Memory Machines

Memory Machines

The Evolution of Hypertext

By Belinda Barnet

Anthem Scholarship in the Digital Age

Anthem Global Media and Communication Studies

This book explores the history of hypertext, an influential concept that forms the underlying structure of the World Wide Web and innumerable software applications.

Paperback, 192 Pages

ISBN:9781783083442

December 2014

£25.00, $40.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links

About This Book

This book explores the history of hypertext, an influential concept that forms the underlying structure of the World Wide Web and innumerable software applications. Barnet combines an analysis of contemporary literature with her exclusive interviews with those at the forefront of the hypertext innovation. She tells both the human and the technological story, tracing its path back to an analogue device imagined by Vannevar Bush in 1945, before modern computing had happened.

‘Memory Machines’ offers an expansive record of hypertext over the last 60 years, pinpointing the major breakthroughs and fundamental flaws in its evolution. Barnet argues that some of the earliest hypertext systems were more richly connected and in some respects more flexible than the Web; this is also a fascinating account of the paths not taken.

Barnet ends the journey through computing history at the birth of mass domesticated hypertext, at the point that it grew out of the university labs and into the Web. And yet she suggests that hypertext may not have completed its evolutionary story, and may still have the capacity to become something different, something much better than it is today.

Reviews

‘“Memory Machines” will appeal to anyone who is curious about the history of computing in general and hypertext in particular. This book is highly recommended for computer science students and for students of history of science and technology, as well as for computing and engineering enthusiasts.’ —Stephanie Wical, Online Information Review

‘[A] richly layered account, focusing on oral histories as much as an analysis of documents. […] This volume provides a sophisticated and vital history of early computing, usefully exploring conceptual ideas around hypertext, outlining the constraints on pioneering efforts to implement models of hypertext as technical prototypes, and ultimately demonstrating how these collectively shaped all subsequent efforts to develop computer-based prototypes for information structuring and retrieval.’ —Craig Hight, ‘Media International Australia’

‘Belinda Barnet has given the world a fine-grain, blow-by-blow report of how hypertext happened, how we blundered to the World Wide Web, and what other things electronic literature might still become.’ —Ted Nelson, hypertext pioneer

‘This is a fine and important book, the first to capture the rich history of ideas and people that led to the World Wide Web. “Memory Machines” carefully examines what the key figures were trying to do and judiciously explores what they accomplished and how the systems we now use daily sometimes exceed their dreams and sometimes fall embarrassingly short of their early achievements.’ —Mark Bernstein, Chief Scientist, Eastgate Systems

‘This is well-researched and entertaining story, full of personal anecdotes and memories from the people who built these important early systems.’ —Professor Dame Wendy Hall FREng, Dean of Physical and Applied Sciences at the University of Southampton

‘Walter Benjamin wrote that “It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather...what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation. “Memory Machines” is, even for one among its participants, such a constellation of the now.’ —Michael Joyce, Professor of English at Vassar College, New York

Author Information

Belinda Barnet is a lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia.

http://blog.arsmemoriae.com/

@Manjusrii

Series

Anthem Scholarship in the Digital Age

Anthem Global Media and Communication Studies

Table of Contents

Foreword: To Mandelbrot in Heaven – Stuart Moulthrop; Preface; Chapter 1: Technical Evolution; Chapter 2: Memex as an Image of Potentiality; Chapter 3: Augmenting the Intellect: NLS; Chapter 4. The Magical Place of Literary Memory: Xanadu; Chapter 5: Seeing and Making Connections: HES and FRESS; Chapter 6: Machine-Enhanced (Re)minding: The Development of Storyspace; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography; Index 

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