Preface to ”Text-Oriented-Software“, 1st edition, March 2010.
Software technology has progressed a lot in the last fifty years. In the 1960s the development of time-sharing systems emerged to bring computer power and networking to the people, research flourished in the 1970s at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where the ground elements that define computing today were set up. In the last decades there have been many advances toward humanizing computing, making it accessible and intuitive. This is good and must be further pursued. But one important aspect has not been cultivated: making software more powerful for the intellectual work. The developments from Doug Engelbart toward more intelligent computer systems have not yet caught on, the ideas of Ted Nelson about an electronic literature and his criticism about the current software landscape have not yet been understood. It is about time to work on getting more intelligence from computers. That is what we are trying here.
This book presents a new principle for understanding computing. I am convinced that the idea presented here is right and opens up a promising path, but the theory as formulated here is perhaps still defective. This idea is extremely simple but also extremely hard to communicate. The multiple details that are treated here should lead in the reader's mind to a single point of view that underlies it all. This book is not intended to be read sequentially from the first page to the last, you will probably want to jump from one part to another to get answers to your own questions. You will find the materials in a rather logical order. The first section, ”Text“, presents a sketch of a text theory based on a general algebraic text formula. The section ”Imagine“ visualizes what kind of software could be built upon that theory. After that there are some case studies, including the description of an already existing implementation of the theory, the experimental software ”Universaltext Interpreter“. The last section, ”Background“, contains several considerations that might be useful as introductory notes.
The content of this book can be summarized with a single sentence: Computers are text machines. This does not mean that we can use computers for text among other purposes. It means that text is all computers are about, the only material that they store and manipulate. This book proposes a fundamental concept of text that reveals that documents, media, relational databases and source code are nothing but particular kinds of texts. This concept of text is not only a principle that can lead to a deeper understanding of computing, but it can also be directly implemented and produce computing systems that outdo the current ones.
Frankfurt, January 27th, 2010