Apple,  Software

On HyperCard

Wired has posted two stories about Apple’s Hypercard. The first one, “HyperCard, Forgotten but Not Gone,” discusses the enormous power and utility yet ease of use that drew so many to use HyperCard. The second, “HyperCard, what Could Have Been,” is a retrospective lamentation by Bill Atkinson, the brilliant initial creator of HyperCard, that he did not foresee the ubiquity of the net in creating HyperCard.

I suspect that both of Wired’s stories were inspired by this thread at MacinTouch about OS X Alternatives. I’m sure they will spur a lot of people’s nostalgia. It certainly inspired mine. I met my spouse, and changed my career path because of HyperCard. I was a humble graduate student, hired to convert Professor Richard Lanham’s book A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms
into HyperCard. It was my first experience making an electronic book. You can buy the latest incarnation, still in HyperCard. Later, Michael Cohen and I both went to the now defunct Voyager, where he produced and programmed Voyager’s Macbeth, and we both worked on Expanded Books, books in HyperCard sold on floppies, and the Expanded Book’s Toolkit, to let ordinary non-programmers make high quality digital books. The book interface that Colin Holgate, Steve Riggins, Michael Cohen, Bob Stein and other Voyager alums created in 1991 is clearly still inspiring Peanut Press, Microsoft, and Adobe.

Others have also waxed nostalgic about HyperCard, like Cory Doctorow, another Voyager alum, and Russ Lipton of MacNet Journal, and Brett Morgan also journey down memory lane.

This isn’t the first instance of developers regaining interest in HyperCard. On O’Reilly’s network alone (a true geek haven!) the last year has seen articles on “HyperCard and Python,” wizard developer “Danny Goodman Talks About HyperCard,” “REALBasic for HyperCard Users,” and most recently the heartrending pleas for HyperCard’s future under OS X, “The Death of HyperCard?

I too wish Apple would redo HyperCard for OS X, enhancing it, and extending it to support Web Services (which they would likely do via HyperCard’s AppleScript support.) The possibilities for end users and developers alike of an OS X HyperCard are mouth watering. A new HyperCard would be rapidly adopted by developers, as well as end users, and HyperCard alone would sell thousands of Macs to education. The really intelligent thing would be to open source HyperCard, and develop internally, along the lines of Apples other open source projects. But I realize it’s not likely. I’m still using HyperCard regularly, and I know that there are hundreds of colleges and universities that still rely on HyperCard for text processing and manipulation, interface prototyping, and instructional design. I have been extremely impressed with Revolution from Runtime Revolution. Revolution 1.1 includes all of HyperTalk plus, is in color, and very cross platform. It even includes import abilities.

But good as Revolution is, it isn’t HyperCard.