The Memex is probably one of the more influential machines never to have existed... certainly as far as hypertext is concerned. The memex was a theoretical analog computer, a sort of microfiche library which would track the activity of the user and allow the user to create navigable links between works. It was first described in the 1945 Atlantic Monthly article "As We May Think". Wikipedia has a good entry with more factual information. Dynamic Diagrams has produced an excellent Interactive Animation of the Memex. The memex is often cited as an origin of hypertext alongside Project Xanadu.

I think it's interesting as a case study in the articulation of nascent concepts. Watching the video of Vannevar Bush demonstrating the concept of the memex is like watching the silent movies of early airplanes. The ideas are there but the technology hasn't caught up yet.

(In terms of t.org, I suspect that this note will be more useful as a connective and referential node than it will be informative on its own.)

reference, text

A 'pointer' for text. A reference is dynamic-- if the target of a reference is changed, all instances of the reference change.


A website that allows users to add content and allows anyone to edit the content. "Wiki" also refers to the collaborative software used to create such a website. [Wikipedia]

alternate reality game

A genre of interactive fiction using multiple delivery and communications media, including television, radio, newpapers, Internet, email, SMS, telephone, voicemail, and postal service. Gaming is typically comprised of a secret group of PuppetMasters who author, manipulate, and otherwise control the storyline, related scenarios, and puzzles and a public group of players, the collective detective that attempts to solve the puzzles and thereby win the furtherance of the story. [unfiction.com glossary]


A feature that presents a trail of where the reader has been in a hypertext. A "history" list is one sort of breadcrumb feature, and many websites provide breadcrumbs (see upper right corner of Chasing Our Tails) that show where the reader's current lexia sits in an intended hierarchy.

escher effects

A piece of text which cannot be sensibly interpreted as content and which requires the reader to interpret the text as text rather than as meaning. This most often results in software design and technical writing due to the constraints of the space available for the text (error messages, small screen, etc.). [Ramey, p. 388 in The Society of Text]


The extent to which a thing may be divided for the purposes of examination. "idea or unit size". A hypertext with tiny lexia may have high or small granularity if you are thinking about rearranging the lexia, while a book might be said to have low or large granularity since it is only easily rearranged at the book or page level.


A hierarchically organized structure of units or entities called 'holons', where a holon is an entity that will look as a whole to the parts beneath it in the hierarchy but will look as a part to the wholes above it. [Holarchies by Flemming Funch]


A text that contains links to other documents. In a hypertext, words or phrases in the document can be chosen by a reader which cause another document to be retrieved and displayed. [google.com]

Conceptually, hypertext conceives information as nodes and link networks forming navigable path that can be toured, returned to and referenced in non-linear or multi-linear fashion. [cyberartsweb.org]

This site uses "computer hypertext" in it's broadest sense as text composed of blocks of words (or images) linked electronically by multiple paths, chains, or trails in an open-ended, perpetually unfinished textuality described by the terms link, node, network,web, and path. [George P. Landow in Hypertext 2.0]

Ted Nelson is given general credit for coining the term.

hypertext, deterministic

A hypertext where the links are formed by the author and are relatively static is called a deterministic hypertext because the possibilities available to the reader are, theoretically, quite predictable. See also non-deterministic hypertext, sculptural hypertext, open hypertext, and adaptive hypertext.

hypertext, non-deterministic

A hypertext is non-deterministic if the possibilities available to the reader cannot reasonably be predicted or described at the beginning of a reading. One way to create a non-deterministic hypertext is sculpturally, where all possible links exist and conditions (chosen by the reader or at the time of reading) create the set of expressed (available) links. Since the links, and hence the reading possibilities, cannot be predicted ahead of time such a hypertext is non-deterministic. See also deterministic hypertext, sculptural hypertext, card shark and thespis.


Static placement of text from a remote source in a document. An inclusion is "static" because the content of the text is placed within the document, rather than a pointer or reference.


A unit of hypertext literature: a card in Hypercard, a screen in Storyspace, a page on a static Web site. The node in the knotwork of hypertext. [Tesseract lexicon] This is a disputed application of the term.


A link is the traversible connection between two nodes. [cyberartsweb.org]


Multi-user domain, Object Oriented. A MUD that uses object-oriented methodology. A MOO is typically easier for novice users to understand and manipulate than a non-object oriented MUD.

narrative, digital

A narrative which is presented through digital media or for which the fluidity of digtal media is an essential part of the form. J. Yellowlees Douglas further defines a digital narrative in contrast to literary hypertext as frequently the product of a team rather than a single author and as often more reliant on non-textual media. [The End of Books]

narrative, interactive

A text where a reader participates in the development of the narrative. Examples frequently given are video games where the player must perform an action to advance the plot; (hyper)texts where the reader's choice of links determine the order of the lexia which form the narrative; and role-playing games.


An integrated and self-sufficient unit of information. [cyberartsweb.org] A unit of meaning which, linked with other nodes, forms a text or network.


A path is a sequence of lexia. Paths could be formed consciously, as an author indicates in each lexia subsequent lexia that continue a topic; paths can also be formed as the result of a process like reading, the "history" of the reader. See also trailblazing.

tiered engagement

Tiered Engagement is a hypertext technique by which the reader receives different material based on their own experience of the text or their interest. Tiered engagment is one model for tailoring a text to the reader while maintaining focus and progress around a central narrative.


A technology is transparent when the interface does not hinder the task it is being used for in any way. The medium does not interfere with the content, it allows the user to look through the medium rather than look at the medium itself. A good user interface is transparent when it is intuitive-- when the user instantly understands what must be done to perform the desired task. A technology is transparent when it allows a task to be performed "as the user would expect", i.e. without specialized knowledge of how to operate the technology. Transparency in technology is especially good for helping people become familiar with it; yet when an author wants to encourage thinking about the medium itself (see escher effect), transparency may be a burden. [m-w online]