Ted Nelson Thread on Hacker News

.. It’s easy to dismiss Ted Nelson as some old crazy man who spent his life selling snake oil when you’re behind your computer, but the reality of it is that he contributed a lot to the field and is deeply respected amongst his peers. He was a close friend of Engelbart, his work valued by his contemporaries, and there’s a reason for which he was invited at the Homebrew Computer Club reunion a few months ago. Nelson’s work gives us an insight on what computing could have looked like, in some weird parallel world.

He is controversial, perhaps; and some of his ideas/claims may be unpractical/unrealistic/etc. – but ignoring and dismissing him only sends the message that you’re not as much of an expert as your rhetoric attempts to make you out to be.

.. Alas, this believer in transclusion also deeply feels it’s important that authors need to be paid, himself included. Perhaps he’d have a better chance to impact history in a meaningful way if he opted to give away for free the works making that case? Very few will have a chance to be exposed to the ideas Ted Nelson promotes: the range of books you suggest shows the impossibility of ever getting a comprehensive look into his view.

.. More to the point, if he’d opted to open source the code.

In Computer Lib/Dream Machines, one of the systems Nelson describes and lauds is Calvin Mooers’s TRAC macro language. Mooers took his IP seriously and defended it seriously. You can read his argument in favor of copyright to protect software in a Computing Surveys issue from some decades ago. Mooers protected TRAC right into oblivion–if even 1% of those who read HN have ever heard of it, I’ll be amazed.

..There’s an open source code dump of two versions on udanax.xanadu.com. “Xanadu Gold” is the most insane codebase I’ve ever seen — implemented in Smalltalk but intended for automatic translation to C++.

.. A friend of mine says Xanadu got quite a bit further, but failed hard at the end because they’d not bothered to do and keep viable the total end to end use case. Specially, to actually interact with the system and display a document was so hard and cumbersome it never had a chance of being adopted (by pretty much anyone, let alone widely), whatever other problems there might have been with the project.