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Re: URGENT-- plz fax the Dobbs piece

On Mon, Dec 07, 1998 at 12:32:18AM +0900, Ted Nelson wrote:
> From what you said, both Marlene and I are extremely
>  anxions to see it.  It's no longer on sale in the USA.

From the Table of Contents, Dr. Dobb's Journal #292 December 1998:

Programming Paradigms by Michael Swaine:
This month, Michael rifles through _The Microsoft File_, finds out what
Ted Nelson has been up to, and updates the Spyglass story.

Extract from the column, pages #116 and #117 of that issue:

Ted Nelson Ships a Product

Now here's something unbelievable:  Ted Nelson has shipped a product.
It's called "ZigZag."  He's been demoing it here and there, and you
can download it at http://www.xanadu.net/zigzag/.  To run it, you'll
need to have Perl 5 and a curses- (or ncurses-) compatible system
library installed on your system, but there's a demo runnable on a PC.
I tell you the nitty-gritty of downloading it before I tell you what
it is on the assumption that you are so curious about Ted Nelson's
first released product that you'll download it no matter what it is.
("First released product" may not be entirely fair; it depends on how
the various products of Ted's fertile mind are counted.)

If you don't know who Ted is, you should.  He's the original hypertext
pioneer, computer liberator, and software visionary.  His story is the
story of Xanadu, a software project so ambitious, so visionary, and so
late that it is the stuff of multiple overlapping legends.  I've told
the story often enough, and Ted tells it better anyway, so I'll just
point you to his web site (http://www.xanadu.net/).

But what IS ZigZag?

The Full Nelson

How's this:  It's a hyperstructure construction kit, a software
designer's Tinkertoy set, and a generalisation of the spreadsheet?
A universe of generalised connections, a new world in which to build
integrated software?  It's a new software paradigm for organising
personal and professional data?  It's a chunk of code that implements
a new topology of information?

I'll have to do better than this, I can see.

If you've downloaded the demo you've seen that ZigZag is neither
cosmetically appealing nor obvious in its function.  No desktop.
No overlapping windows.  No graphics.  It looks like something you
might have cobbled together on your DOS machine back in the early 80's.
When you start to explore it and see what it's implying, you begin to
realize that this is both simple and radical.  Concepts like operating
system and application and file don't map well to ZigZag's world.  It's a
world of cells -- units of information that may be programs or data --
linked to other cells in a multidimensional space that you control.

And the control you have is near-total:  While the cells in a spreadsheet
are connected in fixed ways in a flat rectangular grid, ZigZag cells
can be connected any way you like.  ZigZag space can curve and loop,
and you can invent your own dimensions.

Sounds like the web, you say?  Ah, but you're getting ahead of the story.

In the demo, you can move around an information structure in three
dimensions, following lines between cells, by using arrow keys or i, j,
l, command and k or K keys.  Let's see the hands of those who remember
the Wordstar diamond.  That's the idea.

As you move, ZigZag shows you the current cells and its immediate
neighbours.  Without leaving this one connected space, you walk through
demos of structures for a spreadsheet, an outliner, and a four-dimensional
genealogy chart, (the dimensions are name segments, name list, time,
marriages), and a PDA.  The PDA demo shows the power of being able to
create the links you want wherever you want them.  Just because you're
checking your appointments that doesn't mean you don't need to keep
track of air fares and anything else that happens to be connected --
in the real world -- to your appointments.  With ZigZag you can make
all the connections that need to be made.

I Zigged When I Shoulda Zagged

Then, just when you think you're oriented to this space, you rotate it
and see other views of these dimensions, and other dimensions you didn't
suspect were there in the data.

All relationships, it seems, are implemented as dimensions.  Cloning a
cell is done along a dimension, and you can view and move along the
clone dimension just like any other.  The relationship of containment
employs two dimensions.  The connection of the cursor to a cell lies
along a cursor dimension.  (The cell in the center of the view is the
"accursed" cell.  Part of the fun of exploring any Ted Nelson project
is enjoying the language.)

I mentioned cloning; a clone is a copy of some master cell.  A family of
clones and their master cell all lie in a chain on a system-maintained
clone dimension; editing any clone or the master changes all cells in
the chain.

You can literally connect anything to anything.  Every cell has a number.
Typing a number followed by an arrow key connects the current cell to the
cell of that number, in the direction and along the dimension indicated
by the arrow key.

Dimensions, the scaffolding of the structures you build with ZigZag, are
themselves under your control.  You add, delete, or rearrange dimensions
by editing a dimension list.  A deleted dimension is not really gone,
though.  It can be reinstated because its connections remain.

Okay, it's trippy.  But who exactly is this for?

It's for software developers.  It's a toolkit, or a playground, depending
on your attitude toward software development.  Ted wants you to use it,
to develop things in ZZ space.  He's inviting collaboration.  The intended
end result of that collaboration, it goes without saying, is Xanadu.
"I am laying the groundwork for the new Xanadu(R), which will turns the
old Xanadu ideas inside-out for the Internet," Ted says.

mailto:xanni@xxxxxxxxxx                         Andrew Pam
http://www.xanadu.com.au/                       Technical VP, Xanadu
http://www.glasswings.com.au/                   Technical Editor, Glass Wings
http://www.sericyb.com.au/sc/                   Manager, Serious Cybernetics
P.O. Box 26, East Melbourne VIC 8002 Australia  Phone +61 3 96511511