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resources | hopper, 1998

Hopper, M. E. (1998, October). Hypertext in historical context: Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson revisited. Presentation for the Media-in-Transition Project and MIT Communications Forum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

[This presentation was largely based on video clips taken from the Vannevar Bush Symposium held in October of 1995 (Bush, 1995).]

Thursday, October 1, 1998 
4:00 - 6:00 p.m. 

Bartos Theater 
MIT Media Lab 
20 Ames Street 


This forum will feature video clips from a 1995 symposium in honor of Vannevar Bush, which included Ted Nelson as a speaker, to illustrate how hypertext evolved from conceptualizations rooted in older media towards the reality of today's World Wide Web. A discussion following the screening will focus on factors that have constrained current implementations of hypertext. 

Organizer and Moderator:
Mary Hopper, Postdoctoral Associate
MIT Compartive Media Studies

Mark Bernstein, Founder and Chief Scientist
Eastgate Systems, Inc. 


One goal of the Media in Transition Project is to encourage a historical perspective of the relationships between digital media and older media.

"The goal is to sharpen our awareness of the NewMedia as a thing which emerged from history. Historically informed perspective that maps a sensible middle ground between the euphoria and the panic surrounding new media. Such an understanding of emerging communications technologies, at once skeptical and moderate is the goal of the Media in Transition Project."
My interpretation of this: Perhaps the best path into the future is through the past...

"As We May Think" --
A Celebration of Vannevar Bush's 1945 Vision,
An Examination of What Has Been Accomplished,
and What Remains to Be Done."
Held at MIT on October 12 and 13, 1995 (Bush, 1995)

This event brought together many acknowledged founders of New Media including...


Paul Penfield, Jr. (Penfield, MIT)
Andries van Dam (van Dam, Brown)

Other Credits:

Lisa Manekofsky, Administrative Coordinator, NSF/ARPA Graphics and Visualization Center
Robert McDermott, Jim Rose (Utah)
Larry Gallagher, Scott Dynes, EdMoriarity (MIT)
David Klaphank (Brown)
Other Brown and MIT Volunteers

Today's "Guest"

Paul Kahn (Bush/Memex Scholar)
Theodore Nelson (Hypertext/Xanadu Creator)

If more time., should really also include..

Douglas Engelbart (Augment//Bootstrap)
Tim Berners-Lee (WWW)

Also spoke...

Robert Kahn (Internet)
Michael Lesk (Digital Libraries)
Nicholas Negroponte (Media Lab, MIT)
Raj Reddy (CMU)
Lee Sproull (BU)
Alan Kay (Smalltalk)

Our Focus Today...

Hypertext, the corner stone of the World-Wide-Web (WWW), is one of the most "hyped" aspects of the new digital media.

This symposium provides a unique opportunity to view hypertext from a special historical perspective. It shows hypertext, as viewed by Bush and Nelson, evolved from conceptualizations rooted in older media towards the reality of the Berners-Lee's WWW.

It seems ironic how little discussion surrounds our most recent, ongoing, period of media transformation. Even popular books, such as "Internet for Dummies," mention Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson, but even serious books about the internet and the WWW seldom go further than a cursory history.

Articles About Their Technologies...


  • Atlantic Monthly Article (Bush, 1945)


  • ACM Article (Nelson, 1965)


    Some Background...



    Broader Context...



    Understanding Their Technologies...



    Transclusion - virtual instance across a boundary with original identity maintained and original content available
    Transvisibility - see from one transcluded instance to another
    Transpointing - allow pointing across window boundaries explicitly
    Transparallel - things you look at together whose specific connections are of interest

    Transpublishing - virtual republishing by distribution of pointers where materials obtained from the originator or their agent
    Transcopyright - permission doctrine




    Being Continued...

    What Might We Be Missing?


    "Knowledge Navigation" Begins...



    on the web

    Media in Transition Version at MIT

    Mary E. Hopper [MEHopper] | MEHopper@TheWorld.com [posted 00/00/00 | revised 02/02/02]