Tech Tree/Virtual History

I’ve been obsessing, quietly, about what retro tech says to me. In my current mood, what I think it tells me, is something to which I’ve alluded previously — that once you (we) heft a particular tool and make it a part of your (our) extended being, a world of possibilities closes down around the other potentialities. It’s interesting looking back to the tech that failed, to see some other possibilities, many of which have never been explored subsequently. Or at least an excuse for geek nostalgia.

Any such exploration is half taxonomy (or tech tree, as its known in the god-gaming world), half virtual history (as its known to social theorists and historians with too much time on their hands) [1]. Endless avenues, although the one most directly relevant to Cluster is the virtual present where we ended up with Xanadu rather than the Web. I’m increasingly frustrated with HTML and its inheritors: great chunks of text which require serious time, effort and back-end coding to annotate, thread or version. Sigh. Yes, these are early days, but so was 1970-whenever when Ted Nelson was drawing his beautiful sketches of living documents. And those a damn sight better than this. Waiting for the Great Loop Forward

[1] Curiously, a Google search for documents containing both phrases (tech tree and virtual history) only returns a single item — a paper on the ‘bio-cultural imperialism of the game Civilization’. Well, of course!