Computer Lib/Dream Machines

By Ted Nelson (1974, 1987)

The famous Altair cover of Popular Electronics announced personal computers to the American public; and thousands of orders poured into the would-have-been-bankrupt firm in Albuquerque, people drove all night to buy their kits, and a new dream exploded into American consciousness.

It’s impossible to recapture the feeling of that earlier time, the personal excitement and joy many of us felt.

On the subject of recapturing that feeling, see: “Surviving Disillusionment” (Slava Akhmechet).

My Notes

Dream Machines was an advertisement for my own services as a software designer, with free samples. And it was an invitation for smart and idealistic souls to join me in a great and brave undertaking, project Xanadu.

… Engelbart tied a pencil to a brick. Then he actually made someone write with it. The result, which was of course dreadful, Engelbart solemnly put into a published report. Not yet being able to demonstrate the augmentation of intellect, since he had as yet no system to show off, he had masterfully demonstrated the disaugmentation of intellect: what happens if you make man’s tools for working out his thoughts worse instead of better.

“Featuritis” is what happens when programmers keep adding features (instead of letting them be ramifications of deeper principles).

We must design for the success of people who are tense, flustered, tired, easily confused, impatient, and quick to anger. We must design for the success of people who are not technically clever.

Seldom has an event in a new field had as much power and influence as what dour Ivan Sutherland did as a young man in the period 1960-64.