The Electronic Labyrinth


FileMix was originally written in 1991-2 under a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. At that time, it was primarily an environment for algorithmic text manipulation, including two implementations of methods by William S. Burroughs (punch-in and fold-in), and one due to Shannon & Weaver (weave). The interface provided multiple resizable windows with Microsoft Windows-like screen objects (push buttons, check boxes, etc.) and full mouse support in DOS text mode. The text editor was primitive, but did allow for search and replace, block operations (cut, copy, paste), and unlimited file size.

The program was rewritten in 1993 (version 2.00) to provide full hypertext linking. Node properties include author, creation date, last modification date, title, and status. Both basic and anchor links exist; links do not have properties. Nodes may be arranged in any one, linear order for viewing in a table of contents. Individual nodes may be indented within this list to create an outline view. Menu options allow the author to quickly view all of the links to and from a particular node.

FileMix possesses strong multi-user features. Nodes have three statuses. They may be private, in which case only the original author may view or edit them. Other users will not even know they exist. If a node is made public, it will show up in other users' tables of contents. They will be able to view but not edit the node. If a node is made communal, all users can view, edit, and even delete it. In order to prevent contention problems, only one user may edit a given node at a time; this is enforced automatically by the program. We can use this optimistic locking scheme because we know that an individual node will be small relative to the entire document. It is not unrealistic to limit access to a single user.

The Electronic Labyrinth was created using the hypertext and Windows Help features of FileMix.

A variant of FileMix, the Interactive Composing Environment (ICE), has been designed for teaching writing skills on a LAN.

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