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Xanadu

In 1965, the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) hosted its 20th annual conference. One of the speakers at the event was 28 year old Theodore Nelson giving a presentation titled "A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate." This was the first time he described his interconnected "docuverse" to the scientific community, and his audience were some of the first to hear the word "hypertext."

Ted Nelson While a Master's student studying sociology at Harvard, Nelson took a computer science course and discovered an exciting new world. He imagined innovative applications for the computer, including word processors and an interconnected, nonsequential, dynamic collection of documents and multimedia. Nelson's "docuverse" was similar to the future World Wide Web, but it was on a grander scale. Hyper-links pulled portions of documents and multimedia components across the network, and copyrights were managed to protect the intellectual property of contributors.

It was a revolutionary idea, and it was given the fantastic name of "Xanadu". However, it was never realized. Although several believers poured millions of dollars into the project, including John Walker (the founder of AutoDesk), Ted Nelson never produced a complete working model of Xanadu.

In the later 1960s, Nelson continued to work on his ideas and collaborated with Andries van Dam at Brown University to design and build a hypertext editing system they descriptively named Hypertext Editing System or HES. IBM paid for the project, and the system was programmed on an IBM mainframe and graphic display. When it was finished, IBM sold the system to NASA to produce documentation at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.

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