Title: Hypertext Editing System - Four Questions from AvD

Driving back from last week's Chinese New Year dinner at Lucky Garden, Andy van Dam asked me to help research four questions concerning the original Hypertext Editing System (HES) - developed by Andy, Ted Nelson and Brown students including Steve Carmody, Dave Rice, and Walter Gross 1967-1969. I checked my files, memory and did a little Googling.

1) Did the original HES system support upper and lower case alphabetic characters?

The original IBM 2250 Model 1 display [1968 - mid 1969] only allowed key board entry and display of 63 characters including upper case alphabetics and special characters, see IBM 2250 Mod 1 manual (link below), and Formatting quotes from the HES paper of April 1969:

4.4.4 Formatting

The user cannot format text elaborately for display within the current Hypertext Editing System since our display unit has only upper case letters and since the aspect ratio and center separation of the characters differ so widely from those of the line printer's print chain. We therefore only show indents (both regular and hanging), paragraphs, lines skipped, and left justification (the display is formatted as ragged right without truncation). However, the user can format text for elegant printout via IBM's TEXT360 program. The TEXT360 program provides printout with such formatting as indentations, capitalization, underscoring, special characters, centering and margin justification, page-numbering and tables of contents. ...

The assigned format codes are not distinguished on-from-another on the screen. This would require complex display conventions which could only result in a grotesque appearance. We have chosen rather to display all format codes as the hatch symbol (#), and allow the user to proofread formatting specifications by inquiring with an INQUIRE button as to the individual meaning of each. ...

The display of hatches may be supressed with a function key. Also, the user may flip back and forth between the editing and formatting phases using a single function key. Thus formatting is in actuality a special case of insertion in which the format codes are actually inserted into the data structure.

quoted from: A Hypertext Editing System for the /360 by Steven Carmody, Walter Gross, Theodor Nelson, David Rice; Brown University Center for Computer and Information Sciences, April 4, 1969. File No: HES360-0; pp 23-24

However, by October 1969 Brown installed an IBM 2250 Model 4 display (with an IBM 1130 controller and programmable character set), which could show upper and lower case HES text, photo below.

2) Did the original HES system support any form of embedded on screen graphics?

Based on research to date and the best of my recollection, no. All hardcopy producted by the original HES system either used "EBCIDIC art" or reserved blank space for scissor and pastepost imposition of hand drawn or photographic art. But, since Brown did not have any printer capable producting integrated text and art until much later (a Versatec?), this does not eliminate the possibility early HES demonstration of inline graphics, particuarly after transition to the IBM 2250 Mod 4 in late 1969. In April 1969 the authors of the HES paper cited above wrote in the Future Direction section:

6) An extensive graphics capability will be added to the system by coupling it to a "sketchpad" program already developed at Brown University.

Thus, I believe that Brown's first hypertext with inline graphics came with FRESS, but can't prove it.

3) How did Ted Nelson enter data for the HES Patent Database Demo ?

I have a vague recollection of Ted with a box of punched cards called Patent Demo, as well as a recollection of several boxes of Ted's punched cards on a shelf in the 2250 Mod 4 Graphics Lab. I don't know who did the keypunching (which could include TEXT360 format codes), but believe the links had to be created interactively.

4) Do you have a picture of text on the screen of the original HES system?

I have a very bad Xerox copy of a photo I took of Alan Brown and the 2250 Mod 1 in the machine room. A screen shot shows a paragraph of text (all upper case with # format codes), lightpen and prompt at the bottom of the screen "[light pen ...] the point where the string is to be inserted". I will try to find the original of this photo an scan a usable copy. But, for now please see:

Greg Lloyd photos circa October 1969 of Chris Braun using HES with the 2250 Mod 4 display, upper and lower case text clearly visible. I can bound the date because this is one of two photos I took and showed on WBGH's After Dinner show broadcast live at 7:30PM Monday October 20, 1969 (from my copy of the WGBH program guide). After Dinner featured Andy van Dam, Chris Braun, Bev Hodgson (Brown Daily Herald editor, now retired Connecticut Superior Court Judge), Al Basile and myself talking about hypertext for 30 minutes on a stage set that was supposed to look like a living room - right next to Julia Child's TV kitchen.

For reduced size .jpg and full resolution Photoshop (.psd) copies off these two pictures, see tractionserver.co... - no password required


IBM 2250 Mod 1 and Mod 4 Component Descriptions:
Scanned copies of original IBM manuals, .pdf format see bitsavers.vt100.n... These manuals are a small sample of manuals for old computers (e.g. Burroughs, CDC, DEC, Interdata) preserved by Manz, see vt100.net/manx/about

Xanadu Archive Page xanadu.net/XUarch... Includes scanned copies of many of Ted Nelsons original notes on Hypertext, HES, and Xanadu, including (in Ted's words):


Probably the first public uses of the word "hypertext", 1965, at Vassar College.


"Hypertext Implementation Notes." Initial design notes for first hypertext system at Brown University (by TN). [project tag: HIN]

Sketch for function keys for first hypertext system at Brown (by TN). Things to note:
BACK button
"Tag" may not have meant embedded markup, but project code.
[Following Ted's function key sketch see four pages of early testing notes, primarly PSW faults encountered while testing branch and link actions. grl]

Simplified design that resulted. (Hypertext Editing System, or HES.) [A scanned copy of four page paper titled "Hypertext Text Editor" edited and printed by the original HES system in September 1968. Earliest preserved HES artifact? grl]


Proposed IBM Pale Fire demo, 1969 (by TN). [project tag: IBD.D2]
Pages 1-10.
Pages 11-23.
Based on Nabokov's Pale Fire, this was to demonstrate the Brown system in the IBM booth at the Spring Joint Computer Conference, 1969. Curiously, Putnam-- Nabokov's publisher-- agreed, but IBM nixed it.

To be noted:
Proposed poster/diagram, pp.25-6.

Hypertext Editing System (Wikipedia)

Traction internal references

Traction871: The Writing and Editing Aspects of the System - Hypertext Editing System (HES)
Traction872: Future Developments - Hypertext Editing System (HES)
Traction867: First Banner Ad - October 1968, Hypertext Editing System (HES)
Traction868: Mysterious Glitches - Hypertext Editing System (HES)

hesconsole textM.jpg
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Article: grl3153 (permalink)
Categories: :Doc:FYI
Date: February 14, 2006; 3:56:51 PM EST
Author Name: Greg Lloyd
Author ID: grl