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Programming Technology (Apple) IT Technology

HyperCard Comes Back From the Dead to the Web 117

Posted by timothy
from the in-many-ways-it-never-really-went-away dept.
TedCHoward writes "On the heels of the recent mention of HyperCard comes the launch of a brand new site called TileStack. Cnet's Webware blog writes, 'The idea behind it is to bring old HyperCard stacks back to life by putting them on the Web, meaning you can take some of those long lost creations from the late '80s and early '90s and make them working Web apps. You simply upload them to TileStack's servers and they'll be converted and hosted for just you or the entire world to use once again... Since the service runs without Flash... TileStack is perfect for the iPhone and other devices that run on the Web.' They also have a video showing the upload process."
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HyperCard Comes Back From the Dead to the Web

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  • Freaky. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cyno01 (573917) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Saturday June 07, 2008 @05:30PM (#23696149) Homepage
    Wow, like 10 minutes ago i was looking for a spare phone in this box and found a case of floppy disks from my middle school computer class. If the disks are good i think there are a couple of hypercard stacks on there... Weird.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:50PM (#23696991) Homepage
      Same here. I was just talking with my wife about this programmable slideshow program we used in highschool. Although i'm sure ours ran on DOS. Although the basic premise of the program seems quite similar. I remember doing an x-wing fighter animation in highschool. I even had music and everything. Apart from LOGO, it was probably my first exposure to programming.
      • Re:Freaky. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pimpimpim (811140) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @09:19PM (#23697445)
        As someone who used HyperCard as a 10-12 year old, without using the manual ever, I realize only now that I never realized that by using HyperCard I was actually programming. The program must have been made in such a way that you could perform pretty complex operations with it, without even knowing that what you are doing is complex.

        Years later I tried to do similar simple interactive animations for adobe flash. It faced me with multitudes of concepts, each with their own drop-down menus and rules, before I could even start drawing something. Maybe it was more easy as a child because I had no idea of what I was doing, but more likely HyperCard was just designed very elegantly.

        • by pompomtom (90200) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:20AM (#23700101)
          Thank fuck you never got stuck with a CLI.
          • by pimpimpim (811140) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:21AM (#23722929)
            Actually, I am a CLI person now, reading mail with pine, using bitlbee to chat on msn over irc. (ok, so those are interactive, but you get the point). All open in a screen session, so I can open it in a second from everywhere where I can open an ssh connection.

            Paradoxically, I do that for the same reason that I like Hypercard: I want to use the tool that is the fastest and easiest way to do something. I use latex for large text/equations documents, but powerpoint for presentations, because the outlining in latex became tedious, and powerpoint is amazing for sloppy and very fast layout work.

        • by mgmirkin (1203064) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @03:56PM (#23702023) Journal
          Yes, Hypercard was simply well-engineered so that anyone from a child to a high-end programmer (familiar with scripts, etc.) could use it from day 1 (more or less). I always like Hypercard. I was sorry to see it go. Newer program have been created that do similar things, but generally not with the elegant ease of Hypercard.

          With Hypercard, you could do just about anything from presentations to simple adventure games. It was quite robust.

          ~Michael
  • why? (Score:0, Troll)

    by Annymouse Cowherd (1037080) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @05:37PM (#23696231) Homepage
    OMG WOW! I want to run some software from the late 80s, because it is obviously superior to modern software ~
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:00PM (#23696365)
      Don't laugh, the Sony (cassette) Walkman is poised to make a comeback. Turns out that the iPod seems visually out of place when you're eating sushi at a conveyor-belt establishment with your dark suit and yellow tie. Also anytime you happen to get caught b/w the moon and New York City.
    • by freenix (1294222) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:04PM (#23696409)

      This is about avoiding the intentional waste of non free software. You could run your old hypercard program in a VM but most people no longer have the OS and software required to set that up. They are more likely to have some old notes they want to share with themselves and others and now they can. Free software users don't have this problem.

      • by Tawnos (1030370) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:27PM (#23696519)
        Yes, because in the magical free software land, file formats never change and become incompatible, even over the course of time between hypercard and now. Sure, you could, in theory, write a converter, but that's assuming the user has the time, skills, and inclination to do so, when they can often recreate the information on a new system in less time and headache.
      • by Kalriath (849904) * on Saturday June 07, 2008 @09:56PM (#23697607)
        What? My god you're full of crap (I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Twitter, I recognise that rabid "non-free" hatred and insistence on changing the subject line of replies).

        This is only because HyperCard actually was able to make some real neat stuff - entire games were able to be made in it. Some people want to play with those still, so someone else decided "hey, let's make a way to run HyperCard stacks". Good on them! Far from being some kind of "non-free" agenda like you believe, it's more just evidence of why we have Open Source - because people just want something, so they up and make it.

        And don't go thinking that Open Source software is never abandoned, leaving users of it in the dust (hint: not everyone can just "fix the code" - that requires skills that relatively few people actually have).
    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:21PM (#23696487)
      And it isn't? Granted some of the features aren't there but if I remember correctly an old Mac could start up in ~30 seconds on an 8 MHZ CPU and 1 MB of RAM, while even my Linux distro takes about a minute on my low-end computer from 2002 with 512 MB of RAM, a 1.8 GHZ Celeron and loading the OS from a hard drive. Most '80s software was limited yes, but has better quality code and could run faster then modern programs because you couldn't say that in a year there will be a CPU to run it fast enough and that RAM is becoming cheaper. You only need to look at Vista compared to the old Macs to see how bloated todays programs are (and if you want to compare things feature-wise just compare a Ubuntu 8.04 disc to Vista SP1 or XP SP 3 and see that even that with more 3-D effects runs faster on older hardware).
    • Re:why? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ChiRaven (800537) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:01PM (#23696727) Journal

      OMG WOW! I want to run some software from the late 80s, because it is obviously superior to modern software ~
      Actually, I'd like to find a replacement for something like SuperPaint. An under $50 (call it $100 now) drawing program with multiple layers, on-screen coordinates for precise placement of objects, the ability to switch seamlessly between bitmap and object modes for creation (with "outline" ability), a really huge palate of available shapes, and a few other goodies I've forgotten over the years. I can't seem to buy anything like that these days.
  • by marvelouspatric (1112793) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @05:39PM (#23696235) Homepage Journal
    i clicked the links, and it's a good chance i'm just an idiot, but I couldn't tell if there was going to be anyway to create new stacks. The beauty of hypercard, from what I recall, was that it had a pretty simple interface for creating the stacks. I remember doing an entire multimedia presentation with hypercard back in highschool in the 90s. while everyone else did powerpoint and thought the clip art was cool, i was making stuff move using sound and embedding quicktime video. granted, all that is easy (easier?) to do now, but back then, it was cool stuff.
    • by PHPNerd (1039992) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @05:44PM (#23696283) Homepage
      Oh yes. You can create new stacks. I was in the beta program, and it was really easy to use too.
    • by David Hume (200499) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @05:53PM (#23696325) Homepage

      i clicked the links, and it's a good chance i'm just an idiot, but I couldn't tell if there was going to be anyway to create new stacks. The beauty of hypercard, from what I recall, was that it had a pretty simple interface for creating the stacks. I remember doing an entire multimedia presentation with hypercard back in highschool in the 90s. while everyone else did powerpoint and thought the clip art was cool, i was making stuff move using sound and embedding quicktime video. granted, all that is easy (easier?) to do now, but back then, it was cool stuff.
      The answer appears to be yes. If you RTFFAQ [tilestack.com]:

      Essentially TileStack can be thought of as an online playground where people of all ages are free to create neat things that we call 'stacks'. Adapting concepts from the incredibly popular classic HyperCard system from Apple, a stack consists of one or more 'tiles' that take a person who uses the stack down a path leading from one tile to the next. In a simple case, each tile can contain a different picture and text, in effect creating a simple online and shareable slideshow.

      You can also add buttons to any tile that respond to something a user does. For example, clicking on a doorway in a picture could display the message "Welcome to My Home" and then go to the next tile in the stack that shows a picture of the inside of the home.

      You can add input fields to tiles to create a custom system for storing information. Have a collection of recipes? Would you like to organize your movie collection? Just create a stack that fits what you needs. And of course, after you create something neat, you can publish your creation on TileStack.com for others to use and learn from.

      Likewise you can explore the published stacks that others have made. Making it easy to learn new things and pick up cool ideas. And finally, if you happen to have some of classic HyperCard stacks laying around, you can upload them to TileStack.com and use them once again!
    • by quonsar (61695) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @11:20PM (#23697965) Homepage
      that's marvelous, patric...
  • 3.5 inch floppy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jamesl (106902) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#23696339)
    Now all I need is a machine that can read a 3.5 inch floppy.
    • by J'ai Friedpork (1293672) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:06PM (#23696417) Homepage
      At least it'll be easier than trying to use a 5.25" floppy. (Or god forbid, one of those old 8" floppies...)
    • Re:3.5 inch floppy (Score:5, Informative)

      by david.given (6740) <dg@coEULERwlark.com minus math_god> on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:54PM (#23696677) Homepage Journal

      Now all I need is a machine that can read a 3.5 inch floppy.

      It's worse than that. Apple floppy disks were written with constant linear velocity --- i.e., as the head moves towards the centre of the disk, the rotation speed goes up so that the magnetic medium still passes the head at the same velocity.

      PCs, and therefore all modern hardware, use constant angular velocity floppy disks --- the disk spins at a constant speed, so that the speed at which the magnetic medium passes the head varies depending where the head is. Yes, this is clearly a bad idea, but that's PCs for you.

      This means that no modern hardware can read old Apple floppy disks. It's just not possible. You'll need an old Macintosh floppy drive and (probably) an old Macintosh floppy drive controller to plug it into, which basically means you need an old Macintosh. You still have yours, right? Right?

      Have fun!

      • Re:3.5 inch floppy (Score:3, Informative)

        by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:20PM (#23696839) Homepage Journal

        Apple floppy disks were written with constant linear velocity --- i.e., as the head moves towards the centre of the disk, the rotation speed goes up so that the magnetic medium still passes the head at the same velocity.
        Actually, the Apple 400K and 800K drives used zone CAV [wikipedia.org]. Modern PC hard drives, magneto-optical drives, and DVD-RAM drives also use zone CAV.
      • by MrNonchalant (767683) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:39PM (#23696913)

        You'll need an old Macintosh floppy drive and (probably) an old Macintosh floppy drive controller to plug it into, which basically means you need an old Macintosh. You still have yours, right? Right?
        Yep, right. Got an Apple Performa sitting right next to my IBM XT. You mean you don't keep vintage computer hardware around?
      • by dsmall (933970) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @01:55PM (#23701189)

              The high density Apple floppies (1.44, etc) can be moved back and forth between PC's and Apples.

              The lower density Apple floppies used GCR recording, much like the Apple ][ floppies. Hell, in fact, it was exactly like the Apple floppies, except that the number of sectors per track varied. Apple sped up/slowed down the drive motor while doing disk I/O.

              I found out you could read these disks on a standard PC 300 RPM drive with a custom disk controller of about five chips. No speed changing. The disk controller changed its disk I/O frequency. The product we sold to do this (and to run Mac software on the 68000 Atari ST platform) was called "Spectre GCR"), and yep, it would boot Apple floppies, or hard disks, right out of the box.

              (This did not make Apple happy.)

              The only significant bugs that showed up were noise from the switching power supply near the frequency of the outer tracks and impedance mismatch on the read-data line.

              If I had to read Mac 400/800 floppies these days, I'd pick up a Mac on eBay with the "Super Woz Integrated Machine" that could read both formats, and bring the data over.

              All of this taught me that Steve Wozniak was one smart, smart guy. His low chip, very elegant solution was wonderful to learn. Writing the formatter was a bitch, yes ... but it was wonderful to learn.

              One of the problems with the DMCA is that people learn so much about coding by looking at other people's coding. Same for hardware design. I learned a great deal about 68000 coding from Andy Hertzfeld's beautiful Macintosh coding. I learned a great deal about elegant hardware design from John Ridges, who is possibly the best overall hardware and software person I've ever met.

              Thanks,
              David Small

    • Re:3.5 inch floppy (Score:2, Informative)

      by jgertzen (975712) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:51PM (#23696999) Homepage
      Actually they seem to be willing to help people out who don't have 3.5 floppies any more. Per their FAQ "Is there anything I can do with stacks I have on old floppy disks?" [tilestack.com]

      "If you have some old HyperCard stacks lying around on floppy disks that you can't read because you either don't have a computer with a floppy drive, then we'll gladly do our best to import them on our vintage hardware here in CodeFlare labs."

      ...just send your floppies in appropriate packaging to...

      Their mailing address is in the FAQ for anyone who wants to give it a shot.
    • Re:3.5 inch floppy (Score:2, Informative)

      by TedCHoward (920331) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:57PM (#23697043) Homepage
      Actually, you can mail your floppies to TileStack, and they will upload them for you. From the faq [tilestack.com]:

      Send your floppies in appropriate packaging to:
      CodeFlare
      5919 Greenville #335
      Dallas, TX 75206-1906
    • Before I sold my PowerMac G3 (desktop) on Craigslist, I spent a couple of days stuffing all the floppies I had into it, making disk images... Now that classic is gone, I'm not sure any of them are runnable, much less useful, but the amount they take up is less than a couple of songs in AppleLossless.
  • by Plazmid (1132467) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:29PM (#23696533)
    Could someone please tell me what in the world Hypercards are?
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:39PM (#23696595)
      HyperCard [wikipedia.org] is an old application that allowed you to create files that were "stacks" of cards that contained text, media, etc and linked to one another. Consider each card to be a Web page and each stack to be a Web site, Intranet, or Web app rolled up into a single file. This all predated the Web, of course, but was pretty powerful and had a really, really easy development tool that could be used by complete novices.

      A lot of early games, especially choose your own adventure style ones, as well as multimedia presentations, and educational tools were created as HyperCard stacks. This Web site is just allowing people to dig them up, dust them off, and play with them again (without paying for one of the commercial HyperCard programs still out there, or using a VM).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:40PM (#23696603)
      Its inventor claims that it was "almost" the World Wide Web, several years before the web. Except for minor details, it was local to one PC and lacked networking and collaboration features.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:11PM (#23696777)
        He says that he envisioned the web as a giant networked HyperCard Stack.
      • by Budenny (888916) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @03:47AM (#23698833)
        Hypercard was in concept the exact opposite of the web.

        It was written in a proprietary language, it was only accessible via an application that would run on just one, proprietary, operating system, and this operating system would only run on hardware from one particular manufacturer. Although it was innovative, it was doomed for this reason. It was thought of by Apple as a tool to sell hardware (like everything else they did). The essence of the web was and is that it doesn't matter who supplies the hardware or software you use, and that the material you access and even web based programs are open.

        As soon as it turned out to be useless as a hardware selling tool, Apple closed it down. The episode shows that Apple's basic approach to business models and indeed to information and users has not changed in twenty years. Its as authoritarian and closed as ever. It would have been so easy to open source it, or port it to other platforms. You notice by the way a continuing, odd, hangover of this approach in Filemaker. You cannot compile your Filemaker program on a platform other than the one you're going to run it on. You can't compile a Windows executable on a Mac. What a bizarre hangover!

        You notice also that Revolution is the only one of the HC successors to have really succeeded, and Revolution is quite the opposite of HC in these respects: it comes for Linux, Windows and Mac, and you can compile your programs on any platform for any platform.

        Nostalgia for HC is justified in one respect: it did introduce a great many inventive users to programming, and probably many of them moved on to less kindergarten languages. This was valuable. But in all other respects, business model, lockins, closed format and so on, in all those respects we should all be profoundly grateful that the HyperCard model died. Intellectual freedom would have been the loser had it succeeded on the sale some of the nostalgics wish.
        • by iamacat (583406) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:53AM (#23699999)

          It was written in a proprietary language, it was only accessible via an application that would run on just one, proprietary, operating system, and this operating system would only run on hardware from one particular manufacturer.
          So basically it was like IE6-based world wide web around 5 years ago?
          • by Budenny (888916) on Monday June 09, 2008 @07:07AM (#23707243)
            No, it was a lot worse. 5 years ago there were alternatives to IE6 to access the Web, and they ran on different operating systems, and in addition, earlier versions of IE would run on Macs. Not only that, but IE would run on hardware made by any number of companies.

            Hypercard was what MS would probably have liked - that is, pages which could only be written on Windows, and accessed by Windows clients, and served from Windows servers. But it went one step further - all this, and only running on MS branded hardware! To call anything like this an antecedent of the web is ludicrous. If you really want an analogy in network terms, HC was the equivalent of Compuserve or Prodigy. Killed by the web.
      • by mdwh2 (535323) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:57AM (#23700017) Journal
        In what way? The other comment points out how it differs in many fundamental respects, so the only thing I see in common is things like hyperlinks, which existed years before the Web, and was available on various platforms (e.g., the Amiga's Amigaguide).
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:48PM (#23696635) Homepage

      Could someone please tell me what in the world Hypercards are?

      Have you accepted Google [wikipedia.org] as your personal Search Engine.

      Salvation is at hand!

  • by zmjjmz (1264856) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:32PM (#23696549)
    It says that new stacks must be uploaded in MacBinary format or something. Can you get a Mac these days that will read 3.5/5.25/8" floppies?
  • by mattbee (17533) <matthew@bytemark.co.uk> on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:48PM (#23696639) Homepage
    Radical Castle! Bring on the vorpal bunny.
  • by jpellino (202698) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @06:50PM (#23696655)
    i saw more kids get brave and smart on things like logo and hypercard, especially hypercard as you could get an original creation with creamy UI goodness, it did something useful and immediate and creative. the ones who were convinced mpw / pascal was the way to go would sit there like we had just given them a pile of planks and two wagon wheel hoops, waving as we sped off in our trusty gti. don't know if i'm willing to risk uploading a entire voyager expanded book... i have every one of them and nothing to read them on. anyone got an original "manhole"?
  • by sproketboy (608031) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @07:47PM (#23696965)
    Here's its ancestor - quite nice really. http://www.runrev.com/ [runrev.com]
  • by bitspotter (455598) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @08:00PM (#23697057) Journal
    Don't tell me - I can't download and use their software on my web server; I have to let them host my private data (private meaning, I have to trust them with it).

    That's pretty impressive, figuring out how to tether a decades-old application that was designed to run entirely on the user's equipment.

    I suppose you could just email the stack to those you really wanted to share it with. But where would they get the stack interpreter?
  • by jeorgen (84395) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @08:27PM (#23697205)
    HyperCard had a really cool syntax. For example to make a button that you could drag around, you would just double click it in edit mode and enter the following script:

    on mouseDown
            repeat while the mouse is down
                    set the location of me to the mouseloc
    end mouseDown

    (not case sensitive)
    • by nuzak (959558) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @10:25PM (#23697729) Journal
      The problem with HyperTalk/AppleScript is that they still have rigid syntax that's intolerant of ambiguity, but now it's merely verbose and expressed in a language where you might expect some constructions to work, but they don't, because they're English, not Hypertalk.

      A perfect example is "the location of me". You can't say "my location", which is a far more common idiom.

      Of course the saving grace of HyperTalk was that it was also a pretty darn good language for its time, aside from the syntax.
      • by FLEB (312391) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @05:34PM (#23702649) Homepage Journal
        I never got into HyperCard, but working with AppleScript, at a time after I'd been using a couple other programming languages, I just found it far too long-winded, and-- as you mentioned-- rigidly so. After the fifth or sixth completely pointless "the" or "of the", I pretty much scrapped it, short of tweaking recorded macros.

        Recently, I've been working with Inform 7 [inform-fiction.org], a rather recent language for writing text-adventures. Granted, it does have the competitive advantage of being a narrow-purpose language (kind of halfway between "scene description" and programming, really), it struck me from first glance as how a "natural" language like AppleScript should have been ended up. It accepts ambiguity fairly well (albeit with the rare snags resulting from guessing), accepts conjugations, synonyms, general pronouns, and omissions of common grammar, and once you know the general guidelines about "how to talk to it", you can proceed rather naturally.
    • by objekt (232270) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:12PM (#23730887) Homepage
      ;-)

      on mouseStillDown
            set the location of me to the mouseloc
      end mouseStillDown

  • by Ambiguous Puzuma (1134017) on Saturday June 07, 2008 @09:52PM (#23697589)
    I seem to remember the original Myst being Hypercard based.
  • by thomas.me (864466) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @03:17AM (#23698767)
    Maybe it was the most successful implementation of a HyperText before the Web came along. People built totally diverse applications and didn't even know what they were doing. Heck, it was impossible to explain what HyperCard to someone who hadn't seen it!
  • by JanSchenkel (1303945) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @03:37AM (#23698817)
    Though I find it an innovative way to revive your old stack and share it on the web, I can't help but wonder about security, privacy and copyright. Meanwhile, Runtime Revolution have just announced their revamped web strategy, and demoed a Flash-like browser plugin - which means you don't have to install any special software on your server. Just create your stack on MacOSX, Windows or Linux and then deploy it for the web. For a short introduction of this plugin-to-come: http://runrev.com/newsletter/may/issue48/newsletter1.php [runrev.com] - I was there during the announcement and got some time to play with it, and it is indeed a great way to share your stacks over the web.
  • by chikako (978893) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:07AM (#23700305)
    Revolution - http://www.mirye.com/ [mirye.com] already has a CGI system, and a browser plugin is on its way.
  • by menace3society (768451) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:08AM (#23700311)
    I miss those stupid walk-around games. They were.... different, if frustrating.
  • by vic-traill (1038742) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @12:01PM (#23700611)

    The entry page used in the video demo was http [slashdot.org]:. There was no indicator (that I could see) that the login process was secured in that http: page. Maybe there is an indicator and I'm just looking in the wrong place because of my limited exposure to Firefox in an OSX environment.

    If not, is there any reason that an html-based authentication process not by secured by SSL (i.e. https) in this day and age? The other day I used a yahoo.ca account that I've kept around for years as a throwaway address, and I saw that yahoo has, somewhere in the no so distant past, secured login to their mail service. This was after years of having it default to http, though. Post login, your session reverts to hhtp.

    Gmail was similar - by default the auth was secured but the session wasn't, unless you logged in via a particular URL. I'm not sure what the current status is, as the CustomizeGoogle plugin has an option to force https for all gmail activities.

    My long-winded point is that all auth processes and data in associated sessions should be forced to https. Why does tilestack.com not do so? It doesn't exactly inspire faith in their attention to detail.

    That being said, the whole idea looks pretty cool. Anyone got a non-trivial HyperCard stack out there that can put tilestack.com through its paces?

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