The Story

You may know that Doug Engelbart built the first collaborative hypertext system in the 1960s, among his many other firsts. What you may not know is that that system – NLS/Augment – still runs, and that Doug and others continue to use it every day (as of 2006).

Augment has capabilities not found in any other software, features that make us smarter and more productive. You can read about many of these capabilities –for example in Doug's papers on Authorship and Collaboration – but you can't currently experience them first-hand. This is a huge loss, and not just for those curious about history. With today's high-speed networks and computers, some of these capabilities are potentially more relevant today than ever.

In the 1980s, Doug started touting a new vision for collaborative tools, which he called the Open Hyperdocument System (OHS). The premise of the vision is that all collaborative knowledge applications – email, conceptual mapping software, shared authoring tools like Wikis, etc. – should share a core set of fundamental capabilities, such as those found in Augment, in an interoperable way. Furthermore, as we learn to leverage these new capabilities in our everyday work, we should be able to co-evolve those capabilities continuously.

The HyperScope is meant to be a first step towards this vision of an Open Hyperdocument System. We have three goals:

  1. Give as many people as possible the ability to experience the capabilities of the original Augment system first-hand.

  2. Create an open source platform that will help us achieve the vision for a world-wide Open Hyperdocument System.

  3. Initiate and help ground a dialog around Doug's larger ideas about augmenting the world's collective IQ and bootstrapping.

This first phase of the HyperScope was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation. But the project itself would be impossible without our vibrant community.