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Ted Nelson

Ted NelsonAKA Theodor Holm Nelson

Born: 17-Jun-1937
Birthplace: Chicago, IL

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Computer Programmer, Designer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Hypertext pioneer, Xanadu

Ted Nelson is the son of actress Celeste Holm and film director Ralph Nelson, but was raised almost entirely by his grandparents. He envisioned a hypertext scheme in 1960, much as Vannevar Bush did in 1945 -- a text processing system to allow file storage, manipulation, copying and editing. In 1965 he presented a paper at the Association for Computing Machinery detailing the concept he called "hypertext", and by 1967 he was calling it Project Xanadu. As conceived by Nelson, Xanadu is to be a multi-dimensional system for accessing, indexing, and preserving the world's vast stores of art and literature, with works available easily and perpetually, with the easy ability to "transclude" portions of documents, and with automatic micro-royalties assessed on every byte transmitted. He also spent a year in the mid-1960s working for dolphin researcher John C. Lilly, headed two early efforts to retail personal computers, and edited the pioneering do-it-yourself magazine Creative Computing in the early 1980s.

Not to be confused with the much simpler World Wide Web, Xanadu remains a system under construction, and has been an open source project since 1999. Among computer enthusiasts, Nelson is admired by many as a brilliant innovator, and derided by others as something of a crank. He is critical of the Web, describing it as a "mess that is strewn around us", and dismisses Tim Berners-Lee for purportedly oversimplifying his ideas. For his part, Berners-Lee has described Nelson as "a professional visionary." In a controversial 1995 article in Wired, Xanadu was described as "the longest-running vaporware project in the history of computing", but Nelson, now in his 70s, maintains that his project "will eventually prevail once people understand it."

Father: Ralph Nelson (film director, b. 1916, d. 1987)
Mother: Celeste Holm (actress, b. 1919)
Father: Francis Davies (stepfather, m. Celeste Holm 1940, div.)
Father: A. Schuyler Dunning (stepfather, m. Celeste Holm 1946, div. 1952, one son)
Brother: Daniel Dunning (stepbrother)
Father: Wesley Addy (stepfather, m. Celeste Holm 1961, d. 31-Dec-1996)
Wife: Marlene Mallicoat (m. May-2012)

    University: BA Philosophy, Swarthmore College (1959)
    Scholar: Sociology, University of Chicago (1959-60)
    University: MS Sociology, Harvard University (1963)
    Teacher: Sociology, Vassar College (1964-66)
    Teacher: University of Illinois at Chicago (1973-76)
    Scholar: Computer Science, Hokkaido University (1995-96)
    Professor: Environmental Information, Keio University (1996-99)
    Professor: Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton (1997-present)
    Professor: Media and Governance, Keio University (1999-2002)
    University: PhD Media and Governance, Keio University (2002)
    Scholar: Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University (2004-present)
    Fellow: Internet Archive

    Harcourt Brace and Company Technology Consultant (1966-67)
    The Nelson Organization Founder and President (1968-72)
    Bell Laboratories Defense Research (1968-69)
    CBS Promotional Writer (1969-73)
    The Itty Bitty Machine Company Founder and Advertising Director (1976)
    The Computopia Corporation Co-Founder (1977-78)
    Creative Computing Magazine Editor (1980-81)
    Datapoint Corporation Chief Designer (1981-82)
    Datapoint Corporation Media Specialist (1983-84)
    Autodesk Project Xanadu (1988-93)
    NewMedia Magazine Editorial Staff (1993-95)
    Sapporo Electronics Director of Sapporo HyperLab (1994-96)
    McLuhan Institute Senior Fellow
    Association for Computing Machinery
    Norwegian Ancestry

Official Website:

Author of books:
Life, Love, College, etc. (1959, essays; alternate title: We Need a Sociology Department)
Computer Lib/Dream Machines (1974, non-fiction)
The Home Computer Revolution (1977, non-fiction)
Literary Machines (1981, non-fiction)
The Future of Information (1997, non-fiction)
Geeks Bearing Gifts: How the Computer World Got This Way (2008, non-fiction)

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