Alex Wright

A heretic's history of PCs

October 14, 2003

Ted Nelson, Way out of the Box:

The usual story about Xerox PARC, that they were trying to make the computer understandable to the average man, was a crock. They imitated paper and familiar office machines because that was what the Xerox executives could understand. Xerox was a paper-walloping company, and all other concepts had to be ironed onto paper, like toner, to be even visible in their paper paradigm.

But who cares what Xerox did with their money? That was lab stuff. It was Steve Jobs that turned PARC's work to evil. He took a team from PARC and made a bargain with the Devil, and that bargain with the Devil was called the Macintosh.


Now consider the World Wide Web. Even though some of us had been talking about planet-scale hypertext for years, it came as a pretty general shock. So few noticed that it watered down and oversimplified the hypertext idea.

Hypertext, as suddenly adapted to the Internet by Berners-Lee and then Andreessen, is still the paper model! Its long rectangular sheets, aptly called "pages", can be escaped only by one-way links. There can be no marginal notes. There can be no annotation (at least not in the deep structure). The Web is the same four-walled prison of paper as the Mac and the Windows PC.

File under: User Experience

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