A Brief Intro To The Hyper Text

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In our previous tutorial we learnt that Tim Berners-Lee wrote and formalized an outline of the key concepts and terms underlying the Web with Belgian systems engineer Robert Cailliau. The document described a “hypertext project” called “WorldWideWeb” in which a “web” of “hypertext documents” could be viewed by “browsers”.

By October of 1990, Tim Berners-Lee had written the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s web (and which you may have seen appear on parts of your web browser):

    HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the most common format for publishing web documents. It is used to create the structure and layout of a webpage and to define the meaning of the different elements of the page.
    The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) is a unique identifier used to locate resources on the Web. It specifies the protocol, domain name, and path to a specific resource.
    The HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is the protocol that governs data transfer between a server and a client. It is used to request and retrieve information from web servers.

Tim also created the first web browser (“WorldWideWeb.app”) and web server (“httpd”). The first web page was served on the open internet by the end of 1990, and in 1991, people outside of CERN were invited to join this new web community.

The World Wide Web (Web) is based on a client-server model. The client, also known as the user agent, is the device or software (such as a web browser) that sends a request for a resource to a server. The server, on the other hand, is the device or software that stores and provides the requested resource.

When a user types a URL into a web browser, the browser sends an HTTP request to the server where the requested resource is stored. The server then processes the request and sends back an HTTP response, which includes the requested resource (such as a web page) or an error message if the request cannot be fulfilled.

The client-server model allows for separation of concerns, where the client is responsible for presenting the data to the user, and the server is responsible for storing and managing the data. This allows for the efficient use of resources and scalability of the system, as the client and server can be located on different devices, and multiple clients can access the same server simultaneously.

When you type a web address into your browser, the following steps occur:

    1. The browser first sends a request to the DNS (Domain Name System) server to resolve the domain name of the website you want to visit into an IP address.
    2. Once the browser has the IP address of the server, it sends an HTTP request message to the server to request a copy of the website. This is like walking to the shop and ordering your goods. The message is sent over the internet using the TCP/IP protocol.
    3. If the server approves the client's request, it sends back a "200 OK" message to the browser, which means "Of course you can look at that website! Here it is." The server then starts sending the website's files to the browser as a series of small chunks called data packets.
    4. The browser receives the data packets and assembles them into a complete web page. Finally, it displays the web page on your screen, like the goods arriving at your door.
    5. It's also worth noting that, depending on the complexity of the website, there may be multiple requests and responses that occur between the browser and server to load all the resources of the webpage.

The World Wide Web (Web) was originally created as a way to efficiently store, organize, and distribute digital documents and resources. The idea behind the Web was to make it easy for people to share information and access knowledge from anywhere in the world.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, proposed the concept of the Web in 1989 at CERN as a way to share scientific research papers and other documents with other researchers. He developed the first web browser and web server software, which made it possible for people to access and share information through hypertext links and web pages.

In the context of the Web the term hypertext keeps coming up frequently, doesn’t it? Tim Berners-Lee chose to use hypertext as the basis for the World Wide Web. We want you to remind us that Tim Berners-Lee did not invent the concept of hypertext, it was already in use before he started working on his “hypertext project”. However, he recognized the potential of hypertext as a way to connect and organize information, and he incorporated the idea into his “hypertext project” at CERN. So, what prompted him to make this decision? What facilities does Hypertext offer the Web? In this tutorial we are going to discuss hypertext and HTML.

Tim Berners-Lee chose to use hypertext as the basis for the World Wide Web because it was a way to connect related pieces of information in a non-linear way. Hypertext is a method of linking text, images, and other media together, allowing users to jump from one piece of information to another with a simple click. This allows for easy navigation and discovery of related information, which is particularly useful for scientific research and other complex fields. He realized that traditional linear text documents were not effective for this purpose, as they didn’t allow for easy access to related information. By using hypertext, he could create a web of interconnected documents that researchers could easily navigate and discover new information.

Hypertext also allows for dynamic and flexible information sharing, as it allows to link resources that can be updated or removed without breaking the overall links structure or the access to other resources. Additionally, Hypertext was a natural evolution from the HyperCard application, which Berners-Lee had used in the past, HyperCard is a software that allows users to create interactive multimedia documents, which contains links to other documents, images and sounds.

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What Is Hypertext?

On a computer or electronic device, hypertext is a type of clickable text. By clicking on that text, also known as a hyperlink, the user will be taken to another internet page, file, website, or other location. This technology was considered revolutionary at the time because it allowed for easy file access when using a computer program.

Individuals had to literally close and open files in order to change information prior to this invention. Hypertext makes it possible to easily access a file while also better integrating a variety of data sources into a neat, clickable, and intuitive format.

While the concept of hypertext was originally intended to allow for easy transition between different files and multimedia sources, it has evolved into a variety of other inputs. This software has been used in a variety of other forms of media, such as point-and-click games and YouTube annotations. These entertainment mediums incorporate the concept as part of their entertainment experience, requiring others to click on links to learn more and complete the experience. Additionally, hypertext is also commonly used in e-books, online tutorials, and other digital educational materials, allowing users to easily access related information or resources.

The advantages are numerous. The average user who sees hypertext in HTML or multimedia can easily open another file or move from one file to another. This makes it simple to find additional information. It also has aesthetic advantages in that files can be easily inserted for reading and writing without requiring the user to navigate to another page.

Hypertext is not a standardized software package. It is instead a component of HTML, or HyperText Markup Language. Indeed, hypertext is a fundamental component of HTML, and it is widely used within this popular coding language on the internet today.

Origin of Hypertext

Surprisingly, hypertext did not begin as a technological concept. The origins of hypertext can be traced back to the short story “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges, which was published in 1941. The story describes a novel that has an infinite number of possible paths, and the readers can choose which path to follow. This concept of a narrative that branches off in multiple directions, with the reader able to choose which path to follow, is considered to be an early example of hypertext.

However, the first true technological hypertext system was developed in the 1960s by the computer scientist Ted Nelson, who coined the term “hypertext” and developed the concept of linking different pieces of digital information together. His ideas were later expanded upon by other researchers and engineers, leading to the development of the World Wide Web and the widespread use of hypertext on the internet. So, while the story by Borges served as an inspiration and literary example of hypertext, the first technological hypertext system was developed decades later.

Vannevar Bush is often considered to be the “grandfather” of hypertext. In 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote an article titled “As We May Think,” in which he proposed the creation of a system called Memex. The Memex was a theoretical machine that would use the technology of microfilm to store a cohesive record of the entirety of human knowledge. He envisioned that the Memex would be small enough to fit in a desk and would allow users to quickly and easily access a vast amount of information.

In the article, Bush describes the Memex as a “mechanized private file and library” and as “a device in which an individual stores his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.” He also imagined that the Memex would have several microfilm projection positions to enable the user to compare different microfilms, in a manner very similar to the windows that became popular on personal computers more than forty years later.

It is worth noting that this idea was proposed in 1945, a time when computers were not as advanced as they are today, and the technology to store such a vast amount of information on such a small device was not yet possible. However, Bush’s ideas and vision for the Memex influenced many researchers and scientists to explore the idea of hypertext and other advanced computer technologies further.

Although the Memex was never implemented, Bush’s ideas were influential in the development of hypertext systems, and many of the concepts he described in his paper, “As We May Think” were later used in the development of the World Wide Web and other hypertext systems. The Memex is considered as a precursor to the personal computer, and the concept of the hypertext was heavily influenced by it.

It is also worth noting that Bush developed some of his ideas for the Memex as early as 1932 and 1933 and wrote a draft paper on it in 1939, but it was not published until 1945. The Memex has been considered as a visionary concept, which was ahead of its time, and inspired many researchers and scientists to explore the idea of hypertext further.

On December 9, 1968, Douglas Engelbart, a computer scientist and inventor, demonstrated the oN-Line System (NLS) at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco. This presentation, which became known as “The Mother of All Demos,” was a groundbreaking event that introduced the world to a wide range of innovative computer technologies that would define the computer programming world for years to come.

During the demonstration, Engelbart showcased several technologies for the first time, including the computer mouse, word processing, advanced graphic displays, collaborative editing, and video conferencing. The demonstration was considered to be one of the most important moments in the history of computing, as it showcased the potential of what computers could do and set the stage for many of the technologies we use today.

The demo was a showcase of many of the ideas that Engelbart had been working on for over a decade, and it demonstrated how these tools could be used to create a more powerful and intuitive way of working with computers. The mouse, which he had invented in 1963, was demonstrated as a way to manipulate graphical elements on the screen, and the word processing software he showed was a precursor to the modern word processors.

The demo was a turning point in the history of computing, and it influenced many researchers and scientists to explore the idea of hypertext and other advanced computer technologies further. Hypertext was not invented by Engelbart. Ted Nelson used the term for the first time in 1965. Nelson intended to use hypertext extensively in his own Project Xanadu, a storied, ongoing, 50-plus-year endeavor that may never be completed. What Engelbart did demonstrate, however, was the importance of hypertext for computer systems.

The concept of hypertext can be traced back even further to the works of H.G. Wells, who in 1938 wrote “World Brain,” a collection of essays in which he imagined a world where all of human knowledge would be easily accessible and could be networked together to create a collective intelligence far greater than any individual one. He attended a conference in Paris to urge the world’s greatest thinkers to take on the challenge of cataloging human knowledge. The conference was organized by Paul Otlet, a Belgian entrepreneur who had been laying the groundwork for hypertext for his entire career.

Otlet had embarked on a project he called Répertoire Bibliographique Universel (The Universal Bibliography) which was a collection of 15 million index cards, each with a small bit of information. He was able to link these together using a variation of the Dewey decimal system. He continued to work with newer and newer technology to more effectively connect it all together.

When the computer and the Internet came along, it brought new possibilities for hypertext. The idea of storing an entire encyclopedia in a matchbox no longer seemed like fantasy, and it became a reality. The Internet and the World Wide Web, which is based on hypertext, made it possible to connect a vast network of documents and resources together and made it easy to access and navigate large amounts of information. Otlet’s ideas and vision for the Universal Bibliography inspired many researchers and scientists to explore the idea of hypertext and other advanced computer technologies further, and it played a key role in the development of the World Wide Web.

Now let us get back to Douglas Engelbart. After the demonstration of the oN-Line System (NLS) by Douglas Engelbart, researchers all over the country began to experiment with hypertext, but it was mostly confined to the halls of academia. In 1987, Apple released HyperCard, which was a software for Macintosh computers that allowed users to create and navigate through information using hypertext links. The software was bundled for free with all Macintosh computers, making it widely available to the general public.

The concept behind HyperCard was simple, information was stored on digital cards, and any kind of data could be added to these cards, such as text, checkboxes, lists, and the like. HyperCard’s breakthrough was that these cards could be easily linked, making it easy to navigate through information by clicking through links. The ability to tie two pieces of information together was a powerful one, and it made HyperCard a popular tool for creating interactive multimedia applications, databases, and educational software.

HyperCard was influential in popularizing the concept of hypertext and made it accessible to a wider audience. It paved the way for the creation of other hypertext software and web development tools, and it is considered to be one of the first software that allowed users to create and navigate through interactive multimedia applications.

Tim Berners-Lee, while working at CERN, began experimenting with hypertext as early as 1980. He built a system similar to a modern-day wiki, which used a new hypertext markup language to link together important research documents and create a new way to track projects and important findings. He called this system the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee was working on a first version of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), which was a language used to create and structure web pages, and he combined this with the power to assign any document an accessible URL (Uniform Resource Locator). This allowed documents to be linked together and accessed from anywhere, and it formed the foundation of the World Wide Web.

It’s worth noting that, Hypertext was a fundamental concept that tied the World Wide Web together. The ability to link documents and resources together, the way it was done in the Hypercard, and other hypertext systems, was essential for the World Wide Web to function. The World Wide Web made it possible for people to access and navigate a vast network of interconnected documents and resources, and it made it easy for users to access and navigate large amounts of information.

In summary, Hypertext was a fundamental concept that was developed over time by many individuals and organizations and it played a key role in the development of the World Wide Web, which has now become an integral part of our daily lives. The simple link you just clicked on is the result of many years of research and development, and it’s a testament to the power of Hypertext as a way to organize and access information.

Understanding Hypertext 

Analyze the content of a dictionary to see how it is linked together. How do you look up the definition of a word? How do you find another word that is synonymous with that one? A paper example of a hypertext system is the dictionary. Encyclopedias, product catalogs, user help books, technical documentation, and many other types of books are also included. Searching through an index yields information – the dictionary is organized alphabetically, and each word is its own index. Readers are then directed to the page with any additional related information. They can read the information they want without having to read the entire document from beginning to end.

Hypertext systems, such as the World Wide Web, allow users to navigate through information in a non-linear way, by following links between related pieces of content. This makes it easy to retrieve and access information, as users can quickly jump between related documents or pieces of data. Hypertext is commonly used in information retrieval applications, such as online encyclopedias, documentation, and search engines. It also allows for the integration of various types of media, including text, images, and video, making it a versatile tool for presenting and accessing information.

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By definition, hypertext is a computer construct. It’s a method of providing clickable links to other parts of a document or to other documents on the internet. It is the foundation of what we know as the Web, but it began as more basic links within a document – for example, clicking on a line in the table of contents would take you to that chapter. It predates even WYSIWYG and mouse-driven interfaces.

A hypertext system of this type can store a large number of textual and multimedia documents. A hypertext system like this provides the end user with access to a large repository of knowledge for reading, browsing, and retrieval. This is a kind of “database,” which is why such a hypertext system is referred to as a digital library. The Web began as a massive digital library. As it grew in popularity, it added interactive applications and commerce to the Internet, making it much more than a digital library.

Anchors And Links

A hypertext document contains links to other parts of the document or even to other documents entirely. A hypertext document does not have to be read sequentially; information fragments can be accessed directly via the document’s links.

Hyperlinks are links that are embedded in a document. When these hyperlinks are selected, the portion of the document linked to by the hyperlink is displayed. This enables the reader to navigate to another section of the same page, another page within the same document, or another document. The reader can navigate through the document by following a series of hyperlinks.

This concept is implemented in a computerized hypertext system by including anchors and links in documents, which are typically represented by files. An anchor is a piece of information that links to another document or portion of a document. It is a graphical representation of a hyperlink. The actual reference (or “pointer”) to the other document is a link. In the diagram below, for example, the fragment of Document A containing ‘hyperlinks’’ is an anchor from which a link to the relevant section in Document B is formed.

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Take care not to mix up anchor and link. A link is a pointer to another piece of information within the same document or in another document; often, the implementation of that link is hidden (it may be a hidden URL or some other programmed mechanism). An anchor is a piece of information with which the user interacts in order to gain access to the link. In a Web Browser, for example, the phrase “Hyperlink” is the anchor with which the user interacts — it contains the link to Document B.

Anchors and links are related concepts used in web development. A link is a pointer to another piece of information, typically a web page, and the implementation of that link is often hidden. An anchor is the part of the link that the user interacts with, such as a text or button, in order to access the linked information. Hyperlinks contain an unambiguous reference to the linked document, including the location and the communication protocol used to access it.


Hypertext documents allow links to different portions of the same document, which allows the reader to navigate and loop through the document easily. A table of contents in a book is an example of anchors with explicit links to the internal parts of the book, while a bibliography is a collection of links that refer to external information. In a computer-based hypertext document, the mechanism to follow a link, also known as jumping, is automatic. Jumping to an external link is as easy as jumping to an internal link within the same document. The link must be sufficiently specified with the name and exact location of the linked document, so that the user can access it directly with a simple click on the anchor.

Chain of Links

A chained path through a series of documents is created by a series of successive jumps. Because there is no limit to the number of jumps, the chain’s size is unconstrained.

A page may contain more than one link, and the reader may follow any of these links. The path taken by one reader will differ from the path taken by another reader. Each jump sequence creates a unique path to fragments of the overall information in the hypertext document. In general, there is no set order in which the information should be read.

There are two different but complementary purposes for chaining documents via links: focusing and broadening. Focusing allows the user to narrow the scope of the search at each jump along the path until the fragment containing the topic of interest is reached. Broadening allows the user to broaden their search by using multiple outgoing links from a document. This is useful when the user does not have a precise idea of what is being searched for or wishes to conduct a broad search in a certain domain.

Traveling through hypertext documents usually poses no technical difficulty, but the reader may experience practical difficulties in retrieving a particular piece of information from a document with numerous alternative links.

Loops and Mesh

Just as the reader is free to choose which links and jumps to follow in a path through a hypertext document, it is also possible for a user to return to a point previously visited, creating loops in the path. A path may even return to the original or “home” document. This means that the structure of a hypertext document does not necessarily follow a linear pattern; instead, the documents are connected together in a graph or mesh defined by the links.

This critical property transfers the burden of creating appropriate exploration paths from the designer of a hypertext document to the user. This alters the way data is stored and retrieved. Instead of searching for information, hypertext allows you to browse for it. However, the mesh of information can create difficulty in navigating through the hypertext document. The user may face difficulty in finding the specific information they need and may need to explore multiple paths before finding the right one.


The storage and management of textual documents was one of the original purposes of hypertext. As computer and telecommunications technology advanced, hypertext systems’ capabilities expanded to include any digitized media, such as sound and images.

This means that music and videos are accessible through hyperlinks. Hypermedia is the addition of multimedia to hypertext. A hypermedia document can now easily interlink text, graphics, video, or sound to provide a rich, often interactive environment.


The process of preparing hypertext documents, or converting a flat (linear) collection of documents into hypertext, is referred to as authoring. This process often involves reorganizing an initial collection of documents by splitting them up into multiple sub-documents, and then constructing links between these new documents. The authors of hypertext documents are responsible not only for the content of these documents, but also for linking documents together, creating paths through them, and building references that point to external documents associated with them.

Conceptually, related information is ultimately presented as a single, unique collection of hypertext documents. The remarkable aspect of hypertext or hypermedia documents that distinguishes them from other document types is that hypertext is shaped by the user as they navigate the hypertext’s network of links. Each sequence of links is a possible exploration path and each chosen sequence forms a single conceptual document for the user. This allows the user to create their own unique experience and understanding of the information presented.

That’s all there is to Hypertext right now. HTML, the web’s language, will be covered in the following tutorial.

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