Researching the development and concepts surrounding Hypertext there certain names that tend to reappear. Some are already inscribed in history. The subject of Hypertext primarily identifies heroes in the fields
of Computer/Information Science
and Literature Studies.
And as a tangent, if there is such a thing, I will put in a few Language and Writing
references. Because the next step is to let go of the Hypertext concept and move on to Cybernetic Systems and Consciousness studies.
Bush is remembered for his prophetic article
As We May Think from The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945
As We May Think written by Vannevar Bush in 1945, gives an example of an attempt to look forward. Situated in his moment of time and experience Bush tried to hypothesize or prophesize regarding a future for science and technology. His description of a Memex device and system has assured him a place in the history of information science. Along with less notable prophecies like his allusion to the idea of credit cards, his Memex description was an uncanny description of the Internet. Yet a contemporary reader is likely to wonder how Bush apparently failed to recognize something so obvious as digital electronic systems. In any case Bush recognized his position in time as being on the edge of something new and he implied a sense of urgency regarding ethical concerns.
It may be that time always fills in the gaps to make prophecy of any sort seem a bit silly as it was written. Maybe language will inevitably expose a writers limitations even if they happen to be lucky with their guesses. Bush seemed aware of his limitations. And the line of reasoning that pointed him away from digital computers and in the direction of analog computers may turn out to make more sense in the future.
It is sometimes interesting to pay special attention to the way an author begins and ends an essay. The first and last paragraphs usually encapsulate the main intent. This may not even be because it is a "proper" method of traditional writing. It may just be that the author knows that the reader will pay the most attention to those paragraphs. Different but related trends are developing in hypertext-essays.
In the first paragraph of As We May Think, Bush presents several wide ranging serious ideas. He claimed that WWII was an inclusive experience. He admitted to the "exhilarating" effect of the war for scientists. And he Addresses a dilemma of what is "next." Then Bush ends his essay with an attempt at optimism amidst a fear of doom. I found Bush's attitudes sometimes interesting and sometimes tainted by his personality but in general I found his article interesting and significant. I also respect the open presence of his character, he wasn't hiding.
I find it fascinating to look at not only the first and last paragraphs in contrast, but the first and last phrases.
Before the first instance of punctuation:
" This has not been; "
Before the last instance of punctuation:
" , or to lose hope as to the outcome. "
Looking at the first and last words of this article seems to show evidence of Bush's concerns, motivation and accountability. In conclusion, as long as everything is fine and everyone's having a good time, it doesn't matter how theorists dance and sing to whatever tune feels right to them. I personally appreciate a good song and dance. But if things aren't fine it may be relevant for contemporary theorists to take a close look at what game they are playing. And it is strange that I find the words of an old government bureaucrat specializing in major science warfare more honest and less threatening than some of the contemporary theory I have come across.
Nelson is: the infamous coiner of the term Hypertext. His concerns, motivation and accountability require less hypothesizing. He is alive with attitude intact. I don't have to analyze famous text by a dead person. I don't have to quote secondary sources and imagine all the context. I can go to Ted's page and get his ideas first hand.
(of course I can't be sure it is really his site, or even that he really exists for that matter,
but we won't go there now.)
Ted Nelson Home Page
" Hypertext is not technology but Literature. Literature is the information that we package and safe (first just books and newspapers and magazines, now movies and recordings and CD-ROMs and what-all). The design of tomorrow's literature determines what the human race will be able to keep track of and understand. These are not issues to be left to 'technologists'. "
Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"
Berners-Lee is also alive and on line.
"In response to a request, a one page looking back on the development of the Web from my point of view."
The World Wide Web: A very short personal history
h y p e r t e x t h y p e r t e x t