Blog Entry & Assignment No.2: Ted Nelson, Computer Lib / Dream Machines; find and share successful a
Computer Lib/Dream Machine, written in 1974 by one of the pioneers in Information Technology, Ted Nelson, is a visionary book about computers in society. In his work, he criticizes the deficient quality of papers that aimed at introducing the reader to working with computers, but actually were written in such a complicated manner and traversed by technical terms that a layman had difficulties to get access to understanding the statements in the texts, reserving the interaction with computers exclusively to experts like for example engineers. Nelson describes the prevailing circumstances in the educational system at that time and emphasizes the application of everything that encourages the student to develop his own thoughts and visions. In his eyes a major mistake is that pupils are scored not according to their actual performance in a certain field but just with hindsight to the compulsory scale everybody, independent from their personal abilities, is measured at. Although he emphasizes that computers should be used by everybody, so called computer-aided instruction (CAI) is mentioned as one of his points of criticism as it leads the student to only learning and doing exactly what the program tells him to do at that moment, thus prohibiting from thinking independent. The fact that some of the applications Nelson describes in his book actually do exist nowadays is as surprisingly as the depth of his visions was for the time. His description of the usage of hypergrams for example were accurate. Applications in which his ideas of interaction between humans and a computer program are implemented are for example graphic tablets or various kinds of applications used for Serious Gaming, where computers are used to implicate a virtual reality with the goal of giving users the chance to practice certain movements or activities before using them in a real life situation. The possibility to add information in footnotes in the way Nelson describes when talking about hypertexts, also exists today. Only short- cut commands are not exactly used as he predicted, an asterisk for example does not allow the operator to jump from one section in a text to another. Also, stretchtexts as flexible texts which either show some kind of a summary of a text if the user zooms out, and which fills the gaps between the words with all other expressions originally used in the text again if zooming in, is not existent as of now. In Google Maps we can find a realization of Nelsons vision of a hypermap and finally, although it is not existent yet, the mentioned interactive computer systems, where an operator not only is able to see for example a 3D model of a diagram he uses, but also can feel its structures and the like with help of a glove, seems to be feasible. All in all, it is impressive how many of Nelsons ideas are reflected in systems that exist today and with which accuracy pioneers of the past, as also Vannevar Bush has been, predicted future systems and circumstances.