Conference Proceeding

Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Lost 'father of all hypertext Demos'?


Rowberry S (2011) Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Lost 'father of all hypertext Demos'?. In: HT 2011 - Proceedings of the 22nd ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia. HT2011: 22nd ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 06.06.2011-09.06.2011. New York: ACM, pp. 319-323.

In 1969, Ted Nelson worked with IBM at Brown University on an early hypertext system, during which time he gained permission to use Vladimir Nabokov’s highly unconventional and hypertextual novel, Pale Fire (1962) as a technical demonstration of hypertext’s potential. Unfortunately, the idea was dismissed, and thus never demonstrated publicly. This paper re-considers Pale Fire’s position in hypertext history, and posits that if it was used in this early hypertext demonstration, it would have been the ‘father of all hypertext demonstrations’ to complement Douglas Engelbart’s ‘Mother of All Demos’ in 1968. In order to demonstrate the significance of Pale Fire’s hypertextuality and Nelson’s ambitions to use it, this paper will explore its hypertextual structure, the implication thereof for the novel and evaluate its success as a hypertext compared to electronic systems.

Publication date31/12/2011
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Place of publicationNew York
ConferenceHT2011: 22nd ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia
Conference locationEindhoven, the Netherlands