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April 11, 1988

AUTODESK BUYS 80% OF HYPERTEXT FIRM, EYES PICTORIAL PROGRAMMING TECHNIQUES

By CBR Staff Writer

Autodesk Inc, quirkily headquartered in San Francisco’s idyllic artists’ colony in Sausolito, last week made two moves that it hopes will keep it ahead of its competitors, and reinforce its reputation for innovation in the application of applying new techniques to its product offerings. The first is to follow Apple Computer into the world of hypertext software, buying 80% of Xanadu Operating Co of Palo Alto, California, the developer of the Xanadu Hypertext System. The Hypertext System is designed to store, manage and manipulate text and graphical information, and Autodesk wants the company because it believes that hypertext has the potential to change fundamentally the way individuals and groups process information. Xanadu will deliver a preliminary Xanadu Hypertext System for research institutions and advanced developers later this year and hopes to have a full system on the market in 18 months. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The second move for the developer of computer-aided design software for desktop computers and workstations is to form a new research programme to explore innovative technologies, aiming to use research results to guide future development of Autodesk products. The first project focusses on the areas of boundary logic and boundary mathematics: boundary logic is a new formalism based on diagrams rather than words to provide a model of deductive reasoning. Boundary mathematics provides a theory of representation that may lead to the development of powerful new programming methods, such as visual programming and parallel deduction, and is also a theory of systems that allows complex relationships to be expressed simply and large amounts of information to be manipulated coherently. The company’s thinking is that a picture can represent an idea much more concisely than can a string of words, and it explains that the innovative contribution of boundary mathematics is to equate pictures that are changing with the act of computation. We can construct programs by drawing and run programs by animating these drawings, says Autodesk. The natural consequences of representing ideas on two-dimensional planes rather than in sequential strings include a visual programming language, parallel processing, more efficient representation and much faster computation.

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