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Ted Nelson

Last Edit: 11/03/19

Theodor "Ted" Nelson is an American academic who is known for his contributions to information technology and sociology, and for coining the term "hypertext" in 1965. Some other terms coined by Ted Nelson include: zipper lists, softcopy, cybercrud, dildonics, virtuality, technoid, docuverse, transclusion and micropayment. Nelson studied at Swarthmore College, University of Chicago, Harvard University and Keio University. He has published the following books: "The Future of Information"; "Literary Machines"; "The Home Computer Revolution"; "Biostrategy and Polymind"; and "The Checkmate Proposal". Nelson was the editor of Creative Computing (magazine) in 1980. Nelson has either taught or held professorships or visiting professorships at the following universities: Vassar College, University of Nottingham, Chapman University, Hokkaido University, University of Southampton, Oxford Internet Institute and Keio University.

Theodor Holm Nelson
(Pictured: Theodor "Ted" Nelson)

Ted Nelson formulated the idea of hypertext whilst studying at Harvard University in the 1960s, and first used the term hypertext in a lecture he gave in 1965 that was titled: "Computers, Creativity, and the Nature of the Written Word". Nelson would later expand upon his view of hypertext in his book Literary Machines; published in 1982. Nelson envisioned a "docuverse" where all information was stored and could be accessed from anywhere by clicking upon a link that would never break. From the 1970s onwards, Nelson and his collaborators -- such as Roger Gregory, Mark Miller, Cal Daniels, John Walker and Stuart Greene -- have worked upon a hypertext system named Project Xanadu, that has attempted to bring Nelson's ideas to fruition. In the 1980's Nelson met the founder of Autodesk John Walker, and in 1988 the Project Xanadu group was purchased by Autodesk, but it was eventually dropped by Autodesk in 1992. Working versions have been released of Project Xanadu -- such as OpenXanadu in 2014-- but it has failed to match the success of the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web differs in the premise that links within its system can decay, and this is one of the reasons that adherents of Project Xanadu believe it to be an improvement upon the World Wide Web. Nelson's website states that Project Xanadu has been "widely misunderstood".