the presence of HTML simply removed the motivation for implementing a system involving Nelson’s two way links.
    That said, I think that there was a lot working against the Xanadu paradigm of hypertext with two way links – much of our development of technology intended to work over a network took into account the imperfection and unreliability of nodes and network links, and the sort of coordination that two-way links would involve was probably more trouble than it was worth, in terms of ease of adoption and the like.

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