The History of Hypertext: A Complete Guide

Facts about Hypertext

  • Hypertext comes in many forms, including as a link to another webpage, a file, a graphic, or more.
  • The idea behind it was first developed in a Spanish story that was released in 1941.
  • Hypertext made its public debut in the 1968 “Mother of All Demos” that featured the world premier of many facets of modern computer that we enjoy today.
  • While Hypertext is generally assumed to be relatively simple, it actually comes in multiple forms.

What is Hypertext: Explained

Hypertext is a type of clickable text that is available on a computer or electronic device. Clicking on that text, also known as a hyperlink, will bring the user to another internet page, file, website, or more. This technology was considered revolutionary for its time, as it allowed for easy access from one file to another when using a computer program.

Previous to this invention, individuals would have to literally close and open files if they wanted to change information. Hypertext allows for someone to easily access a file, better integrating a variety of data sources into a neat, clickable, and intuitive format. 

While the idea behind hypertext was originally one that was meant as an easy way to allow smooth transition between different files and multimedia sources, it evolved into a variety of other inputs. This software has been incorporated into a variety of other forms of media, including point and click games, YouTube annotations, and more. These entertainment mediums incorporate the concept as part of their entertainment experience, requiring others to click on links in order to gain information and complete the experience. 

The benefits are many fold. For the average user who sees hypertext in HTML or in multimedia, it can be used to easily open another file or move from one file to another. This makes it easy to access additional information. There are also aesthetic benefits to it, as one can easily insert files for reading and writing without requiring that a user visit another page. 

Contrary to popular belief, Hypertext is not a set, uniform concept. Indeed, there are four different types:

  • Arial hypertext, which are links that flow in a line, moving from one link to the next.
  • Arborescent hypertext, which are links that following a branching structure. These are commonly employed in stories or other choice based entertainment mediums.
  • Networked hypertext, which are networked links that exist in various nodes and pods. There is no set beginning or end, and no story. Wiki’s are good examples of networked hyperlinks. 
  • Layered hypertext, which combines two links to show content that is both text and visually based. 
Hypertext word cloud

How to use Hypertext

At this point, there are typically two ways an individual can use Hypertext in a computer.

The first is using a built-in Graphical User Interface. GUIs typically allow for users to click on a few visual items and engage in a function that would otherwise require advanced knowledge of programming of computer languages. Many word processors and web editors have built-in GUIs that allow for the insertion of hyperlinks that can take an individual to another webpage, file, image, video, sound file, or more.

Second, individuals can use HTML in order to make such an insertion. This requires proper knowledge of the programming language, but inserting a link into a file is relatively simple and can usually be done easily. 

How to learn it

Fortunately, learning hypertext is typically a relatively easily process. When it comes to using it in a document or on a website, it is generally a matter of developing a solid understanding of the system’s GUI, or learning HTML so you learn how to insert it.

Different programs use this method in different ways and may require you to get a better understanding of the mechanics of that program. There are multiple programs, such as Tinderbox or Storyspace, which allow writers to learn how to use Hypertext. These programs require learning the mechanics of the systems.

Thankfully, generally speaking, most programs that utilize Hypertext only require you to learn the general concept and how to operate their interface.

Release History

Hypertext is not a formal software package. Instead, it is a common part of HTML, or HyperText Markup Language. Indeed, Hypertext is a fundamental component of HTML, and it is used extensively within this coding language that is so common among today’s internet.

Interestingly, hypertext did not start as a technologically-based idea. The origins of Hypertext can be traced back to 1941’s “The Garden of Forking Paths,” a short story by Jorge Luis Borges which serves as one of the first examples of Hypertext. In the story, multiple narratives are ongoing at the same time, with readers able to use in-book hypertext to follow the  story in the direction of their choosing.

This idea served as inspiration for later, technologically-based hypertext. In 1962, Dr. Douglas Englebart began to develop a system for hypertext, although it wasn’t known as hypertext at the time. In 1965, the idea took a greater technological bent, when Ted Nelson coined the term and its modern day definition.

Over time, the term would continue to advance, being formally encoded in HTML, used in countless Wikipedia-like programs, and known by many other synonyms, such as links or hyperlinks. The examples of hypertext today are nearly endless, and they can be found in countless internet-based and software programs. 

More from author

Related posts

Latest posts

Bell Labs: A Complete Guide — History, Products, Founding, and More

The History of Bell Labs: What to Know Bell Laboratories is a legendary company in the technology research world. From its inception, Bell Labs has...

The Complete Guide to Moore’s Law

What Is Moore’s Law? - Complete Explanation In 1965, Gordon Moore, an American engineer who went on to co-found Intel, hypothesized that the modern pace...

QLED vs OLED: Full Comparison

QLED Vs. OLED: The Key Differences Explained Although these two acronyms look almost exactly alike, the difference between QLED and OLED is an important question...

Want to stay up to date with the latest news?

We would love to hear from you! Please fill in your details and we will stay in touch. It's that simple!