Brian Gough’s Notes

occasional GNU-related news

Ted Nelson: “Geeks Bearing Gifts – How the Computer World Got This Way”

Ted Nelson, inventor of the terms “hypertext” and “hypermedia”, has long had a radical view of computing and freedom for computer users. His 1974 book “Computer Lib” was an early manifesto for personal computing and computer literacy — before personal computers existed (the Apple I, the first assembled computer which displayed on a TV screen, didn’t arrive until 1976).

His latest book is “Geeks Bearing Gifts – How the Computer World Got This Way” (ISBN 978-0-578-00438-9, £12.51), a personal history of computing and the forces that have influenced its development. The book covers a vast terrain from the ancient world through the first digital computers, ARPANET, NLS, Xerox PARC, microcomputers, Apple, Microsoft, free software, GNU and Linux, and the Web up to the present day. The style and content are quirky but it’s full of thought-provoking ideas and well worth reading. As always, Ted Nelson has a unique perspective.

“We are imprisoned in applications that can be customised only in ways the designers allow… We are in a dark age of documents, most locked in imprisoning formats… This is a blighted parody of the computer dreas we had long ago.  But let us try to be optimistic. Who knows what yet may be possible? All the ideas have not not yet been tried.” — T.Nelson, “Geeks Bearing Gifts”