In honor of Ted Nelson, computer pioneers connect at ‘Intertwingled’

A playful Ted Nelson is conferred with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa at by Chancellor Daniele Struppa and Douglas Dechow, Ph.D., science librarian and coordinator of the Intertwingled conference.
A playful Ted Nelson is conferred with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, by Chancellor Daniele Struppa and Douglas Dechow, Ph.D., science librarian and coordinator of the Intertwingled conference.

There was an honorary degree, an anniversary celebration of his influential book and a series of talks exploring how his ideas helped shaped the digital information world. But perhaps the greatest honor delivered on behalf of computer pioneer and Distinguished Visiting Scholar Ted Nelson, Ph.D., were a few words spoken by one of his greatest admirers, Apple Computer founder Steve Wozniak.

“People with brains can understand what Ted’s all about,” Wozniak said, speaking Thursday afternoon at Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson.

A good number of such people gathered in Argyros Forum for a day-long conference focused on Nelson’s work that laid the groundwork for the digital information age. Among Nelson’s more legendary contributions are coining the terms “hypertext” and “hypermedia” and his foundational book, Computer Lib.

Wozniak said Computer Lib and Nelson’s concepts had a profound effect on his own approach to computer technology that would serve regular users, or as he put it “the little guy.”

A delighted Ted Nelson photographs the standing ovation he received after the lecture he delivered at the Intertwingled conference. Among those in attendance was Steve Wozniak, third from left.
A delighted Ted Nelson photographs the standing ovation he received after the lecture he delivered at the Intertwingled conference. Among those in attendance was Steve Wozniak, third from left.

“He had a very important part in my whole life and background, going back to the Homebrew Computer Club,” Wozniak said, referencing the pioneering group of computer wonks that went on to lead the Silicon Valley’s personal computer revolution.

In addition to Wozniak, speakers included 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 Web did not evolve as he envisioned it and Nelson says he is both philosophical and disappointed. But he is confident his landmark Xanadu system will one day trump contemporary operating systems. As he told those gathered at the conference, “The world would have been a better place if I had succeeded, but I ain’t dead yet.”

Videos of the Intertwingled talks are available at the conference website.

Dawn Bonker

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