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Ted Nelson Visits Columbia

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February 27, 2004. Theodor Holm Nelson, hypertext theorist and fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, visited CCNMTL.

The purpose of Nelson's visit to CCNMTL was to introduce his latest vision of a non-hierarchal interface titled "ZigZag" to the Columbia community. "Zig Zag," cross-viewable multidimensional lists, provides a new paradigm for computer structures including database, inheritance, file management, simplified graphical programming, and other useful computer concepts. These structures appear to streamline many aspects of data and programming.

Nelson occupies a unique place in the computer field, a designer best known as an agitator and visionary. "I didn't know what to call these ideas; "hypertext" came to me in 1962, and I published it in 1965. I first heard strangers use it around 1986."

He has been called "the Thomas Paine of the computer revolution." His book Computer Lib, proposing a new Utopian world of intellect around the computer screen, came out in 1974, just four months before the first personal computer was advertised. Computer Lib is said to have inspired much of today's software design, as well as personally influencing Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates.

Nelson's vision for hypertext preceded the web by three decades. Nelson was virtually alone in predicting a worldwide hypertext. His 1981 book Literary Machines, while describing the work of his group on Project Xanadu, contains many passages that predict the World Wide Web.

For more information see links below.

Ted Nelson's Web site

Zig Zag