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" Way back when I was asking myself the question: what are some of the really key candidates for change? It would be surprising. It came to a big paradigm shift. And that was: what's a document?"
Hypertext outline in NLS text editor

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Click to play video Engelbart speaking about hypertext


Hypertext <1967>

So this hyper document idea and group environment is really a key idea with addressability and traceability, structuring, jumping on the fly, new control, a bunch of stuff. And what you need to do is facilitate the technology transfer and the engineering and the coevolution of all that.

So everyone's used to saying a document is the book, the paper, etc. Well, now it's moving to be on-line pages in a web or it's E-mail coming to us. It's a document. But the whole big thing that's an opportunity is to say, when you externalize a bundle of concepts in your head, that's going to be something you're going to author. Okay. Putting it into a computer medium let's you do a lot more than putting it together on pages. How do you take advantage of it? So that was a question I started asking myself.

And it seemed like one of the earliest things you could really take off and experience and harness. And so it's like saying, Hey, look. I don't want pages until I'm going to print it out, then I'll have a page. So what else can I do? I say, "The computer can go out and help me to structure it." Great. So I'd like to structure my concepts so that they're more meaningfully oriented and somewhat related to the structuring in my mind. I don't know what they'll be.

And then I say, "well, also I'd like to have various ways of looking at it." When the computer comes to a given place in a document, you get all kinds of of ways to look at it. Well, today the WYSIWYG, you look at it and you scroll past the pages. And I said, God. You know, I didn't even think of that for a minute. And I say, No.

One thing I'd like to do is just say, give me the first line of every paragraph. Do I want blank lines between them or not? What about numbering the paragraphs so I know where I am and I can say, "Jump to paragraph five"? Or do I want to organize it hierarchically? Let me do that. Well, numbering then now, oh, I'll call it , a, b, c. And if something's under b , it would be b, b . And so I've got to give some new names to things then. And scroll. And I want to move this paragraph here and everything that's under it. I've got to give it a name. Call it a "branch."

So then I've got a vocabulary of actions that I've started doing. And I've got a vocabulary of nouns, kinds of objects in there that are different. And I've got a way of commanding them that's different.