Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Xanadu--some initial reactions

Author:Don Hopkins
Posted:8/27/1999; 9:54:35 PM
Topic:Xanadu--some initial reactions
Msg #:10164 (In response to 10163)
Prev/Next:10163 / 10165

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From: Hopkins, Don <> To: 'Dave Winer' <> Cc: Hopkins, Don <> Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 1999 8:58 PM Subject: RE: Ted Nelson Returns

I suppose they deserve all the attention they can get. It's just disheartening how the open source cheerleaders are ooohing and aaahing about it without seeing it for what it is. It makes me worry about them...

Last time I saw Ted Nelson talk (a few years ago at Ted Selker's NPUC workshop at IBM Almaden), he was quite bitter, but he didn't have anything positive to contribute. He talked about how he invented everything before anyone else, but everyone thought he was crazy, and how the world wide web totally sucks, but it's not his fault, if only they would have listened to him. And he verbally attacked a nice guy from Netscape (Martin Haeberli -- Paul's brother) for lame reasons, when there were plenty of other perfectly valid things to rag the poor guy about.

Don't get me wrong -- I've got my own old worn-out copy of the double sided Dream Machines / Computer Lib, as well as Literary Machines, which I enjoyed and found very inspiring. I first met the Xanadu guys some time ago in the 80's, when they were showing off Xanadu at the MIT AI lab.

I was a "random turist" high school kid visiting the AI lab on a pilgrimage. That was when I first met Hugh Daniel: this energetic excited big hairy hippie guy in a Xanadu baseball cap with wings, who I worked with later, hacking NeWS. Hugh and I worked together for two different companies porting NeWS to the Mac.

I "got" the hypertext demo they were showing (presumably the same code they've finally released -- that they were running on an Ann Arbor Ambassador, of course). I thought Xanadu was neat and important, but an obvious idea that had been around in many forms, that a lot of people were working on. It reminded me of the "info" documentation browser in emacs (but it wasn't programmable).

The fact that Xanadu didn't have a built-in extension language was a disappointment, since extensibility was an essential ingredient to the success of Emacs, HyperCard, Director, and the World Wide Web.

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