In 1960, a sophisticated young New Yorker and aspiring philosopher and film-maker, Theodor Holm Nelson envisioned the interactive computer screen as the new home of the human race and began designing documents for the future.
At this time, computers were room-sized and did not have interactive screens. Personal computers would not be invented for another decade. For these reasons and many more, the term “visionary” is the adjective most often associated with the name Ted Nelson.
The coiner of the term “hypertext” and a tireless advocate for a global system of interconnected networks for self-publishing, Ted Nelson has been for 50 years the torch-bearer for what computers can be.
Ironically, Ted Nelson is also the historian who charted how the computer world got to be the way it is.
For an exploration of Ted’s eerily accurate predictions and an overview of his inventions, please peruse this site and immerse yourself in a world of the future which has still not been fully realized.

Theodor Holm Nelson, born 1937, calls himself not a techie or a geek, but a “systems humanist,” like Buckminster Fuller.

Ted holds a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College, a master’s degree from Harvard University, a PhD from Keio University, and an honorary PhD from Chapman University. He has published eleven books and holds several patents.

Ted is best known for three things —

  • inspiring children, young people and computer scientists throughout the world with his ideas, his intense presence, and the books Computer Lib (1974) and Literary Machines (1981);
  • coining the word “hypertext”; and
  • Project Xanadu®, Ted’s effort to build a global hypertext system before the existence of the Web.
Born of theatrical parents but raised in New York City by his maternal grandparents, Ted was a media and film buff from childhood, and became an accomplished writer at a young age. At Swarthmore College, on the basis of his student film , he decided he was really a film-maker, which led directly to his computer innovations.

As a graduate student at Harvard (1960-61), Ted took a computer course and soon predicted — on the basis of his movie knowledge and writing experience — that the interactive screen would be the new home of the human race.

At the time of this prediction, none but a handful of people in elite professions had ever seen an interactive screen.

This insight inspired Ted to coin the word “hypertext” and outline his vision of the globally accessible self-publishing network which for decades he would strive to build. He considers the World Wide Web to be a dumbing down or, more charitably, a small subset of his ideas.

Ted continues to work on Project Xanadu with the goal of standardizing a different kind of document with permanent, visible connections. (Jason Scott has proposed the term “Nelson document” for such side-by-side, visibly connected publications, which are possible only on the interactive screen.)

Ted’s other primary invention is a hyperthogonal structure trademarked ZigZag®, a multidimensional, non-hierarchical spreadsheet and application builder.

In 2016, Ted appeared on the big screen in Werner Herzog’s documentary “Lo and Behold,” which elegantly summarizes Ted’s work in four minutes.