This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Geek Nirvana

I had a geek peak experience last week that I'd like to share.

As part of the Hyperscope project, where we are reimplementing portions of Douglas Engelbart's Augment system on the web, we are spending a month learning how to use Augment. Last week I stayed up till 5 AM signed into Augment through a terminal emulator, into Engelbart's remote machine where he has a PDP-10 emulator running the last existing version of the Augment server software. This software was written in the 60s and 70s, and invented the mouse, the first working implementation of hyperlinks, groupware, email, and more.

The experience of being up so late at night, signed into the actual working software on Douglas Engelbart's machine, was like a dream come true; I was creating documents and hyperlinks, and even sent an email to Engelbart through the first implementation of email that existed, and he responded! How cool is that. There are decades of hyperlinked material on this machine, progress reports of Augment/NLS experience in augmenting human intelligence, old journalized emails from the 70s, all sorts of interesting bits of history.

The coolest thing was as I was playing with Augment, I was reading John Markoff's book "What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer," where he is talking about specific people and functionality in Augment, and I was sitting there seeing references to these people in Augment documentation in the system and playing with these features! I also dropped down to the operating system level on the remote box, which is running one of the first time-sharing OSes named TOPS-20, and ran 'hosts' on it; the machine comes back with ARPANet and MilNet information, and still thinks it is one of the second nodes on the Internet, reporting on IMP devices and such. Unbelieveably cool geek moment.

Comments:
Brad,

As one of the old-times last Tuesday it was a real thrill to hear all of you young'ns talking about Augment/ARC/NLS again after all these years. You and your team are doing a great job...keep it up!

--bill daul
 
Thanks Bill!
 
Wow! I'm envious. BTW, what language was the Augment system written in?
 
Whoa, how have I missed this project?!

Say hello to Doug Engelbart for me!
 
It's mostly written in something called L10. Some info:

http://collab.blueoxen.net/files/augment/UserGuide/PROGRAMMING.html#3

L10 was a fascinating language, designed to be used in the kind of hierarhical, hypertext environment Augment was.
 
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