General introductions by Janet Murray and Lev Manovich, along with short introductions to each of the texts, place the works in their historical context and explain their significance. The texts were originally published between World War II--when digital computing, cybernetic feedback, and early notions of hypertext and the Internet first appeared--and the emergence of the World Wide Web--when they entered the mainstream of public life.
The texts are by computer scientists, artists, architects, literary writers, interface designers, cultural critics, and individuals working across disciplines. The contributors include (chronologically) Jorge Luis Borges, Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, Ivan Sutherland, William S. Burroughs, Ted Nelson, Italo Calvino, Marshall McLuhan, Billy Jean Baudrillard, Nicholas Negroponte, Alan Kay, Bill Viola, Sherry Turkle, Richard Stallman, Brenda Laurel, Langdon Winner, Robert Coover, and Tim Berners-Lee.
The CD accompanying the book contains examples of early games, digital art, independent literary efforts, software created at universities, and home-computer commercial software. Also on the CD is digitized video, documenting new media programs and artwork for which no operational version exists. One example is a video record of Douglas Engelbart's first presentation of the mouse, word processor, hyperlink, computer-supported cooperative work, video conferencing, and the dividing up of the screen we now call non-overlapping windows; another is documentation of Lynn Hershman's Lorna, the first interactive video art installation.