Personal liberation

I often remind myself that there’s nothing new under the sun. Of course, that’s not actually true, but it reminds me to temper my insanity. Enthusiasm is wonderful fuel for getting things done, but I’m too often sprinting up in the insanity range, rather than gleefully skipping along in the enthusiastic range. I digress.

Xanadu, the ultimate hypertext information system, began as Ted Nelson’s quest for personal liberation. The inventor’s hummingbird mind and his inability to keep track of anything left him relatively helpless. He wanted to be a writer and a filmmaker, but he needed a way to avoid getting lost in the frantic multiplication of associations his brain produced. His great inspiration was to imagine a computer program that could keep track of all the divergent paths of his thinking and writing. To this concept of branching, nonlinear writing, Nelson gave the name hypertext.

~ Gary Wolf from,


I’ve spent a lot of time learning about, and tinkering with, personal knowledge systems. To my embarrassment, I don’t actually recall ever learning about Xanadu. I vaguely knew that the “hypertext” of the HyperText Transfer Protocol—the HT in the HTTP and HTTPS—wasn’t a fresh invention; The Web as we saw it invented did not also invent hyptertext. But I’d never seen this Wired article by Wolf.