Although I am still extremely confused by this extract from Theodor Holm Nelson, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed at how prophetic some of his concepts were. This paper was published in 1992, yet by the sounds, a lot the ideas he had thought of in 1980 (or even 26 years earlier than that in some cases). From what I can gather ‘Project Xanadu’ was almost the predecessor of iCloud or a better version of the World Wide Web. He explains it as ‘a hypertext system to support all the features of these systems, and many more’; ‘a system based upon one pool of storage, which can be shared and simultaneously organised’.
He mentions the idea that floppy disks would become superfluous, as would physical versions of family photos – they would all be able to be safely stored in a public utility; I really can’t help thinking that this was similar to an advertisement Apple first had when they released iCloud.
Nelson then goes on to mention that ‘offices will be paperless’ in 2020. And to be honest, I think he’s correct, probably to the year. Obviously society isn’t quite there yet. Universities like RMIT still rely on hard copy documents now and then; I think this is mostly due to the fact that people still aren’t quite reliable enough to check their emails regularly and many people still like to be ‘old school’ and physically write on pieces of paper rather than type. But as this extract suggests, there will come a time when paper printing will be prohibited. The environment will continue to be eroded by humanity and eventually people will realise that they have to stop consuming – the cost of paper and ink and all the processes involved with making the two materials will become economically unviable. Thus everyone will have to turn to the simulated pen and paper: the computer.
He also somewhat predicts how much computer technology would take over our lives (although I don’t think he saw this as a bad thing). Today I can hardly think of anyone, aside from my little 80-year-old Grandmas, who don’t own a smart phone and can use it in some way to help organise their lives. Nelson wanted computers to bring simplification and although this may not be the case exactly, they have helped to organise our busy schedules: ‘birthdays, appointments; possibilities to be kept track of; the blizzard of everyday matter’ are all things that can be logged into a technological calendar and shared between one person’s different devices (as well as sent across networks).
Lastly, ‘the memex’ concept was something that struck me as a rather complex but well-designed version of something like Google Docs. It is explained as ‘a publishing system that would hold everything that is written, and allow each new user to add connections’. Like Google Docs it would mean that you can essentially have as many people writing on one document as you would like and it would save each new version of the document so that a user could go back a few versions to view changes if need be. However, I think the part about adding new connections would relate more closely to the use of hypertext in blogs.
Overall, I was flabbergasted that the predictions of what life would be like in 40 years, from just one person, could be so accurate.