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crudfix  01.05.23
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Project Xanadu® History (lo-res)


Project Xanadu was the explicit inspiration for the World Wide Web (see Tim Berners-Lee's original proposal for the World Wide Web), for Lotus Notes (as freely acknowledged by its creator, Ray Ozzie) and for HyperCard (acknowledged by its developer, Bill Atkinson); as well as less-well-known systems, including Microcosm and Hyperwave.
About the name: No, we did not get it from Olivia Newton-John.  It is an actual place in Mongolia which is described in a poem considered by many the most romantic poem in the English language-- "Kubla Khan" by Coleridge.  The poem begins,
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately Pleasure Dome decree, ...
and goes on to describe that eerie and beautiful palace with innuendos of sensuality and madness.  This poem's tradition also associates the name "Xanadu" with memory and lost work, because Coleridge said he lost part of the poem due to a mundane interruption.  We chose the name "Xanadu", with all these connotations, to represent a magic place of literary memory and freedom, where nothing would be forgotten.

The "freedom" part applies even today: the ruins of of Kublai Khan's actual palace at Xanadu have been placed off limits to Mongolians by the Chinese government, because of its symbolism of Mongolian independence.  (See "Xanadu Remains Closed, Controversial" at http://www.taklamakan.org/smongol-l/archive/scmp053198.html.)

This is the short version.  In any longer account, many more people need to be named and thanked.

Trade secrets now being revealed are marked with an asterisk.

1960: Ted Nelson gets the idea of hypertext.  (Word chosen 1963, published 1965.)
1960-70: Ted designs alone.  (Name "Xanadu" chosen 1967.)

1971-78: Ted works with various guys individually.  (1971-2: Ted invents/discovers first "Model T" enfilade*), redesigns Xanadu around it.)

1979: "Swarthmore summer" of specification and design amongst Ted, Roger Gregory, Mark Miller, Stuart Greene, Eric Hill, Roland King.  Mark and Stuart develop General Enfilade Theory* from Model T; from this the 88.1 architecture* of Granfilade*, Spanfilade* and Poomfilade*.

1979-92: XOC team (Roger Gregory, Mark Miller) build two major designs (neither productized): Udanax Green (formerly Xanadu 88.1, for its time of near-completion and shelving), Udanax Gold (formerly Xanadu 92.1, for the intended delivery date).

XOC, Inc. was founded by Roger in 1983 to productize this work for the technical community.  The infamous "Silver Agreement" of that year granted Nelson full rights to the networked publishing system in return for abandoning any authority over design, management or business arrangements not affecting the publishing system.

XOC, Inc. was acquired by Autodesk, Inc. (publishers of AutoCAD), in 1988.  Autodesk supported the project until 1992.

(In 1992, Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web as a text-based 1-way hypertext system.  Ca. 1994, NCSA introduced the Mosaic browser (designed by Marc Andreessen), which added graphics directly into the pages.  In late 1994 it began to really take off, at exactly the speed and timetable Nelson had predicted in 1990-- for the Xanadu publishing system.)

1992-98: work continues at XOC, Inc.  Nelson, in Japan, continues to work on these ideas separately, with the idea of adapting them more directly to the Web.

1999: The board of XOC, Inc. votes to take its code Open Source and change its name to Udanax.com, effectively spinning off the code as independent from any ongoing work at Project Xanadu.

The "Xanadu" trademark for software was held by XOC, Inc. from 1983 until 1992.  At that time it was re-acquired by Nelson, since his name is irrevocably associated with it.  Since then it has been registered for software and computer services in the USA and abroad.  The Flaming-X logo is also registered.