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FREE ASSOCIATION MACHINE
This started when Zyra had a premonition / vision / prediction of the future, and then tried to implement some of the ideas at that time in history. (Incidentally, the predictions included a lot of other amazing things about the future, which will be mentioned here later). "Well of course, it's madness, delusion, no such thing as predicting the future." in which case it's got to be true that Zyra has a power of imagination such as to be an inventor beyond rational genius! But whatever you believe, Zyra in the early 1980s attempted to build a machine seen in a vision. The result was not as good as the vision, but had some things about it which were better than the present day (2000/10) Internet, and therefore research is going to continue!
The Free Association machine was designed to be "The Font of All Knowledge" (or is that "The Fount of All Knowledge") and had availability for all, and had items stored associatively. These NODES were CONCEPTS, and the machine was designed to have within it "a map of aleph-2 space". The way the concept-space worked was such that the machine would seem to think along with whoever was on it, as concepts were stored associatively like in the mind. And as well as being able to read stuff on the machine, it was also possible to add stuff, change things, etc. It was done properly, and was only allowed to go on positively. There were two rules, "You can't delete anyone else's data", and "Slagging off of any individual is not allowed". However it was not a rules system, but a culture of REASONABLENESS.
As regards the implementation, the storage size was UNLIMITED, but there were practical limits on the media which were being worked on. The system existed as "STATIONS" which were places hundreds of miles apart which all had the data. As phone calls are expensive and controlled by the authorities, the machine worked without using phones. It was a clever incremental backup system which allowed data to be moved about on discs. The technology of the time was such that for about two thousand pounds you could get a 32K BBC Computer with twin 5.25in 400Kb disc drive, colour monitor, second processor (optional), etc. Free Association had, even at the time, ten thousand nodes (pages) of information, (which can be thought of as ten thousand files, with long filenames (up to 256 characters)), which were stored on a 32K BBC Micro. The project had already got as far as proving the feasibility of extending to a whole table full of 5.25in discs, about a thousand million bytes, but always had the aim of being INFINITE, in the sense that the technology was expanding faster than the rate items were being typed in.
What DID get typed in? Remember, anyone could freely access and add to the data. Anything anyone wanted to say. But conceptually it all fitted together, so any biased opinions were quickly balanced by other peoples' views. Absolute facts were stored in a reliable and accessible way. Also, people were encouraged to write "a character review" (which in the year 2000 language amounts to "a personal website"). It was a lot easier to write stuff on the machine than it is in modern HTML, because the old machine was designed to be read/write and was not a mark-up language so was WYSIWYG. Also, the LINKS (hyperlinks) were less powerful than "a href" etc in some ways, but actually worked and were easy to control. Some things about the Free Association machine are STILL ahead of the Internet. The philosophical/conceptual power was well ahead, and that's an important aspect we're going to be working on in making the NEW VERSION.
Looking back on what was done and when, it is remarkable to think what was done! We have some of the oldest personal webpages in the world. And there were very basic mailboxes and newsgroups. Some things are very similar, like for example the way people grumble about it taking more than two seconds for a page to load!
The machine was about free association of ideas and so the idea was connected with "Free-Association Football", or in the days of 7-letter filenames, "FOTBALL". There were various other ideas of what to call it. The name "Internet" was briefly considered, but dismissed because it had associations of "INTERN" meaning to imprison or to bury!