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ZigZag is Ted Nelson's trademark on a data model he has designed for computer interaction, both for users and between programs. Nelson's stated goal is on one hand a platform for the Project Xanadu hypertext and on the other a complete computing system built on new conventions. The design is centered on an information structure called a zzstructure and its interactive visualizations. Instead of conventional linear text or tree structures, zzstructure is a multidimensional extension of a spreadsheet whose cells can contain various kinds of data. At any moment, the display shows any two dimensions in table form much like a modern spreadsheet. Users can pivot the display about any cell to efficiently "rotate" any unseen dimension in place of either visible one, allowing them to browse high dimensional grids in a zigzag manner.
The zzstructure is similar in form to a doubly linked list that is linked doubly along multiple axes (each dimension corresponds to a single back and forward link, and there are an arbitrary number of dimensions). Each node exists on all dimensions, though it may or may not be connected to anything in that dimension.
Ted Nelson designed a data structure in 1965 and later generalized and applied it in ZigZag. The first prototype consisting of two character-graphical views was implemented as a Perl module by Andrew Pam in 1997. From 2000 to 2003, a free software project GZigZag (later Gzz) developed another prototype with more views and other conventions, but Ted Nelson stopped supporting it. The underlying zzStructure is a patented technology (U.S. Patent 6,262,736). After 2003, prototype development has continued in various other projects.
- For contrast, the current World Wide Web and its standards are:
- Theodor Holm Nelson. 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, 2004-07-16.
- Michael J. McGuffin, m. c. schraefel. A Comparison of Hyperstructures: Zzstructures, mSpaces, and Polyarchies. Proceedings of 15th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia (HT) 2004.
- Theodor Holm Nelson. Interactive connection, viewing, and maneuvering system for complex data U.S. Patent 6,262,736. Issued Jul 17 2001.
- Xanadu project website on ZigZag
- Ted Nelson on Zigzag data structures — video on YouTube
- Thuomas Lukka (19 December 2002). "A Gentle Introduction to Ted Nelson's ZigZag Structure".
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