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The market leader today for word processors is Microsoft Word, a general word processor first developed by Hungarian Charles Simonyi, a Xerox PARC veteran who had previously developed Bravo, the first GUI word processor in the modern sense back in 1974, on the Alto. From the very start the goal was to produce a document to output on paper and with that goal in mind it was a real innovation that what you saw on the screen was the same as what you would print. According to John Markoff’s article  Karen Thacker, wife of Chuck Thacker, a legendary Xerox hardware designer, saw Alto running Bravo, turned to him and said, “You mean, what I see is what I get?” Doug Engelbart would later proclaim that what it really meant was: What You See Is All You Get.

This focus on print as a the focus of the digital interaction upturned Doug Engelbart’s notion of augmenting our intellect to solve urgent, complex problems, collectively and twisted it into a means of production of static artefacts only. Doug was my friend and mentor and as such features heavily in my story and the story of Liquid | Author, even to the point of the name ‘Author’ being coined in honour of his ‘Augment’ since they share etymological roots. For clarification, his first system was referred to as  H-LAM/T system (Human using Language, Artifacts, Methodology, in which the person is Trained) in his seminal 1962 paper Augmenting Human Intellect. Ted Nelson asked him how he pronounced it and Doug replied he had never said it out loud. Ted suggested ‘Hamlet’. The system Doug implemented was initially called NLS (for oNLine System, since the computers he used before could not support more than one user) which was later renamed Augment when SRI sold the system to Tymshare in 1977.  

Published inLit Review: HypertextPhDThoughts

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  1. […] know from the pre-digital world. Doug was never fond of the notion of WYSIWYG, referring to it as What You See Is ALL You Get . For use to truly augment our minds with powerful tools, we need to investigate the properties of […]

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