June 17, 1937 |
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Fields||American sociologist, philosopher, and pioneer of information technology|
|Alma mater||Swarthmore College, Harvard University, Keio University|
Theodor Holm Nelson (born June 17, 1937) is an American sociologist, philosopher, and pioneer of information technology (IT sociolosopher). He coined the terms "hypertext" and "hypermedia" in 1963 and published them in 1965.
Nelson founded Project Xanadu in 1960 with the goal of creating a computer network with a simple user interface. The effort is documented in his 1974 book Computer Lib / Dream Machines and the 1981 Literary Machines. Much of his adult life has been devoted to working on Xanadu and advocating it.
The Xanadu project itself failed to flourish, for a variety of reasons which are disputed. Journalist Gary Wolf published an unflattering history on Nelson and his project in the June 1995 issue of Wired calling it "the longest-running vaporware project in the history of computing". Nelson expressed his disgust on his website, referring to Wolf as a "Gory Jackal", and threatened to sue him. He also outlined his objections in a letter to Wired, and released a detailed rebuttal of the article.
Nelson claims some aspects of his vision are in the process of being fulfilled by Tim Berners-Lee's invention of the World Wide Web, but he dislikes the World Wide Web, XML and all embedded markup – regarding Berners-Lee's work as a gross over-simplification of his original vision:
Nelson co-founded Itty bitty machine company, or "ibm", which was a small computer retail store operating from 1977 to 1980 in Evanston, Illinois. The Itty bitty machine company was one of the few retail stores to sell the original Apple I computer. In 1978 he had a significant impact upon IBM's thinking when he outlined his vision of the potential of personal computing to the team that three years later launched the IBM PC.
Ted Nelson is currently working on a new information structure, ZigZag, which is described on the Xanadu project website, which also hosts two versions of the Xanadu code. He also developed XanaduSpace, a system for the exploration of connected parallel documents (an early version of this software may be freely downloaded).
Education and awards 
Nelson earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Swarthmore College in 1959, a master's degree in sociology from Harvard University in 1963 and a Doctorate in Media and Governance from Keio University in 2002. In 1998, at the Seventh WWW Conference in Brisbane, Australia, Nelson was awarded the Yuri Rubinsky Memorial Award.
In 2001 he was knighted by France as "Officier des Arts et Lettres". In 2004 he was appointed as a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, and associated with the Oxford Internet Institute, where he was a visiting fellow from 2004 through 2006.
Personal life 
Nelson earned a BA from Swarthmore College in 1959. In 1960 he began graduate work at Harvard in philosophy. During college and graduate school, he envisioned a computer-based writing system that would provide a lasting repository for the world's knowledge and also permit greater flexibility of drawing connections between ideas. He later attributed this ambition, in part, to his need to track his disjointed mental activity brought about by attention deficit disorder.
The project became the overriding concern of his life. In 1965, he presented a paper at the Association for Computing Machinery in which he coined the term "hypertext".
- Life, Love, College, etc. (1959)
- Computer Lib: You can and must understand computers now / Dream Machines: New freedoms through computer screens—a minority report (1974), Microsoft Press, revised edition 1987: ISBN 0-914845-49-7
- The Home Computer Revolution (1977)
- Literary Machines: The report on, and of, Project Xanadu concerning word processing, electronic publishing, hypertext, thinkertoys, tomorrow's intellectual revolution, and certain other topics including knowledge, education and freedom (1981), Mindful Press, Sausalito, California; publication dates as listed in the 93.1 (1993) edition: 1980–84, 1987, 1990–93
- The Future of Information (1997)
- A Cosmology for a Different Computer Universe: Data Model, Mechanisms, Virtual Machine and Visualization Infrastructure. Journal of Digital Information, Volume 5 Issue 1. Article No. 298, July 16, 2004
- Geeks Bearing Gifts: How The Computer World Got This Way (2008; Chapter summaries)
- POSSIPLEX: Movies, Intellect, Creative Control, My Computer Life and the Fight for Civilization (2010), autobiography
In January 1988 BYTE computer journal published an article about Nelson's ideas, titled; "Managing Immense Storage". This stimulated discussions within the computer industry, and encouraged people to experiment with Hypertext features.
- “Most people are fools, most authority is malignant, God does not exist, and everything is wrong" [note 1]
- “A user interface should be so simple that a beginner in an emergency can understand it within ten seconds.”
- “We should not impose regularity where it does not exist.”
- “I hope, that in our archives and historical filings of the future, we do not allow the techie traditions of hierarchy and false regularity to be superimposed to the teeming, fantastic disorderlyness of human life.”
- “The World Wide Web was precisely what we were trying to PREVENT— ever-breaking links, links going outward only, quotes you can't follow to their origins, no version management, no rights management.”
- See chapter II, 3rd paragraph, 3rd and 4th sentence
- Gary Wolf (June 1995). "The Curse of Xanadu". Wired magazine. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "What they say". Ted.hyperland.com. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
- "Letters about "The Curse of Xanadu"". Wired.com. 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
- "Errors in "The Curse of Xanadu," by Gary Wolf". vinci.org. 2010 [last update]. Retrieved May 25, 2011. "Errors in 'The Curse of Xanadu', by Gary Wolf"
- Ted Nelson (1999). "Ted Nelson's Computer Paradigm Expressed as One-Liners". Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- John Markoff (December 11, 2007). "When Big Blue Got a Glimpse of the Future". Bits.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- Ted Nelson. "ZigZag and Its Structure". Xanadu.com. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
- Ted Nelson (June 25, 2007). "XanaduSpace". Xanarama.net. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Dr Ted Nelson: Former Fellow". Oxford Internet Institute. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- 70th Birthday Lecture: Intertwingularity: where ideas collide
- John Leland (July 2, 2011). "Love and Inheritance: A Family Feud". The New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Internet Pioneers: Ted Nelson". Ibiblio. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- Stuart Moulthrop (May 1991). "You Say You Want a Revolution? Hypertext and the Laws of Media". Postmodern Culture (The Johns Hopkins University Press). doi:10.1353/pmc.1991.0019. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- L. R. Shannon (February 16, 1988). "Peripherals: A Book That Grew Up". New York Times. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Ted Nelson Possiplex book launch at The Tech Museum – Eventbrite". The Tech Museum San Jose. October 6, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Ted Nelson Speaks About Possiplex". The San Francisco Chronicle. October 8, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Ted Nelson on Zigzag data structures". YouTube. September 6, 2008. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Ted Nelson's Home Page". Ted Nelson, xanadu.com.au. November 17, 1998. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Ted Nelson|
- Ted Nelson's homepage
- Ted Nelson's homepage at xanadu.com.au
- Detailed Ted Nelson bibliography
- Xanadu project webpage
- Transliterature – A Humanist Design
- The Magical Place of Literary Memory: Xanadu in Screening the Past, July 2005 by Belinda Barnet
- Ted Nelson and Xanadu, in The Electronic Labyrinth, 1993
- Orality and Hypertext: An Interview with Ted Nelson
- Way Out Of The Box , by Theodor Nelson, October 8, 1999
- Software and Media for a New Democracy a talk given by Ted Nelson at the File festival Symposium/November/2005
- Wired article, recalling interview with Nelson, August 2005
- The Politics Of Internet Software 'Geeks Bearing Gifts', a talk given by Ted at the Oxford Internet Institute, November 30, 2005
- Transclusion: Fixing Electronic Literature, a talk given by Ted at Google, January 29, 2007