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Television broadcast
Original title Hyperland
Country of production United Kingdom
original language English
year 1990
length 50 minutes
genre media
Director Douglas Adams
script Douglas Adams
First broadcast September 21, 1990 on BBC Two

Hyperland is a 50-minute documentary about hypertext and related techniques. It was written by Douglas Adams andproduced and directedby Max Whitby for BBC Two in 1990. Douglas Adams plays a media user and Tom Baker , with whom Adams had already worked on Doctor Who , the personification of a software agent .

In retrospect, what Hyperland describes and predicts is an approximation of today's World Wide Web .


The self-proclaimed "fantasy documentary" begins with Adams falling asleep by the fireplace and his television still on. In his dream, Adams, tired of game shows and mostly passive, non-interactive, linear content, takes his television to a dump where he meets Tom, played by Tom Baker. Tom is a software agent who shows him the future of television: interactive multimedia .

Similar to the concept of the Knowledge Navigator from Apple , Tom acts as an English butler in a virtual space that is filled with hypermedia : linked text, audio, images and films that are represented and linked by animated symbols (micons) . The focus of the documentary is Adams, who browsed through these media and discovered their interconnectedness. This process leads him, for example, from the topic of the Atlantic Ocean to the literature of 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 . The references to Coleridge and Kubla Khan are references to Adam's own book The Electric Monk , where they play an important part in the plot. The book, published in 1987, also touches upon the issues of networking, suggesting that it was something that Adams had been thinking about for a long time.

Many aspects of the documentary show Adams' palpable enthusiasm for technology, especially Apple computers. A Macintosh Portable is shown at the beginning of the documentation and most of the projects presented run on Apple hardware. Even the general design of the animated icons and environments seen in his dream are inspired by Mac OS icons and design cues from before OS X.


While Adams is surfing , many people and projects related to hypertext, hypermedia and multimedia are presented:

  • Vannevar Bush and his Memex concept of a theoretical proto-hypertext information system are shown.
  • Ted Nelson explains Hypertext and the Xanadu Project .
  • Hans Peter Brøndmo talks about the concept of micons (“moving icons”).
  • Robert Winter talks about an interactive version of Beethoven's 9th Symphony .
  • An idea from Kurt Vonnegut's book Das Nudelwerk is presented: Stories and narrative structures have forms that can be represented mathematically as graphics.
  • Robert Abel shows his multimedia version of Picasso's Guernica .
  • Apple Multimedia Lab staff Steve Gano, Kristee Kreitman, Kristina Hooper, Michael Naimark, and Fabrice Florin talk about a multimedia version of Life Story, a BBC television adaptation of the 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA .
  • Amanda Goodenough presents Inigo Gets Out , an interactive story for children made with Hypercard .
  • Brad deGraf and Michael Wahrman talk about their digital puppet Mike Normal .
  • A scientist from NASA Ames Research Center presents a prototype of the Cyberiad virtual reality headset .
  • Marc Canter appears as Micon , who is not "clicked" by Adams; The interview remains closed to the audience.

The dream (and the documentary) ends with a vision of how information can be accessed in 2005. In hindsight, Hyperland describes a number of features of the modern web and, apart from a few miscalculations of the available graphics and computing power, the documentation paints a relatively good picture of hypermedia and hypertext and how they were and are used in the decades that followed. This is especially noteworthy when you consider that it's about a year ahead of the public release of the first web browser .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ted Nelson : Possiplex . 2010, p. 272 ​​f.
  2. ^ The Internet - the last battleground of the 20th century. The BBC , accessed December 16, 2014 .
  3. Hyperland. douglasadams.com, accessed May 1, 2012 .
  4. Vannevar Bush : As We May Think. The Atlantic , July 1945, accessed May 1, 2012 .
  5. ^ Robert Epstein: 'Future Tense': The New Link Between Arts and Technology. Los Angeles Times , January 29, 1991, accessed May 1, 2012 .