‘Intertwingled: A celebration of the work of computer iconoclast Ted Nelson

Internet computing iconoclast Theodor “Ted” Nelson, Ph.D., will have his life’s work honored at Chapman University on Thursday, April 24, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the publication of his book Computer Lib.

The work of Ted Nelson, a Distinguished Visiting Professor and pioneer of the computer era, will be the focus of an April 24 conference.
The work of Ted Nelson, a Distinguished Visiting Professor and pioneer of the computer era, will be the focus of an April 24 conference.

In a conference titled “Intertwingled,” Nelson’s more than 50 years of influence in the world of personal and academic computing will be celebrated in talks by a dozen of today’s leaders in technology and creativity. The event is open to the public.

It is not well known that Nelson invented movie editing by computer and realistic computer graphics, for which he filed early patent applications.  Among Nelson’s more legendary contributions throughout the advancement of the computer age are coining the terms “hypertext” and “hypermedia” among others, authoring several books such as Computer Lib, Literary Machines, Geeks Bearing Gifts and Possiplex. He has spent more than 50 years working on his vision of a connected document world called Xanadu. Nelson was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chapman University during fall 2013, when he taught the honors course Cinema of the Mind.

“Ted is a very unique individual—he formulated his ideas before the world was ready to understand them, but that has not deterred him from continuing to believe in a different future for the world of computing,” said Chancellor Daniele Struppa. “Irreverent, and yet tender, he is the modern high-tech version of Don Quixote, and I say this with the greatest admiration for the immortal creation of Cervantes.”

Participants in the conference include notables in the tech world, including Turing Award winner (equivalent to a Nobel Prize in Computer Science) Alan Kay, creator of the Smalltalk programming language – the inspiration for today’s window-based systems and the scientist who coined the phrase, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Also participating is Dame Wendy Hall, former president of the Association for Computing Machinery and one of the first computer scientists to undertake serious research in multimedia, hypermedia and digital libraries.

“The book being celebrated, Computer Lib, made the outrageous claim in 1974 that personal computing, computer graphics, interaction and hypertext would fuse into an oncoming wave that would revolutionize the world—absurd, most people thought,” said Nelson.“ After 40 years of Computer Lib being very right, here we are in a soup of resulting super-problems. Now they’re listening to me again,” Nelson said.

The son of show business parents – his mother was an Oscar winning actress and his father an Emmy winning director – Nelson initially was a filmmaker, actor, and author of a rock musical and numerous plays and periodicals. As early as 1960, he envisioned a world in which all media would be connected and interacting with one another on a vast system of computers. Nelson coined the term intertwingled to express the philosophical complexity of the world and the difficulty of representing it.

Nelson’s book Computer Lib had a considerable influence on the personal computing world in its infancy. Nelson’s effect on the development of hypertext systems has led the Association for Computing Machinery’s Hypertext Conference to award the annual “Ted Nelson Newcomer Award.” More about Ted Nelson’s work can be found at his website hyperland.com.

Sheri Ledbetter

Sheri Ledbetter

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2 comments

  • I wonder how the corporations think they can hijack the internet and what Ted Nelson thinks about this, as technically it is his invention. Who gives corporations and governments the right to infringe on people’s rights to use it as intended by Ted, or worse, try to control the internet when they do NOT own it? These sociopaths have to be stopped. Please sign the petition and if there is anything else you can do please do it. This also needs to be made more public.
    http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4565?share_ref=4MGp0saZu90

    Outrage: FCC Set to Kill Net Neutrality
    Three months ago, Watchdog and other activists delivered a petition with a million signatures to the FCC in support of net neutrality — to keep the whole Internet available to everyone.

    This week, the news broke that the FCC intends to blow us off and betray the principle of equal access to the Internet.

    When he received those 1 million signatures in January, the FCC chairman said (awkwardly): “One of the great things about what the Internet does and why it needs to stay open, it enables people to organize and express themselves. A million people? That’s boffo.”

    Chairman Wheeler apparently thought a pat on the head would satisfy us. It certainly will not. We don’t want empty rhetoric — we want a commitment to the democratic principle of net neutrality.

    Then Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, revealed proposed new rules — drafted by himself — that would end net neutrality! Big corporations would pay for faster delivery of their content, making it difficult for smaller operations to compete.

    Tell Chairman Wheeler and the rest of the Federal Communications Commission: we want action for democratic media, not platitudes as smokescreens for corporate domination of the Internet.

    PETITION TO FCC: No fake fixes or half-measures! Save the open Internet by restoring Net Neutrality right away.