A Cosmology for a Different Computer Universe: Data Model, Mechanisms, Virtual Machine and Visualization Infrastructure


  • Theodor Holm Nelson The Oxford Internet Institute, Project Xanadu and Operation ZigZag


The computing world is based on one principal system of conventions -- the simulation of hierarchy and the simulation of paper. The article introduces an entirely different system of conventions for data and computing. zzstructure is a generalized representation for all data and a new set of mechanisms for all computing. The article provides a reference description of zzstructure and what we hope to build on it. From orthogonally connected data items (zzcells) and untyped connections (zzlinks), we build a cross-connected fabric of data (zzstructure) that is visualizable, interactive, and programmable. zzstructure does not have a canonical string representation, as is usual. It is essentially spatial. It is based on criss-crossed lists of cells which are assigned to dimensions. Along these dimensions the cells are viewable, traversible, and subject to operations. This leads to programming mechanisms built on this fabric; a virtual interactive machine (zzvim) built on these mechanisms; new visualization techniques built on the data fabric and mechanisms; and proposed new formats for the general representation of documents and arbitrary structure -- perhaps less biased than XML.