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Ben Shneiderman developed "TIES" aka "HyperTIES" at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab, and here's what he recently wrote in response to a question about hyperlinks, in which he mentioned the origin of blue as a highlighting color.

Also here's a link to an article about the NeWS version of HyperTIES that we developed at HCIL, and some demos of HyperTIES and its Emacs based authoring tool, which had pie menus and embedded interactive PostScript "applets" in 1988.


HCIL Demo - HyperTIES Browsing


HCIL Demo - HyperTIES Authoring with UniPress Emacs on NeWS


Don Hopkins and pie menus in ~ Spring 1989 on a Sun Workstation, running the NEWS operating system.


John Gilmore via Internet-history <internet-history@elists.isoc.org> Date: Mon, Apr 13, 2020, 11:56 PM To: Brian, internet-history, Jeff

I forwarded this question to my friend Don Hopkins, who was a student of Ben Shneiderman back in the day. Ben ultimately responded:

From: Ben Shneiderman <ben@cs.umd.edu> To: Don Hopkins <don@donhopkins.com> CC: John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>, Ben Shneiderman <ben@cs.umd.edu> Subject: RE: [ih] origins of the term "hyperlink" Date: Mon, 13 Apr 2020 15:15:52 +0000

HI Don (and Jack Gilmore),

Thanks for including me in this conversation.

I do not have a claim for the term “hyperlinks” and don’t know when it came into use. My claim is for the visual interface for showing highlighted selectable links embedded in paragraphs. This is what we called embedded menu items in that I think is an influential paper on the topic, which was peer-reviewed and published in the CACM in April 1986.



While Engelbart had shown a list that could be selected by pointing and clicking in 1968, I claim the idea of embedded highlighted selectable text in paragraphs. This was implemented by grad student Daniel Ostroff and described in:

Ewing J, Mehrabanzad S, Sheck S, Ostroff D and Shneiderman B (1986), "An experimental comparison of a mouse and arrow-jump keys for an interactive encyclopedia", International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, Jan., 1986, Vol 24, pp. 29-45.

[Abstract] [BibTeX] [DOI]

Ostroff D and Shneiderman B (1988), "Selection devices for users of an electronic encyclopedia: an empirical comparison of four possibilities", Information Processing and Management, Nov., 1988, Vol 24(6), pp. 665-680.

[Abstract] [BibTeX] [DOI]

I think the 1988 paper was the earlier study, but the publication took a while.

My students conducted more than a dozen experiments (unpublished) on different ways of highlighting and selection using current screens, e.g. green screens only permitted, bold, underscore, blinking, and I think italic(???). When we had a color screen we tried different color highlighted links. While red made the links easier to spot, user comprehension and recollection of the content declined. We chose the light blue, which Tim adopted.

His systems with embedded menus (or hot spots), where a significant user interface improvement over early systems such as Gopher. But Tim told me at the time that he was influenced by our design as he saw it in the Hypertext on Hypertext project that we used Hyperties to build for the July 1988 CACM that held the articles from the July 1987 Hypertext conference at the University of North Carolina. The ACM sold 4000 copies of our Hypertext on Hypertext disks.

Our history is here:


and the video is very helpful in showing the design we used, which is what I think Tim built on for his WWW prototypes.


So in summary, I don’t know who coined hypertext, but I do think our work visual and interaction design was influential.

Our Hyperties system was picked up by Cognetics Corporation (around 1987) who made a modestly successful commercial run with it, doing dozens of corporate projects, most notably the Hewlett-Packard user manual for their Laserjet 4 was distributed as a Hyperties disk.

Hyperties was the name we shifted to after we got a stop and desist order from a lawyer because our TIES (The Interactive Encyclopedia System) conflicted with an existing product. By then “hyper” was a growing term.

Let me know if this helps, and what other questions you have…. Ben

More relevant details here than the entire Mozilla article.

Here's your answers, people.

amazing digging, thank you!

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