Hyperthought – birth of Ted Nelson #history

On this day in 1937 – Ted Nelson was born.

Ted Nelson

‘The good news about computers is that they do what you tell them to do. 

The bad news is that they do what you tell them to do.’  Ted Nelson

Extract from The PC Pioneers

He was one of those in part inspired by Vannevar Bush and Memex. His full name was Theodor ‘Ted’ Holm Nelson.  Half Norwegian, he grew up in Greenwich Village, NYC.  This was the birthplace of the beatniks and it is important to realise that much of the early development of PCs took part deep within the counter-culture of that time.

Nelson became something of an IT-philosopher.  He deliberately styled himself as an outsider, self-publicising his thoughts to the joy or irritation of others in the early PC business.  He was keen to tell anyone who would listen that he was a genius and he readily summed up his rather pessimistic philosophy in a Greenwich Village-esque manner:

Any fool can use a computer.  Many do.’ 

‘…most people are fools, most authority is malignant. 

God does not exist, and everything is wrong.’

Nelson’s books were however insightful and timely.  He published Computer Lib in 1974, then The Home Computer Revolution in 1977 and Literary Machines in 1981.  These were followed by The Future of Information in 1997 and Geeks Bearing Gifts: How The Computer World Got This Way in 2008.  In each book he reported on what he believed to be happening and he forecast what might occur next; occasionally this was with a good degree of accuracy and insight.

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