Computer Lib/Dream Machines

posted Feb 27, 2012, 10:15 PM by Nick Bader
Wow, this is quite a trip through a nest of side-trips.  Presumably Nelson is embracing non-linearity as a demonstration of branching media.  

The discussion of branching media most strongly makes me think of two current instances of media: Wikipedia and the new textbooks on iPad's iBooks 2.  I will be interested to see if the iBooks can capture some of the natural, undesigned elements that help to make Wikipedia so useful.  (Surely Britannica is not consulted as much as Wikipedia).  I think we will need to discuss a new version of Smith's invisible hand that explains non-profit enterprises like Wikipedia in the computer realm.

I think Nelson is a genius with intuitive interfaces.  The undo function drawn as an hourglass and the editing icons in the Xanadu system, for instance.
I also love the controls on the Sony TC-50 cassette deck, as Nelson fondly remembered.  There are exceptions: Jot reminds me of the editor vi, for instance.  Vi is designed to be quick to use, but is famously unintuitive.  However, Nelson's Xanadu environment seems to joyfully renounce Jot in favor of the ability to graphically rearrange text.

This reading is full of ideas, some of which are surprising and wonky.  Throttling "stretchtext" to see more, for example.  Whoa.  Probably better implemented by the very hyperlinks he describes, but interesting idea.