The Electronic Labyrinth


Randall Trigg completed the first ever PhD thesis on hypertext in 1983 at the University of Maryland. He then moved to Xerox's PARC, joining Frank Halasz and Thomas Moran in work on NoteCards. This was initially designed as an idea processing tool for information analysts, though the scope was later widened.

NoteCards was implemented in LISP on Xerox D workstations, which support large, high-resolution displays. The interface is event-driven. Each window is an analogue of a cue card; their size may vary, but contents may not scroll. Thus, the windowing model is not fully supported. Local and global maps are available through browsers. There are a number of different node types (over forty), supporting various media. Authors may use LISP commands to customize or create entirely new node types. This is the most distinctive feature of NoteCards. The powerful language allows almost complete customization of the work environment.

Links have a source anchor which appears as an icon, but no destination anchor. They also have a label, which is usually used to indicate type. Special cards known as fileboxes (the counterpart to shoe boxes) may be used to store other cards, thus providing a clustering ability. A search function is included.

NoteCards is similar in architecture to Intermedia, and provided part of the inspiration for the otherwise functionally dissimilar HyperCard. Further details can be found in Halasz.

According to Nielsen, NoteCards has been made available commercially for Sun and other workstations (Hypertext and Hypermedia, 84). It is not known how InterLISP has fared in this translation.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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