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The curse of moving

John's moving, pools of thumb tacks are bad, cats ride in London cabs, and oh yeah, Ted Nelson's Xanadu project.

I move too much. I'm currently moving closer to Los Angeles, because for all intents and purposes, where I live puts me practically in Hawaii. At least, that's what you'd conclude if you looked at my monthly gasoline bill.

I'm not entirely sure why I move so much, since I enjoy it about as much as diving into a pool full of thumb tacks. I have taken the process of moving to previously unknown depths of hell. Not only have I moved across the Atlantic and back again, but I moved within Europe, twice, WITH cat. How many cats do you know have heard Big Ben chime from the back seat of a London cab?

Okay, we've established that I'm crazy, but regular readers already knew that. I probably should say something about the Microsoft PDC, which is this week, but as I'm not attending it, others are more qualified to write florid exposés than me. Instead, I'm going to point you to something OSNews recently pointed me towards (or to be grammatically correct, towards which OSNews recently pointed me, but that sounds weird), which is an article in the June edition of Wired magazine detailing the long and winding tale of Xanadu.

Xanadu is the story of one man's dream to build a roller disco and a singing actress with a fetish for leg warmers (and I predict that everyone old enough to remember that movie will have a certain song stuck in their head ALL DAY LONG). It's also the name Ted Nelson attached to his idea for a system wherein bits of text in separate documents could be linked together. Ted Nelson coined the term "hypertext" in 1965 to describe this linkage process, a term that entered common usage much later with the popularization of the internet.

Xanadu's ambitions aimed far higher than the Xanadu approximation we see on the Internet. Nelson was also years ahead of his time. Ambition and prescience conspired to keep Xanadu strictly in the "labor of love" department until Roger Gregory, the true believer who kept the Xanadu flame alive over decades, managed in 1988 to convince John Walker, founder of Autodesk, to fund its development.

Walker dreamed of rapid productization, and Gregory was of the opinion that the code he had nursed over the years was 6 months from completion. Said Walker:

"In 1964, Xanadu was a dream in a single mind. In 1980, it was the shared goal of a small group of brilliant technologists. By 1989, it will be a product. And by 1995, it will begin to change the world."

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Development stretched into 1992, before it was cancelled after a bad quarter at Autodesk forced belt tightening which squeezed Xanadu off the Autodesk roadmap. Gary Wolf, author of the referenced Wired article, does a pretty good job of describing what happened. There's an antipattern in the tale, though, one I will discuss tomorrow, as it just occurred to me that I somehow have written eight paragraphs without getting to the point I intended to write.

So, on that note, I'll leave it like a Flash Gordon cliffhanger (queuing up evil laughter). Sorry, must be some strange chemical in the packing tape.