Let’s find out the hypertext

When we talk about hypertext we are basically referring to text on a computer screen that will redirect the user to other related information. Hypertext has recently become a huge innovation to user interfaces because it has been able to overcome some of the limitations that traditional written text presents. Instead of remaining static, hypertext offers us the possibility of organizing the information in a much more dynamic way. But how do we do that exactly? The answer is easy. We use links and connections, which are, logically, called hyperlinks. Nowadays, the best expression of hypertext we have is the Web.

Hypertext diagram

Hypertext diagram

Hypertext’s great multifunctionality is something remarkable. These hyperlinks can be designed to perform a large number of tasks. For example when someone ‘cliks’ on one of these hyperlinks, or ‘hovers’ over it, a word definition may appear, a web page on a related topic may load, a video may begin, or, even, an application may open.

And you all might be wondering when hypertext appeared. Let’s have a brief look backwards. During the early years of the 20th century there were some experiments to descompose down documents to unique phrases stored on index cards. Later, in the 1930s, the writer H.G. Wells proposed the creation of a World Brain. But, probably, the most important hypertext precursor is Vannevar Bush’s Memex. He described the Memex in the article “As we may think” as “a futuristic electromechanical desk linked to an extensive archive of microfilms, that would be able to display books, writings, or any document from a library”.

But hypertext itself did not appear until 1968, when a hypertext interface, created by Ted Nelson and Andries van Dam at Brown University, was demonstrated to the public. In the 1980s a large number of experimental hypertext and hypermedia programs made appearance, and many of their features and terminology were in the following years integrated into the Web. Soon, Berners-Lee, would create the World Wide Web, which would allow scientists working all around the world to share information automatically. That is the way the hypertext jumped into the Web.


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November 2008


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