Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Rupert Bear – Internet pioneer

I’ve concluded that the inventor of the Internet is not Tim Berners-Lee – it’s Rupert the Bear. Well maybe not, but the format of Rupert books is remarkably modern when held against the structure of the most successful of today’s web pages.

Rupert books can be read on at least three levels – the pictures alone, the pictures captioned with the précis rhymes or the pictures padded out by the “in-depth” narrative in the paragraphs below.

The précis rhymes are a sort of precursor of the hypertext link of today, except that they are arranged as a bridge or heading to the deeper story below. They're also a bit like tweets.

So in the example here, taken from Rupert and the Castaway, firstly we have the picture of Rupert, Captain Barnacle and Jim wandering back across and expanse of beach towards Mrs Bear; secondly we have the hypertext / tweet:

‘“Why look who’s with the Captain there.
It’s my lost son!” cries Mrs Bear.’

- and finally, in the paragraph below the hypertext we have the detail, with Jim having a shave, putting on some of his Uncle’s clothes (innocently) and the three friends actively seeking out Mrs Bear.

It’s a genius construction and it’s difficult to see why there aren’t more books created with this format given that kids are increasingly accustomed to accessing stories and exploring them in this way.

So there you have it: Rupert Bear, Internet pioneer.

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