Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd May 2014 18:28 UTC
Internet & Networking

Historians of technology often cite Bush's essay as the conceptual forerunner of the Web. And hypertext pioneers like Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee have all acknowledged their debt to Bush’s vision. But for all his lasting influence, Bush was not the first person to imagine something like the Web.

This actually reminds me a lot of how contemporary technology media look at smartphones and such. They often have little to no experience with the breadth of mobile technology that came before the iPhone and Android, and as a consequence, they treat everything as new, revolutionary, and 'owned' - even though virtually everything has been taken from somewhere else.

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You forgot something...
by Kochise on Fri 23rd May 2014 20:59 UTC
Kochise
Member since:
2006-03-03

Al Gore invented the Internet. First.

Kochise

Reply Score: 1

Ted Nelson
by thulfram on Fri 23rd May 2014 21:27 UTC
thulfram
Member since:
2013-10-11

He did a lot of cool things back in the 70's. His self-published book, Computer Lib, was really inspirational for those of us building computers, back in the day when Bill Gates was writing letters to people telling them not to rip off his punched-paper-tape versions of BASIC.

I met him a few times but he seems to have vanished into some kind of misty world. Maybe he'll come back and do something else cool. But he was a real pioneer!

Reply Score: 3

RE: Ted Nelson
by Nth_Man on Fri 23rd May 2014 23:08 UTC in reply to "Ted Nelson"
Nth_Man Member since:
2010-05-16

when Bill Gates was writing letters to people telling them not to rip off his punched-paper-tape versions of BASIC.

After ripping off what he could from the trash cans of other programmers :-)
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/06/29/bill_gates_roots/

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Ted Nelson
by Nth_Man on Fri 23rd May 2014 23:54 UTC in reply to "RE: Ted Nelson"
Nth_Man Member since:
2010-05-16

"I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating system."
-- Bill Gates

http://programmersatwork.wordpress.com/bill-gates-1986/
Suzanne Lammers, "Programmers at Work: Interviews With 19 Programmers Who Shaped the Computer Industry", Harper and Row, ISBN 0-914-84571-3

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngreathouse/2012/06/05/business-tips...

https://www.google.com/search?q="Bill+Gates"+"I+went+to+the+garba...

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Ted Nelson
by jockm on Sat 24th May 2014 05:24 UTC in reply to "RE: Ted Nelson"
jockm Member since:
2012-12-22

"when Bill Gates was writing letters to people telling them not to rip off his punched-paper-tape versions of BASIC.

After ripping off what he could from the trash cans of other programmers :-)
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/06/29/bill_gates_roots/
"

Hold on now, there is a big difference between saying that someone studied source of interesting systems (as all good programmers should do), and saying he stole code and used it in his products.

The register snarkily implies it, but they don't present a single shred of evidence. Because getting a few well placed kicks in is far more important than the truth...

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Ted Nelson
by Nth_Man on Sat 24th May 2014 06:48 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ted Nelson"
Nth_Man Member since:
2010-05-16

he stole code [...] The register snarkily implies it, but they don't present a single shred of evidence. Because getting a few well placed kicks in [...]

To avoid confusions, in that case there are better words than "stole", because stealing an item from someone brings the idea that the victim does not longer have the item, but the thief does. Hours ago, in http://www.osnews.com/permalink?589467 I already added some words of Bill Gates saying he fished out the code from other people, and that he sees it as a good thing, but the software that he published later could not be studied-improved-distributed by people because it was proprietary - closed source software, which was the point that it was about.

Edited 2014-05-24 07:06 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[4]: Ted Nelson
by Nth_Man on Sun 25th May 2014 08:26 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Ted Nelson"
Nth_Man Member since:
2010-05-16

Let's hear more of his own words about this subject... :-O

“Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox, and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”
-- Bill Gates, Mac Week, March 14, 1989
http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/01/0119apple-unveils-lisa/
http://www.macworld.co.uk/blogs/index.cfm?blogId=8&entryId=392
http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=A_Rich_Neighbor_Named_Xe...
http://www.mac-history.net/the-history-of-the-apple-macintosh/rich-...
http://www.wservernews.com/archives/wservernews-20090330.html

Edited 2014-05-25 08:32 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Ted Nelson
by jockm on Sun 25th May 2014 15:02 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Ted Nelson"
jockm Member since:
2012-12-22

And what is your point with that? That is about "stealing" ideas. Which happened the moment one cave man put one rock on top of another and a different caveman thought "hey I could do that better/faster/cheaper"

Copying ideas is how culture works. Indeed, that is why even though we may have effectively perpetual copyright, the term of patents remains fixed. Yes there are other problems with the patent system, that isn't my point.

But you seem to be saying that because Bill Gates got to look at the source to some programs, he should have released his software for free? I don't track that logic, unless you believe that all software should be Free/Open. However, you don't state that viewpoint so I don't know where you are coming from.

But even in the very early 70s there was commercial software. Some came with source, some didn't; but you did have to pay for them. The microcomputer market didn't exist. You had a bunch of guys making their own hardware and sharing what they knew. But sooner or later that market was going to mature into something like the mini computer/mainframe markets (which they did).

And that is why IMSAI made their computer (well that and a desperate attempt not to go bankrupt), Why Steve Jobs had the idea to sell the Apple I for $666.66, and why the nascent microsoft wanted to charge for their work too.

But its also worth pointing out that IMSAI Stole/Borrowed ideas (in the Xerox Machine quote sense), as did Apple, Microsoft, etc. As I should point out did the creators of Tiny Basic. Because, the Xerox Machine quote is about something different than your point about gates reading software listings that others had thrown out.

My initial comment was directed at the Register piece which was badly written, made claims it couldn't support, and was a horrible piece of "journalism" but it is the Register we are talking about so it is par for the course.

So please, help me understand, what is the point you are trying to make, because I really don't understand what you are saying.

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: Ted Nelson
by Nth_Man on Sun 25th May 2014 17:01 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Ted Nelson"
Nth_Man Member since:
2010-05-16

Basically what I posted in http://www.osnews.com/permalink?589484 , that there is people who, if they find it possible and profitable: will look in your garbage to fish out your listings (in their own words), but they will hide their listings from people; and (additionally) will break into your house to steal your TV set (in their own words). If they find it possible and profitable :-(

Edited 2014-05-25 17:07 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Ted Nelson
by jockm on Sun 25th May 2014 17:58 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Ted Nelson"
jockm Member since:
2012-12-22

Basically what I posted in http://www.osnews.com/permalink?589484 , that there is people who, if they find it possible and profitable: will look in your garbage to fish out your listings (in their own words), but they will hide their listings from people; and (additionally) will break into your house to steal your TV set (in their own words). If they find it possible and profitable :-(


You get he was talking about borrowing ideas, right? You get that borrowing, copying, improving, and/or making ideas more accessible is how our literature, culture, and technology improve.

Gates didn't steal anything. Once you throw something pysical out and don't restrict access to your garbage it isn't yours anymore. Case law is well established on that. I am sure Gates also read source to programs that available to others.

One of my treasured objects a hand xeroxed copy of the Lion's commentary and source to Unix V6 — http://books.google.com/books/about/Lions_Commentary_on_UNIX_6th_Ed... — well before the book could be legitimately published. Does this mean I should release the source to everything I have written since I read it? I have also read the source to TeX and Metafont, Minix, and countless other programs.

As I should mention has any other engineer worthy of that epithet, and I still advise new programmers to read every bit of source they can get their hands on.

But what I don't see is how that obligates anyone to share the source to everything they write, which is what you seem to be saying. Unless you feel all source should be Open/Free/Libre/etc; which isn't a position I support.

I have written and contributed to FLOSS projects, and I make closed products that are closed and sold. I don't see a conflict. I don't believe there is a conflict.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Ted Nelson
by jockm on Mon 26th May 2014 22:14 UTC in reply to "RE: Ted Nelson"
jockm Member since:
2012-12-22

"when Bill Gates was writing letters to people telling them not to rip off his punched-paper-tape versions of BASIC.

After ripping off what he could from the trash cans of other programmers :-)
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/06/29/bill_gates_roots/
"

There is an important point I don't think I made well enough elsewhere: Taking something that has been thrown away is not stealing or "ripping off" or anything of the like.

In the US the case law is quite clear, unless the trash is kept securely such that the garbage can only be accessed by waste managment: anyone with access to it can take it.

You are free to a last word, I just wanted to make sure that point was made...

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Ted Nelson
by zima on Fri 30th May 2014 23:30 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Ted Nelson"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

In the US the case law is quite clear, unless the trash is kept securely such that the garbage can only be accessed by waste managment: anyone with access to it can take it.

How strong is that case law? Does it override copyright in the case of code? ;)

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Gooberslot
by Gooberslot on Sun 25th May 2014 07:59 UTC
Gooberslot
Member since:
2006-08-02

From the article: "When Bush later tried to patent his own microfilm-indexing tool called the Rapid Selector—a precursor to the Memex—the U.S. patent office turned him down, citing Goldberg’s work."

Holy crap, the patent office actually used to do their job.

Reply Score: 5

Smartphones and innovation ?
by Lennie on Sun 25th May 2014 15:23 UTC
Lennie
Member since:
2007-09-22

That just reminds of the recent XKCD comix:

https://xkcd.com/1367/

Reply Score: 2

Comment by jockm
by jockm on Sun 25th May 2014 16:59 UTC
jockm
Member since:
2012-12-22

When I read that article, and Bush's As We May Think I run into one big issue: Microfilm/Microfiche is an inherently write once mechanism. I can see how the search mechanism might work, I could certainly design one.

However when it comes to updating/adding to the knowledge base, that is when the handwaving really begins. Bush talks about a theoretical microfilm typewriter (though how you correct mistakes is anyone's guess) and the Vocoder (which would use the same mechanism as the typewriter ultimately). But he never really closes that gap.

Bush's system would have been an excelent WRRM — Write Rarely/Read Many — system, but what was really needed was WMRM. I am sure Bush was aware that he was weakest in his vision there, but thought it was a solvable problem.

The real problem is that like the vast majority of people who try and imagine the future, he just amplifies the present. Predicting the future is very very hard.

And yet Bush almost had it. He had punch cards, and could see their use, he had facsimile. What he didn't do was close the gap there, where punch cards could generate a facsimile — a true digital system. Given this idea, one could then imagine erasable facsimile paper, or extrapolating to some kind of digital display.

Instead he just imagines those mechanisms as a way of getting handwritten notes or illustrations into microfilm form. He had a microfilm shaped hammer.

Either way though Bush's system was unbuildable at the time he imagined it, Otlet's system was even more unbuildable. I would argue that Nelson's vision was effectively unbuildable. The Udanax source was eventually published, and it kind of worked, but it never lived up to his description.

But then again, Nelson's future was an amplified version of his own present when he imagined his stately pleasure dome of Xanadu kiosks and Data Cafe's (for want of a better term) where you payed micropayments for every time you read, or cited someone else.

His was a bytestream based vision, where all you had to do was point to the starting byte and ending byte and everything would work. I can't find it, but I recall an interview where he railed against complex data formats and meta data because they made his form of transclusion more difficult

But 36 years after Paul Otlet's vision of "Electronic Telescopes", ARPAnet was created. About 13 years after that, the internet was started.

Not many years after that hypertext/hypermedia was real. At first in universities, and then in the form of hypercard by the late 80's.

By 1991 the World Wide Web a real thing available to the world. That is pretty stunning progress if you consider just how many problems had to be solved and commercialized between the 1930s and now.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by jockm
by tylerdurden on Sun 25th May 2014 17:59 UTC in reply to "Comment by jockm"
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

Well yeah, and Turing's machines were supposed to use an infinite paper tape. The point is to understand the abstract essence of an idea, without getting too hung up on the examples of implementation... which indeed tend to be far more dependent on the time and place when the idea first surfaced.

Bush did not have access to modern computing/communication networks. So he had to make do with a very mechanically-oriented sample implementation, because that was the state of the art at the time. But in a sense he was transcending those limitations.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by jockm
by jockm on Sun 25th May 2014 18:31 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by jockm"
jockm Member since:
2012-12-22

Well yeah, and Turing's machines were supposed to use an infinite paper tape. The point is to understand the abstract essence of an idea, without getting too hung up on the examples of implementation... which indeed tend to be far more dependent on the time and place when the idea first surfaced.


Turing's machine was never supposed to be build. It was a thought experiment, and exercise in computability. He never spend any time to
the best of my knowledge (and I am a bit of a Turing Fanboy) ever spent any time or energy on building one.

When you look at the computers he had a hand in designing, the only area of commonality was the idea of storing the address of the next instruction in the opcode, but that was because of limitations of the hardware, not a connection back to the turing machine.

Bush was describing a system he thought could be built. He wasn't sure of how everything could be implemented (like the microfilm typewriter), but he thought they could be. He knew there were technical challenges to get there, but he believed his system could be build within a few decades. He was describing a system he thought could be built, unlike Turing.


Bush did not have access to modern computing/communication networks. So he had to make do with a very mechanically-oriented sample implementation, because that was the state of the art at the time. But in a sense he was transcending those limitations.


No, nor was that necessary for his system, nor the variation I described. Punch cards storing either characters or images to be transcribed to facsimile was a mental leap he or anyone else could make at the time.

My point is that inventing the future that isn't just an amped up version of the present is hard. The facsimile system I describe would have been possible in his own day.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by jockm
by kovacm on Wed 28th May 2014 12:12 UTC in reply to "Comment by jockm"
kovacm Member since:
2010-12-16

By 1991 the World Wide Web a real thing available to the world. That is pretty stunning progress if you consider just how many problems had to be solved and commercialized between the 1930s and now.

no, it is not "pretty stunning progress": Tim Berners Lee WWW did not solve any of problems, it simple ignore problems!

Ted Nelson and Douglas Engelbart ideas will be implemented in time to come because they are simple left out in Tim Berners Lee WWW.

Many of Ted Nelson ideas today are retroactively implemented in todays WWW e.g.: storing all versions of document through time that was (poorly) implemented by wikipedia. Trivia: Alex Wright work at Internet Archive (web.archive.org) - an external entity that provide Ted Nelson idea that is left out in todays WWW.

also, Google and Facebook would never existed if two-way links were implemented in WWW like Ted Nelson, and everybody else back in time, proposed! (Jaron Lanier explain it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP_JNhlmQ48)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by jockm
by zima on Fri 30th May 2014 23:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by jockm"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

The real problem is that like the vast majority of people who try and imagine the future, he just amplifies the present. Predicting the future is very very hard.
[...]
But then again, Nelson's future was an amplified version of his own present

Reminds me about my standard posts regarding scifi... (for example http://www.osnews.com/permalink?523521 )

Reply Score: 2