« Back to home

Hypertext and software patents

While I was visiting my family in the UK recently, I went through some old paperwork. One of the documents was my undergraduate dissertation from 19891990. My project was to build a graphical hypertext browser and editor which could link existing text files. I’d been experimenting with hypertext on and off since the mid 80s, when I had learned about it from Ted Nelson’s book “Dream Machines”.

My browser used a two-pane interface resembling a frameset, with links in a list on the right of the document being viewed. It wasn’t terribly elaborate — after all, it was only an undergraduate project — but it’s worth remembering that this was before Tim Berners-Lee developed his first web browser, and several years before Netscape introduced framesets.

I’ve scanned the document to PDF and filed it away, mostly because there’s a chance it might one day be useful as a demonstration of prior art to invalidate a software patent. I don’t plan on publishing it here, because it really isn’t anything special; I’m just writing this note for the benefit of anyone who suddenly needs prior art around framesets, hyperlinks and extrinsic links, who might want to contact me.