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Some Tinderbox pre-history

This article it may help some users get a better understanding of some of the ideas and experience that fed into Tinderbox's design.

By current standards, Tinderbox is a long-lived app. Work began on a project called 'Ceres' after the launch of Storyspace v2.0 on 24 January 2001 http://www.eastgate.com/Development/40.html and https://web.archive.org/web/20010202192100/http://www.eastgate.com/Storyspace2.html and continued through 2001 with active use in making several blogs, including Mark Bernstein's own blog, e.g. https://www.markbernstein.org/November01.html. Indeed, in his blog, the day after release, Bernstein notes https://www.markbernstein.org/Feb0201.html#note_6210 that Tinderbox v1 and Storyspace v2 share a common underlying framework on which work started 15 August 1999. Meanwhile, work on Ceres started on April 20, 2001. By 14 May 2002 work on a version for the newer Mac OS X was already underway, with v1.1.0 supporting OS X being released on 1 June 2002.

In late 2002, the 'development peekhole' site mentioned work on Tinderbox for Windows, but that project was eventually abandoned. Probably usefully so as maintaining close integration with two very different OSs whilst trying to keep feature parity would need a bigger team. Mentioned 10 Feb 2004 (https://web.archive.org/web/20040607115854/http://www.eastgate.com/Development/).

In July 2003, the Tinderbox wiki opened at http://www.eastgate.com/bin/wiki.cgi (now dark) and was the first user forum.

Ceres was used to publish its first weblog on 1 June 2001 https://web.archive.org/web/20010603192437/http://www.eastgate.com/Development/. Also see https://www.eastgate.com/Ceres/index.html.

Shortly before launch, the program's name was changed from Ceres to Tinderbox in January 2002 (https://web.archive.org/web/20020201200841/http://www.eastgate.com/Development/ note for 23 January 2002), though the rationale for this change was not given. Tinderbox launched on 18 February 2002 after around a year of development under the working name 'Ceres'. At launch, system requirements for Tinderbox stated :

"Tinderbox runs superbly on all modern Macintosh computers. We recommend a G3 or G4 and MacOS 8.5 or later. Tinderbox runs beautifully on iMacs and iBooks. Tinderbox takes up about 5M on your hard disk (less if you don't need the manual). It likes to have 16M of memory, but can cope with much less if you're short of space." (https://web.archive.org/web/20020212070749/http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/download.html).

The Ceres/Tinderbox Development Peekhole which blogged ongoing development last posted in 28 April 2007 (https://web.archive.org/web/20070527181023/http://www.eastgate.com/Development/).

During 2013-14, the Tinderbox codebase was completely overhauled and re-written on current Apple development frameworks in Xcode, launching as v6.0.0 in May 2014. At the same time the UI was completely changed, reflecting changed user expectation and the change of underlying frameworks. Lost in the new frameworks was the old ability to drag links between windows. Indeed, the zeitgeist as the time was for single window apps that such a model proved not a good fit for all Tinderbox users and multiple document windows and a small number of independent report windows soon returns to the app.

An upside of the move to Xcode has been coherent Unicode support throughout the app, noting that not all users are using English or languages using roman script. The latter feeds through into support for locale based sorting, time and date formatting, etc. Recently, Tinderbox has also begun to experiment with some of the AI aspects in newer frameworks (thus OS requirements above baseline) to detect major language and possible key terms.


As noted, Tinderbox reflects some features and concepts in its older sibling program, Storyspace (http://www.eastgate.com/storyspace/). The latter was developed as a tool for writing—and reading—'literary' hypertextual works, although Storyspace users found other uses for the application. Storyspace's design reaches back to initial work by Bolter & Joyce in the mid 1980s, written in C and available on Mac And Windows. Eastgate took on the 'publishing' of the Storyspace app from its originators in December 1990 and has maintained the system since, re-coding it twice in the process. Firstly it was done in Pascal, upon taking over in the code base (for Mac and Windows). Latterly, for v3 in 2015 using Apple Xcode (macOS only) and unifying the code base for Storyspace and Tinderbox which now share many UI elements and a common XML data file format.

Storyspace is notable for being about the (only?) early hypertext system still in active development and use and is an import milestone in the area of literary hypertexts. Much of the canon of the latter was/is still published by Eastgate using Storyspace: http://www.eastgate.com/catalog/Fiction.html. More on Storyspace's place in the hypertext story is documented in Chapter of Belinda Barnett's book Memory Machines (https://www.anthempress.com/memory-machines-pb).

Eastgate was also involved in early hypertext systems, creating the Hypergate app in the late 1980s and Web Squirrel (for making link collections in the early days of the Web) in the 1990s. Hypergate is notable in terms of being the first use of a 'breadcrumb' notion of showing where you are, such as seen at the top of aTbref webpages or the in-app view breadcrumb bar. Interestingly, the original concept was a means to tell the user they had visited a page before, noting that in those days, hypertext navigation was new and confusing to most people.

Academic Record

Both Tinderbox and Storyspace have been regularly cited (since 1987) and used in papers published in a number of journals and proceeding, most notably the ACM Hypertext Conference (https://dl.acm.org/conference/ht) where Mark Bernstein is the more prolific contributor and author or the most in-conference cited paper Patterns of Hypertext (https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/276627.276630). A good number of Tinderbox users employ Tinderbox in their research so Tinderbox also has an (un)credited part on a good number of other academic papers and PhD theses (all the research analysis for aTbRef author's PhD was done using Tinderbox as the primary tool).

Some Tinderbox-related Eastgate products