12.1. Text as Unimedia
Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, said that what makes computer-based multimedia possible is the fact that the computer is actually unimedia. The computer really only understands one thing: zeros and ones. We can use the computer for multimedia because any medium can be encoded in these zeros and ones.
But he might as well have been talking about text as the unimedia. We can encode any medium as text, and what's even better than the zeros and ones, we can read the text! Later in this chapter, we map sounds to text and then back to sounds. But once we're in text, we don't have to go back to the original medium: We can map sounds to text and then to pictures, and thus create visualizations of sounds.
The World Wide Web is primarily text. Visit any Web page, then go to the menu of your Web browser and choose "View the source." What you will see is text. Every Web page is actually text. That text references pictures, sounds, and animations that appear when you view the page, but the page itself is defined as text. The words in that text are in a notation called HyperText Markup Language (HTML).