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Complex Information Processing: A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate

Critical Writing
Record Status: 
Abstract (in English): 

This is the paper where Ted Nelson first coined the word hypertext. What follows is the abstract he wrote for the paper:

THE KINDS OF FILE structures required if we are to use the computer for personal files and as an adjunct to creativity are wholly different in character from those customary in business and scientific data processing. They need to provide the capacity for intricate and idiosyncratic arrangements, total modifiability, undecided alternatives, and thorough internal documentation. I want to explain how some ideas developed and what they are. The original problem was to specify a computer system for personal information retrieval and documentation, able to do some rather complicated things in clear and simple ways. In this paper I will explain the original problem. Then I will explain why the problem is not simple, and why the solution (a file structure) must yet be very simple. The file structure suggested here is the Evolutionary List File, to be built of zippered lists. A number of uses will be suggested for such a file, to show the breadth of its potential usefulness. Finally, I want to explain the philosophical implications of this approach for information retrieval and data structure in a changing world.

Pull Quotes: 

Let me introduce the word "hypertext"***~ to mean a body of written or pic- torial material interconnected in such a complex way that it could not conveniently be presented or represented on paper. It may contain sunmmries, or maps of its contents and their interrelations; it may contain annotations, additions and foot- notes from scholars who have examined it.

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Record posted by: 
Jill Walker Rettberg