[Home]PurpleNumbers

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Purple Numbers allow a finer grain access to web pages. It let's us link to a specific paragraphs or bullet point inside a web page, rather than merely taking us to the top of that page like url's normally do.    (1SK)

With Purple numbers in place, all one needs to do is to mouse-over a Purple number, right-mouse-click and COPY that hyperlink (on the IE browser, it's "Copy Shortcut", and on the Netscape browser, it's "Copy Link Location"). One can then PASTE this hyperlink to an e-mail message, to your instant message, or to a document s/he is composing. That link will now take its reader back to exactly the same paragraph the author wanted to refer his/her reader(s) to.    (1SL)

If you are not familiar with Purple numbers you may want to read up on Doug Engelbart's work on OHS and high resolution addressability. See also Eugene Eric Kim's “An Introduction to Purple”, Eric Armstrong's comments on granular addressability, and Matthew Schneider's PurpleSlurple.    (1SM)

Examples:    (1SN)

Try putting PurpleNumbers on existing web pages with PurpleSlurple at: http://ps1.cim3.net/ps.php (Important: be fully aware, though, that the persistence of purple numbers thus created are dependent on the peristence of the source web page.)    (1SS)

A Little Bit of History    (AAL)

Some time in the mid 1990's (as I learnt from Doug himself), while working on the Bootstrap Insitute website, DougEngelbart, along with Bob Czech and Christina Engelbart, came up with the notion of "purple numbers", to mimic the "Location Number" feature of the AUGMENT system in their web/html implementation.    (AAM)

I was able to trace this back to the BI Website "Help" page which shows up when you click on the link associated with the question "And what about all these purple numbers?" on the Bootstrap Institute website home page. Unfortunately, the earliest web reference I could find was dated April 14, 1997 (from a Internet Archive - Wayback Machine search, although the page did mention "Copyright (c) 1995-1996, Bootstrap Institute." suggesting that the page could have been around at least a year or two before that date. This particular page lasted until around Feb. 2002, unchanged, before it was taken offline.) That page provided a comprehensive description of "Precision Browsing" (which, essentially, is what we referred to as "granular accessibility" these days) and "Statement-Numbers" (what we term as "Purple Numbers" now.) The systematic insertion of anchors to headings, paragraphs, figures, ... were all established. See: http://community.cim3.net/file/resource/bootstrap/Bootstrap_PurpleNumbers_19970414.html    (AAN)

Frode Hegland, who worked with DougEngelbart around the time of the "UnRev2" Colloquium at Stanford (Q1/2000), suggested some major enhancements to the earlier implementation of the web-based "purple numbers." In particular, the Statement-Numbers were made "active." With that, purple numbers are associated with the link information of the anchor to the particular entity (heading, paragraph, figure, ...etc.), as the way they are implemented today. This enables one to present the purple-numbered item (say a paragraph) at the top of the page on one's browser, whenever the purple-numbered link is clicked on. Also, by using the browsers functionality the user can copy the link to the purple number points to. This will let the user email the link to someone else for example and this links will point directly to the intended paragraph, hence enabling "high resolution linking" (as DougEngelbart calls it).    (AAO)

Subsequent writings like those by Eric Armstrong and Eugene Eric Kim as cited above further elaborated on the notion and applicability of purple numbers.    (AAP)

Software implementation effort were made by the following individuals and teams:    (AAQ)

For more information, see continuing developments being tracked by the folks at Blueoxen: http://purple.blueoxen.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl    (AAW)

 --
 First draft of the above "history" by PeterYim / 2005.01.30
 updated:    (AAX)

Corrections, ammendments and updates welcomed!    (AAY)

 --    (ABA)

History of Purple Numbers by Christina Engelbart    (ABB)

Hi Everyone - Christina here - yes I was the one who made them purple. But the numbers themselves go way back to the beginning of NLS, the precursor to Augment. Two things were happening at Bootstrap Institute at the time, in the mid-'90s, that converged into "purple numbers."    (ABC)

The first is dad and I were working with Bob Czech under a modest DARPA contract to create a Windows-like user interface to Augment so it could be more widely accessible and inform future web design. Up until that time, Augment had only the 1970s-'80s interface -- the "AugTerm" client software written by Dave Hopper at Tymshare as part of a then larger effort to split Augment into a definite client/server arthitecture. This of course pre-dated the modern standard windows and menus point-and-click WYSIWYG UI. So under this DARPA contract we created VAT (Visual AugTerm) using SmallTalk. It was thrilling to have the opportunity to make the Augment UI more user friendly and accessible. VAT resides on the user's desktop and interfaces directly with the Augment backend on the TOPS-20 server (actually a unix server running Augment on Ken Harrenstein's TOPS-20 emulator). VAT displays the Augment files passed to it from the Augment backend, and brokers the user commands and editing/viewing refreshes within Windows-like windows and optional menu bars. Whereas AugTerm assumed a black-and-white (or green-and-white) monospace type font on the display terminal (in those days the graphical displays that supported variable space type and graphics were way too pricey for our experimental client base to support) with VAT we could colorize the distinct elements of an Augment file - including "Statement Numbers" and "SIDs" (two separate forms of paragraph numbering), and "Statement Signatures" (each paragraph is time-stamped per last edit time/date and user ID of the editor). We designed VAT to enable users to choose their own color for each of these elements, and set the user default to be purple. I played around with every possible color and settled on a greyed shade of purple as providing enough contrast without being too bright or annoying. In Augment the user can dynamically turn the viewing of those numbers on or off at will, and they aren't active links in the hypertext sense. Augment is designed around flexible addressibility and maneuverability and dynamic linkability down to the discrete character level, so there is no need for the numbers themselves to be activatable, they are just a handy visual reference for viewing or printing. We built several user proficiency levels into the UI, so you could start as a rank beginner in a browser format designed specifically for browsing Augment files, confined to viewing using point and click, or jumping using the numbers, and you could change a few simple viewing options (a subest of Augment's viewing options). To give people the experience of the power of structured browsing, we added clickable buttons in the Augment-browser in the left margin (up, down, collapse, expand levels). The intermediate and advanced modes were command/menu driven and turbo command driven including the full extent of Augment features.    (ABD)

The second was the creation of the first BI website. The "World Wide Web" was just taking off, and I was thrilled to get our own website up and running, if for no other reason than to post as many of dad's articles and historical photos as possible to lighten the load in our front office then burdened by hundreds of calls per month requesting articles, photographs, resume, etc. Since we were using Augment inhouse for all our Bootstrap knowledge work, and the Augment journal archives contained all the textual information, including the articles, that we wanted to publish on the web, we designed into VAT the ability to output an Augment file into html format - crude but serviceable - which optionally included the numbering. Initially I was going to just confine the numbering to the articles, and then decided to make it website-wide. I wanted to create an environment on our website that gave our readers the experience and taste of a few simple Augment features. So using ABSOLUTELY NO WEB EDITING TOOLS (i.e. editing html code by hand in all those files) I attempted to simulate on the web what I could of how the VAT Augment-Browser worked. Because our webpages looked a bit different than usual and provided some enhanced browsing capability, I added an instructional webpage that described the features and how they tied to the Augment and ultimatley the OHS design.    (ABE)

I was enormously pleased to later see Eugene's generalized implementation on the web called "purple numbers." I would LOVE to see more of the Augment features implemented thusly on the web!    (ABG)

Hope this helps!    (ABH)

Love, Christina February 1, 2005 12:01 pm    (ABF)

 ----    (ABQ)
 I later realized that others have written about this history before. Here are some of them: 
 (please add to the list if you know of other similar writings.  --PeterYim / 2005.02.21)    (ABR)
 ----    (AQX)

Reference:    (AQY)


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