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Douglas Adams - Hyperland (1990)

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From Wikipedia

Hyperland (1990)

Douglas Adams

Hyperland is a 50 minute long documentary film about hypertext and surrounding technologies written by Douglas Adams and produced by BBC Two in 1990. It stars Douglas Adams as a computer user and Tom Baker, with whom Adams already had worked on Doctor Who, as a software agent.

The self proclaimed "fantasy documentary" begins with a shot of Adams asleep by the fire side with his television still on. In a dream, Adams, fed up by game shows, commercial and generally non-interactive linear content, takes his TV to a garbage dump, where he meets Tom, played by Tom Baker, a software agent that shows him the future of TV: Interactive Multimedia.

Much like Apple Computer's Knowledge Navigator concept, Tom acts as a butler within a virtual space populated with hypertext, sound, pictures and movies represented by animated icons. The documentary is centered on Adams browsing these media and discovering their interconnectedness, leading him for example from the topic Atlantic Ocean to literature about the sea to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to the poem Kubla Khan by the same author to Xanadu and back to the topic of hypertext via Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu.

Many aspects of the documentary show Adams' love for Apple computers. In the beginning a Macintosh Portable can be spotted and most of the projects presented run on Apple Hardware. Even the general design of the animated icons featured in the dream is inspired by Mac OS icons.

While Adams is browsing, many people and projects related to the general theme of hypertext and multimedia are presented:

  • Vannevar Bush and his Memex concept of a theoretical proto-hypertext computer system are shown.
  • Ted Nelson explains hypertext and Project Xanadu.
  • Hans Peter Brøndmo talks about the concept of animated icons.
  • Robert Winter talks about an interactive version of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
  • This idea from Kurt Vonnegut's book Palm Sunday is presented: stories have shapes that can be drawn on graph paper.
  • Robert Abel shows his multimedia version of Picasso's Guernica.
  • Apple Multimedia Lab employees Steve Gano, Kristee Kreitman, Kristina Hooper, Michael Naimark and Fabrice Florin talk about a multimedial version of Life Story, a BBC TV film dramatisation of the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA.
  • Amanda Goodenough presents Inigo Gets Out, an interactive story for kids implemented with Hypercard.
  • Brad deGraf and Michael Wahrman talk about their digital puppet Mike Normal.
  • A NASA Ames Research Center scientist presents a Virtual Reality Helmet prototype called Cyberiad.
  • Marc Canter makes an appearance as an animated icon but isn't "clicked" by Adams, so the audience does not get to see his interview.

The dream (and the documentary) end with a vision of how information is accessed in 2005, that bears some resemblance to virtual reality scenes seen in the film The Lawnmower Man two years after Hyperland was produced. It can be argued that, apart from that graphical representation, the documentary draws a quite accurate vision of hypertext and how it is used today, especially considering that it predates the first Web browser.

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