Doug had an epiphany of computers helping us work together to solce urgent, complex problems. He then for funded to write his Augmenting Human Intellect paper which was published in 1962. In this paper he discesses a hypothetical system he dubs H-LAM/T. Work starts later on a system which is initially called NLS and when the lab was disbanded, renamed Augment when they sold it Tymeshare.
A bit of an introduction
From Doug's 62 Augment paper: "Continuos use of NLS to store ideas, study them, relate them structurally, and cross reference them results in a superior organization of ideas and a greater ability to manipulate them further for special purposes, as the need arises - whether the ideas are expressed as natural language, as data, as programming, or as graphic information".
The emphasis was on relations and structure. Hierarchical, structured text, not loose text: A 'text' (we call it a file today, of text file) is simply and structured set of character strings (or statements). All text handled in NLS was in 'structured-statement' form, a hierarchical arrangement (Ted hates hierarchies btw) of these character strings resembling a conventional outline. Every single statement possessed identifying features such as an address number (indicating its position and level in the structure) and a 'signature' (a line of text with the initials of the user who created the statement and the time and date).
A lot is said in the name orignal name of the system; H-LAM/T: Human using Language, Artifacts and Methodology in which he is Trained. The reference to language refers to the fact that that the rules of language is an active part of the system. Language itself is a humanly constructed set of rules which augments uses - it is an important part of what Doug refers to as the human system (in contrast to the tools system ) and Doug is drawing it across to the tool system.. He wants NLS to augment our use of language. He has talked to me about, for example, having the text you are reading color coded based on the types of words you are seeing, to enhance skimming unfamiliar, technical maybe, text. He also feels that since we have grammar guiding sentence structures, why not have grammar outside the sentence, governing a whole argument?
Structure There is one premise here which is unspoken and important: What we do is or can be structured to help us make sense of our world AND help us communicate with other people, as we share knowledge of the structures used, so we don't have cheap daytime political talk where they are just talking 'around each other'. Doug talks about structures in the 62 paper: mental structures, concept structures, concept structures, process structures and physical structures.
-A mental structure is "the internal organization of conscious and unconscious mental images, associations, or concepts (or whatever it is that is organized in the human mind).
-A concept structure is the conscious and communicable part of the mental structure, where the concepts are seen as the 'medium of exchange', tools which can be grasped and used by the mental mechanisms (much as knowing how to strike up a conversation, like Fleur is the master of, she has a social tool set to use, or knowing how to make a cake is another, mental tool. In other words a mental tool can be used like a physical tool. Algebra. All that stuff)". A concept structure, which can be consciously developed and displayed, can be presented to an individual "in such a way that it is mapped into a corresponding mental structure which provides the basis for the individual's 'comprehending' behavior (see how clunky that phrase is? We haven't really developed our vocabulary for the different aspects of learning and understanding very well)". It is important to note (again) that concept structures are both conscious and devoted to communicative processes.
-A symbol structure is a representation of a concept structure. In the project of using a computerized system as a means of augmenting the human intellect, the basic idea was that with such a system, the human user no longer is forced to think in terms of the symbol structure that is stored in the system, as in print media, but can focus instead on the dynamic generation and transformation of displayed symbol structures.
- A process structure, finally, is a complex organization of some of the fundamental components in such a human-machine interaction within what Doug called the the Human using Language, Artifacts and Methodology in which he is Trained system: "The fundamental entities that are being structured... seem to be what we would call processes, where the most basic of physical.. appear to be the hidden hierarchical base. There are dynamic electro-optical mechanical processes associated with the function of our artifacts, as well as metabolic, sensory, motor, and cognitive processes of the human, which we find to be relatively fundamental components within the structure of out H-LAM/T system -- and each of these seems truly to be ultimately based (to our degree of understanding) upon the above mentioned basic physical processes."
-- And the point here people is that these things help us think and communicate, sure, but they are interdependent, change one and the others change. This is part of the evolution of the system, human and tool, in a process where improving the different parts improve the others; bootstrapping.
Mouse From the Doug book, quoting his notebook, which has since been lost: "I remember sitting at some graphics conference and just feeling at a wall because everybody was talking and I'm not skillful at all in getting them to listen to me. So a lot of times out of frustration I'd start talking to myself. I remember thinking, 'Oh, how would you control a cursor in different ways?" I remember how my head went back to a device called a planimeter that engineering uses. It's a little mechanical thing... I saw that used when I was a senior and I was fascinated." That was the Reno November 1963 Graphics Conference.
Doug saw three basic types of activity for the NLS user: -Composition (entering text), small section -Study (is very important, using the jumping controls, view controls, content analysis, indexing and linking) and -Modification (refers to the editing such as inserting, deleting, moving etc.).
Doug's NLS demo
When you sit down to use NLS you'll quickly notice that the screen is split into two, with a larger, main area on the bottom, and a smaller, text and command entry area on top. Doug shows how you can enter text in the area on the top and insert it anywhere you want.
He then illustrates how you can jump around the document. You can go to the top, to another leve and so on.
Doug then explains how addressing plays a role; you can jump anywhere you want because you can address anything you want.
Fleur asks how that relates to links. Doug explains that a link is one type of a jump; you can also enter a command to skip to the first URL in a document and such. In the real world, you can write an address to a place, with zip code and all that. But you can also use relative addressing, like, "go down two blocks until you see a red house. Turn right. It's the second building on the left."
Doug then goes through a series of commands like 'replace' and so on.
A lot of knowledge work can be called studying. Being able to flexibly and easily generate different views of your information is very useful
Content analysis is also shown.
In closing Fleur coments how the name of the original sums the system up quite well: H-LAM/T: Human using Language, Artifacts and Methodology in which he is Trained. You do need to be trained to use the system, but you get amply rewarded, as in with many things in life. Doug then refers to riding bikes vs tricycles and reading books.