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Chronicle

The first two decades

The IICM - now Information Systems and Computer Media (formerly Institute for Information Processing and Computer Supported New Media) of the Graz University of Technology (Austria), where Hyper-G was conceived, has managed to actively contribute to theoretical research and also has had long experience in design, implementation and operation of large online hypertext services for fairly large user communities.

The Beginning

Gründung des Istituts 1876
Inaugration of the Institute in 1876, due to the absence of computers slow growth until 1978

Under the leadership of Hermann Maurer, the institute (which was then called IIG, Institute for Information Processing Graz) played a significant role in the introduction of videotex systems in Austria and parts of Europe starting in 1982.

Although videotex (known as NAPLPS in North America) was really successful only in France (with about 6 million "Minitel" users), it can be seen as the first hypertext system for the masses and a precursor of the Web. Since the institute was also a substantial information provider with its own videotex server, it has learned a lot about how to construct and run a large-scale information system, and - even more important - how it should not be done.

This videotex system was the most advanced in the world at that time, and the institute also developed the first network computer (called MUPID), i.e. a computer that loadad its software over the network, very similar to Java and the network computers SUN, IBM, and others are trying to build now (unfortunately, the patent held by professors Maurer and Posch has expired). However, the MUPID was too expensive and the whole idea was ahead of its time.

Later, there were activities and developments of systems for computer aided instruction (CAI) called COSTOC: sophisticated but basically standalone, frame-based hypermedia systems. The product HM-Card that was developed later on in cooperation with the Polytechnical University of Leningrad (now: St. Petersburg) in Russia is a successor of this earlier system. HM-Card is marketed by Addison-Wesley.

Professor H. Maurer was awarded an honorary doctorate from the St. Petersburg University of Technology in spring 1991 as recognition for his scientific merits and successful cooperation with colleagues in St. Petersburg.

Next Generation

Around 1989 , the idea emerged to combine the expertise in the two fields, and to design a completely new system, based on past experiences and avoiding the design problems of both videotex and frame-based hypermedia systems (for instance, the confusion of form and content, the lack of a search function, inconsistent links, difficult information provision, user disorientation and so on).

A small team consisting of Hermann Maurer, Ivan Tomek (now at Acadia University in Canada) and Fritz Huber (now with Anderson Consulting) gathered some requirements for the ultimate large-scale hypermedia system, code-named Hyper-G.

Of course, the designs of other similar systems were also taken into account, most notably Intermedia, NoteCards and Xanadu. A very small group of two (!) programmers implemented the first generation of the server (Gerald Pani) and the VT100 client (Frank Kappe) now known as HGTV.

During that time loose contacts with the Gopher group at the University of Minnesota and the WWW designers at CERN were established, so that the first prototype of Hyper-G could already speak to Gopher and WWW servers and clients (the WWW was also in its infancy at that time).

In January 1992 , the system was put into real use as the University Information System (TUGinfo) of the Graz University of Technology, one of the first such systems worldwide. The success of this system, together with the increasing popularity of the Internet and simple Internet-based information systems, made it evident that Hyper-G could really be useful for a wide range of applications. This made it possible to acquire funding from various sources for a second phase, in which the prototype was to be transformed into a real product, including graphical user interfaces for MS-Windows and UNIX/X Windows.

Phase 2 began in the summer of 1992 . Since 1990 the project has been carried out by IICM in cooperation with the Institute for Hypermedia Systems (HMS) of JOANNEUM RESEARCH (Austria's second largest independent research organization), also under the leadership of Hermann Maurer.

An important milestone was the adoption of Hyper-G by the European Space Agency (ESA) for its "Guide and Directory" service in late 1992 .

An early version of Amadeus (the MS-Windows interface) was released in June 1993 and a year later version 0.84 of Harmony (the UNIX/X11 interface) appeared. In summer 1995 , both products reached version 1.0.

Meanwhile, Hyper-G has been demonstrated at a number of conferences and exhibitions and is in operational use at a number of institutions and projects. During that time, the Hyper-G project team has grown by 4000%, from 2 ( 1991 ) to 80 ( April 1996 ), as the funding for Hyper-G increased. Virtually all members of the two institutes IICM and HMS work on Hyper-G.

Funding for Hyper-G has come from the Austrian Ministry of Science , the European Space Agency, the European Commission, the Government of Styria, and various industry partners (such as publishers, newspapers, and companies using Hyper-G internally). While it was possible to acquire funding for research and development of the software (over 100 man-years), it has been impossible for the non-profit organizations IICM (as part of the University) and HMS (as part of JOANNEUM RESEARCH) to spend money on marketing the software. This is why Hyper-G has not been in widespread use and why we aimed at commercialization of the software with a professional marketing strategy. Also, the non-profit organizations IICM and HMS faced legal limitations in selling software, and a single entity in control of the software and its development has been desirable.

For these reasons, Graz has founded