Vision&Reality
     of Hypertext and Graphical User Interfaces

Intermedia and Microcosm aim to bridge the border between programs and different file formats. Intermedia (cf. 2.1.12) was developed – once again – at Brown University in 1985. Its advanced concept to administrate links between documents of arbitrary programs is unique for the time. Intermedia is a model how to extend the operating system to provide a common API for all application programs to share linking information with each other. Unfortunately Intermedia did not get much attention because its target platform is A/UX, a Unix derivate for Macintosh that was not in widespread use.

2.1.12 Intermedia

in Vision and Reality of Hypertext and Graphical User Interfaces

Intermedia is a prototype* * Update 12/2018: Intermedia is a full-functional software package and not just a mere prototype. It was used in production for courses at Brown University and elsewhere. under Apple’s version of Unix A/UX. It looks like a set of application programs that can be launched by the Macintosh Finder. In fact it is just one program that simulates the desktop environment with folder and document icons and implements application-like components instead of stand-alone application programs. The suite of pseudo-applications of Intermedia contains InterWord for text processing, InterMail for electronic mail, InterDraw for graphics editing, InterPlay and InterVideo for animations and movies, and InterVal for scheduling events. All these applications share access to a common link database and can exchange linking information about documents related to their associated file types.Update 12/2018: Norman Meyrowitz (leader of the Intermedia project) points out that neither early Macinstosh System/Finder nor A/UX did support running multiple applications simultaneously. […] They didn’t get multitasking until years later. [e-mail 24-Dec-2018] Hence it was necessary to create an environment on top of the operating system to support hyper-linking accross applications and different document types.

Intermedia is a model for an operating system service of link management. The authors of Intermedia – Nicole Yankelovich, Norman Meyrowitz, Paul Kahn and Bernard Haan (among others) – aim for an integration, «where linking would be available for participating applications in much the same way that copying to and pasting from the clipboard facility is supported in the Macintosh and Microsoft Windows environments», IRIS Hypermedia Services [Haan et al. 92, p. 38]. Also the interaction of link creation follows the copy & paste pattern. Yankelovich writes in Intermedia: The Concept and the Construction of a Seamless Information Environment [Yankelovich et al. 88, p. 82]:

If links are to be made frequently, they must be a seamless part of the user interface. In any document, users can specify a selection region and choose the Start Link command from the menu. In any other document, regardless of type, users can define another selection region and choose one of the Complete Link commands.

Consequently, like the standard ‘Edit’ menu an ‘Intermedia’ menu is available in all application programs.

Link data is stored separately from the user’s documents in a database. It is segmented into webs, that contain a collection of links. For the user a web represents a network of references from the perspective of a specific context [Haan et al. 92, p. 43]. Webs can be individually activated one at a time (although it had turned out that the limitation to one open web is too restrictive). This provokes a different set of connections to be displayed between the documents.
The separation between links and content is a necessary condition for this quality (cf. FRESS). Frank Halasz points out that alternative named versions of webs can also be utilized to achieve a versioning of the link structure (cf. the section on Notecards and [Halasz 87, p. 361]).

Intermedia’s approach will be continued by Microcosm and leads to the conceptual framework of Open Hypermedia Systems (OHS) (cf. 2.2.3).

Update 12/2018

Paul Kahn provided the following screenshots:

intermedia screenshot: a collection about Apollo Lunar Missions
Screenshot from Exploring the Moon, an intermedia collection about the Apollo Lunar Missions published by IRIS in 1989

intermedia screenshot: How to create hyper-links
Links were authored by selecting an object in a document (text span, graphic) and Start Link, then selecting a destination and Complete Link. All links were bi-directional.

intermedia screenshot: graphic overview – similar to a mindmap
From the Cell Biology corpus. The Mitosis document is an authored graphic overview of a subject [similar to a mindmap]. The Web View is generated by the database, showing all the documents linked to the current document.

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