FRESS (File Retrieval and Editing System

FRESS (File Retrieval and Editing System), solely a hypertext document system, allowed authors to create links within any text document or among any number of text documents. FRESS was essentially a text only system (links could be made to some graphics when using an IMLAC PDS-ID display) and was developed under the VM/CMS time-sharing system in the late 1960's as a successor to the Hypertext Editing System.23 The system contained important "navigational," or linking, facilities. It also was designed for multiple users, although it did not support concurrent updating of a single file.

Authors created FRESS documents using a full, interactive text editor withbatch formatting. They could insert a marker at any point in a text document, which became the source, and "link" that selection to any other destination point in the same document or a different one. FRESS had two types of links: tags and jumps. A tag -- a one-way link -- indicated a connection to a single element such as an annotation, definition, or footnote. When the reader pointed to a tag with a light pen, the associated text appeared in another window on the screen for reference while the reader remained in the main document. Unlike a tag, a jump -- a bidirectional link -- indicated a path to another document. By following a jump, the reader was transferred from one document to another, and up to seven windows could be used to display documents simultaneously. By inserting links, authors could create paths through a large number of documents for themselves or others to explore. Since cross-reference markers (destinations of links) were displayed in the text, readers could backtrack through a sequence of links, retracing their steps through a path.

FRESS allowed authors to attach "keywords" to links, thus providing a facility for readers to filter the information through which they wished to browse, and allowed users to name blocks of text for subsequent referencing and searching. With these facilities, a student reader could choose to see only annotations left by the professor, examine only those links that led to literary criticism of a poem, ignore for the moment all the comments written by classmates, or select all poems written by a certain poet or on a certain subject.

FRESS was used in production for more than a decade at Brown for both on-line documents and hard-copy manuscript production. Two educational experiments— one in a course on energy and one in a course on poetry—were conducted using hypertext "corpuses" created in the FRESS system. For the functions FRESS provided, it had two major drawbacks. First, students in the experimental courses often did not create many of their own links because the commands necessary to establish links were somewhat complex. Second, the system provided no spatial cues, and readers found it difficult to remember where they were in the information web.

To summarize, FRESS provided a set of essential tools for promoting connectivity, and also provided facilities for customizing an individual's view of a hypertext corpus. Audiovisualization, dynamics, and integration of applications as described above are not relevant to this early system.

From Nicole Yankelovitch, Norman Meyrowitz, and Andries van Dam, "Reading and Writing the Electronic Book" in Hypermedia and Literary Studies., ed. Paul Delany and George P. Landow. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 67-69.

Cyberspace Web Hypertext