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Re: [ontolog-forum] Early Browser History and the Origin of Semantic Too

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: John Bottoms <john@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 09 Apr 2012 10:27:30 -0400
Message-id: <4F82F1D2.80400@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
John (comments embedded...)
On 4/8/2012 10:54 PM, John F Sowa wrote:
On 4/8/2012 9:21 PM, John Bottoms wrote:
I have tried to get this put into wikipedia but it was removed on a few
occasions. The rational was that it could not have occurred because it
is not on the web.
What is the URL of that page?
As usual, it states that the WWW browser was the first, while it was clearly not. This wikipedia page states, "The first web browser was invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee." As I related, there were web browsers before the WWW and even graphical browser before Tim's.

The concept of URL's was also present in early forms. Ted Nelson referred to them as "tumblers" and had tumbler combinations that allowed for the tracking of draft versions of a document. (See: "Tumblers", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumbler_(Project_Xanadu)
In any case, the predecessor to SGML was GML, which IBM used for all
its internal and external publications since the 1970s.  I first tuned
into it in the early 1970s, when Charlie Goldfarb introduced it to me.
There's a very brief (and incomplete) note about GML on Wikipedia:
As I indicated, I first came into contact with SGML through the ISO announcement by Dr. Mason. Once Charles introduced me to BillT, he told me about his work on GML. Even then, he did not tell me that there was an indexing of GML documents. When I discussed Silversmith at conferences I always described the indexing process including the use of B-trees for the index structure and acknowledge earlier contributions. I have not seen that done in the XML community. In fact, Silversmith was disparaged by Tim Bray even though he had not seen the product.

For a brief time, I was also a consultant to the IBM group that
developed an excellent indexing system for documents that used GML
and plain text during the IBM antitrust suit (from 1969 to 1982).
They had gathered a huge number of documents that might be relevant
to that law suit.

This project was started in 1969 when the US government first brought
the lawsuit against IBM, partly because of complains from Control Data.

I got involved, since I had written a couple of reports that compared
the architecture of the CDC 6600 & 7600 to the IBM computers.  They
typed in a couple of key words and my reports popped up.
I cut my teeth on CDC 6500/6600's and IBM 7094's in the unclassified world. The secure machines I worked on were quite a little different, and were made by Sylvania.
Goldfarb had an LLB from Harvard Law School, and I think that he
was also consulted for that project.  But none of that software
was made into a product.  Nobody could convince management that
there was a business case for it.

In 1983, I used GML to produce camera-ready copy for my Conceptual
Structures book.  Addison-Wesley wanted me to use exactly the same
style and fonts that they used for Chris Date's book on databases.
GML was so flexible, that I got nearly everything matched exactly.
The only thing I didn't match was one special font for certain kinds
of examples.  But that was irrelevant.

In the late 1980s, IBM Hursley worked with Oxford University Press
to format the New OED with GML.  The OED had a huge number of
special fonts and conventions, and Hursley was about to use GML
to mimic them exactly.

For text that was copied from the original OED, they got GML to
produce exactly the same line breaks and hyphenation.  They
needed to get it exactly right in order to aid the proof readers
who had to make sure that the new copy was identical to the old.

The GML-based software in the 1980s was far more flexible than
MS Word is today.  Just look at the OED and imagine how you
might use MS Word to match that exactly.

On his own initiative, one man, Don Williams, got GML to run on
the IBM PC in the mid 1980s.  A lot of people in IBM had GML-based
projects that they wanted to make into projects, but they were all
canceled.  Some of them left IBM -- including Goldfarb.

Those of us with gray hair have each learned different lessons. I wish there was a way to codify them, which might make moving forward easier. I don't mean to be a dotard, but if ontologies are going to be adopted for use in the future, it will likely not be by the conversion of legacy systems. Big Data might be an area and certainly other new tech, such as bioinformatics, is a candidate.

-John Bottoms
 FirstStar Systems
 Concord, MA USA

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