Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Technology (Apple) Technology

HyperCard, What Could Have Been 159

bobwrit sends us to Wired for a look back by the author of HyperCard, Bill Atkinson. Quoting: "HyperCard is a programming environment that can create applications as diverse as utilities and games by linking 'cards' arranged into 'stacks.' Commands are executed through a natural-language scripting language called HyperTalk... The software has been phenomenally successful and highly influential. But Atkinson feels that if only he'd realized separate cards and stacks could be linked on different people's machines through the Net — instead of cards and stacks on a particular machine — he would have created the first Internet browser."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

HyperCard, What Could Have Been

Comments Filter:
  • by Bastard of Subhumani ( 827601 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:14AM (#23535231) Journal
    Cudda shudda wudda.
    • by deniable ( 76198 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:16AM (#23535239)
      Yep, instead he got beat by gopher.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      Wow Kdawson... should have known. Didn't check who posted it until after I saw the year of the article: 2002.

      I hate this guy and I wish I could filter his "news" posts (revenue stream) out of my view for eternity.
      • by WK2 ( 1072560 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:28AM (#23535293) Homepage
        I've been considering making a Firefox extension, or a greasemonkey script, to do just that. Although I wanted to filter attention whore articles, such as those about Jack Thompson, Uwe Boll, John Dvorak, or those submitted by Roland. Filtering kdawson would be good too. Unfortunately, I have no experience writing extensions or greasemonkey scripts for Firefox.

        On the other hand, if we filtered all of the stories that we complain about on Slashdot, there would be nothing left. Then where would we waste our time?
        • by empaler ( 130732 )
          There are two scripts to filter out Roland (though I've only had one of them work)â"you could just modify it to also look for the name of the posting editor?
          • by tsm_sf ( 545316 )
            Or just look at the name of the poster, I guess...
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by bsDaemon ( 87307 )
            Slashdot has for years allowed you to never see stories posted by any editor you wish. Its under your user preferences.

            I think it was introduced because of John Katz -- at least, in that's why, in this post columbine, post September 11 world, I first figured that I needed to block a Slashdot editor.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          > Then where would we waste our time?
      • Re:Yeah yeah yeah (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:34AM (#23535313)
        In your preferences, under "Authors", you can uncheck his name, and his stories should disappear for you.
        • Re:Yeah yeah yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @12:30PM (#23536439)
          "In your preferences, under "Authors", you can uncheck his name, and his stories should disappear for you."

          Everybody knows that. The problem is that the moderation system rewards righteous bitching. It's the idiots with mod points that are keeping these memes alive. "Oh look, somebody's complaining about kdawson. I hate him, too. If I mod him up, instead of rewarding Slashdot with more page views, they'll stop posting kdawson's stories!"

          Oh well, back to reading +5 posts about how kdawson sucks, Balmer throws chairs, and nobody wants a cell phone that does anything more than make and receive calls.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Didn't check who posted it until after I saw the year of the article: 2002.

        TFA is a retrospective on a multimedia programming language. Did you expect it to be of sufficiently general interest to appeal to all readers? The Subject line is abundantly clear. Maybe you could rub a couple of neurons together, read the Subject line, and give it a pass?

        I wonder if the original article had been about Prolog or Forth, would it have received the same bonehead response?

        Anyway, obligatory article discussion. When I go

    • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:57AM (#23535633)
      There's still no one tool that replaces everything that HyperCard did. The genius of HyperCard was that it brought application development to the masses.

      I was back in college in the early 90's, and taking a couple of language courses (not computer language). I would download stacks that would quiz me on my vocabulary. When I needed something more specific, in one evening I sat down and put together my own drill stack and, as a bonus, inserted the MacinTalk speech synthesizer to correctly pronounce the words.

      HyperCard filled in the software gap for what you couldn't purchase off-the-shelf. When my PC friends used to point out how many thousands more titles were available for the PC, I used to point out that HyperCard filled the gap; if you couldn't find the HyperCard stack you were looking for on a Mac-friendly BBS (and there were tons of stacks out there), then it was a simple matter to author a stack.

      Apple never understood HyperCard. At first they gave it away, and then they tried to sell it, which was a mistake. The beauty of it was that everyone had it on their Mac, and everyone eventually opened it up and said, "What the hell is this?" and started poking around with it. Once Apple/Claris shrinkwrapped it, you had to already be sold on the concept of what it was in order to purchase it.

      HyperCard encapsulated a lot of pieces that are separate today. It could have been the first web browser because of the hypertext links that allowed you to move between pages within the stack. It was a great animation program, as a precursor to Flash. It was a database. It was the first introduction to scripting that most Mac users had, and professional developers could write extension modules for their stacks to push them further.

      It's interesting that SuperCard, the competitor to HyperCard which gained popularity when HyperCard development languished, is still available for the Mac and still being developed. However, at $179, it's not exactly "for the masses".
      • The masses who could afford Apple Macs that is. Poor people like me used BASIC on things like the ZX Spectrum and Amiga.
        • by hitmark ( 640295 )
          you for got the C64...
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by soapdog ( 773638 )
        There's also Runtime Revolution which is cross plataform, has access to sql databases, advanced networking and imports hypercard stacks. The Revolution Media version is way cheaper that $179. You can develop your stacks and run them in Macs, Linux and Windows. For all those that loved HyperCard, I think that Runtime Revolution is what they've been waiting. The web site is http://www.runrev.com/ [runrev.com]
      • Poetic (Score:4, Funny)

        by Bastard of Subhumani ( 827601 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @07:50PM (#23539295) Journal

        The genius of HyperCard was that it brought application development to the masses.
        In sharp contrast to its primary failing, which was bringing the masses to application development.
      • There's still no one tool that replaces everything that HyperCard did. The genius of HyperCard was that it brought application development to the masses.

        That, was also where it became a nuisance. :-P

        I remember gathering requirements from a customer who was looking to migrate a legacy application from a mainframe to a "modernized" package which would capture what they did and how they did it, as well as giving them GUIs and the like.

        After we had gathered the information on what the mainframe did, we were sud

    • Re:Yeah yeah yeah (Score:5, Informative)

      by MikeyTheK ( 873329 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:05AM (#23535661)
      Although Apple abandoned HC a long time ago, it still lives on, today in a product called Revolution [runrev.com]. Revolution is definitely a child or grandchild of HC. If you build applications in HC, you should have no trouble running with Rev. There's even a section on their website discussing that topic. It is definitely far from perfect, but it's better than FORTRAN.
      • How is Revolution different than Visual Basic? it seems the two products are very similar.
        • Not at all. For one, the languages are completely different. Revolution follows the "xTalk" (history of languages, which are considered to be verbose because the syntax is very English-like, unlike BASIC, which, while easy to learn (until you start casting and using strong-typing), is not. xTalk is a history that stems from HyperTalk, the language that was in HyperCard. Each product that has copied, borrowed from, or stood on the shoulders of HyperTalk has had its own version of HyperTalk, which general
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CCFreak2K ( 930973 )
      This is actually true. Hindsight is 20/20. Of course he could've made the first browser (or one of the first). A lot of other things could have been done, too, but they didn't because the foresight to see these kinds of things is hard to come by.
    • Re:Yeah yeah yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DECS ( 891519 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @02:37PM (#23537221) Homepage Journal
      This is a typical Leander Kahney / Wired article that hyper-sensationalizes a story nugget that, rather than just pointing out what really happened, suggests a arc of drama that really isn't even accurate.

      While Apple execs didn't really get HyperCard (and hated the idea of giving it away, as Bill Atkinson's deal required), it did serve as the model for Viola, a project by Pei-Yuan Wei at UC Berkeley to clone HyperCard for X Window systems.

      "I got a HyperCard manual and looked at it and just basically took the concepts and implemented them in [X Window for Unix]," Wei later explained. Wei intended to adapt Viola to use the Internet to distribute its hypermedia documents, but then happened upon the work already done by Berners-Lee on NeXT.

      Adopting the HTTP architecture of Berners-Lee's www service resulted in the creation of the ViolaWWW web browser for X Window systems in 1992.

      From there, NSCA's government funded (thanks, Al Gore) Mosaic browser, pattered after ViolaWWW, resulted in both Netscape and Spyglass/Internet Explorer.

      Wired missed the real story of a stepping stone towards the user created web and instead created a dramatic soap opera about how Apple missed Sun's network genius because it had boxes with lines rather than lines with boxes. Never mind that Sun never managed to deliver either a web browser that mattered (HotJava?) or make any consumer contributions that caught on (client side Java?), just make a wild suggestion that makes no sense and allow your audience to come to a faulty conclusion that Apple should have been marketing the network, a product it wasn't selling, rather than the PC, a product it was. And on top, suggest that "owning" the browser market was or could be possible and/or profitable for anyone.

      This reflects the typical tech pundit-mentality that everything should be owned by Microsoft-like companies, because it worked so well for Microsoft to monopolize the PC OS market. In reality, the utility software concepts (the core OS, web browser, codecs, protocols, etc) that pundits often think "somebody" should have owned are all better off either collectively owned in the form of open industry standards, or wide open in the form of free/public domain.

      The world would not be better off if the web had developed around pioneering, but proprietary HyperCard software owned by Apple. Ideally, the web will continue to be based on open standards, and proprietary extension elements like Flash/Silverlight/ActiveX will all go away.

      Safari on Windows? Apple and the Origins of the Web [roughlydrafted.com]

      • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @03:26PM (#23537603) Journal
        The parent article is really good - I'm not modding it +1 Informative/Insightful/etc because I've got my own me-too story to add, but I'd appreciate if someone else does :-)

        And of course there's always Xanadu....

        Back in the late 1980s, when I was at Bell Labs (not Research), I was on a standards committee for Computer-Aided Logistics Support, trying to standardize computerized documentation formats. The primary directions the committee was working on were SGML for text and some vector graphics standard that I've forgotten for pictures.
        SGML was a predecessor to XML, and was an abstract language describing document types that were typically like HTML with whatever markings and objects you needed to define, so we were essentially trying to define a DTD for our documentation.

        There were people on the committee who got the "mark up the information content, let the reader's client format it" concept, where objects are things like "a 2nd-level paragraph", and people who didn't get it, and wanted to objects to be things like "a paragraph in 14-point bold-face" or "a page break" because they wanted to electronically represent the typical paper manuals and version control where you needed to replace pages to update the document, even though the manual might be an airplane-engine repair doc that some mechanic is trying to read on a wrist-mounted 24x80 screen while poking around in the engine. You may find this familiar, given the number of people over the past decade who've been trying to make web pages look exactly the way they want even when the user's browser or screen size may not be identical to theirs.

        At one point my boss (who was a PhD type, not a Dilbert boss) asked if we needed to be concerned that our presence on the committee might tell competitors the kinds of things we were working on.
        My reply was that "Well SGML is an obvious thing to write Hypertext in, so this is the kind of Research they'd expect us to be doing." Sigh - my mental model of hypertext was pretty much Hypercard and similar document packages, and I didn't get the linking-together-multiple-authors bit either :-)

        • And of course there's always Xanadu....

          Another example would be Lotus Notes, which was/is sort of a network-based HyperCardish thing. It probably did not have a lot of direct influence on the academic thinking, but it was widely deployed because it was the only thing corporations had for informal databasing.
      • Very very well said.
  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:35AM (#23535315) Homepage

    Okay, so calling HyperStudio "programming" is a stretch, but it was definitely a gateway drug for it.

    Playing Doom on my uncle's computer may have got me interested in computers, but using HyperStudio in elementary school was my first experience with programming and is probably what started me down that path.

    • by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:18AM (#23535725)
      He wrote an application to measure the volume of a Megapodes nest using it.

      I found the source on the web a few years back, it's probably around for those of you who want to have a play.
    • Okay, so calling HyperStudio "programming" is a stretch, but it was definitely a gateway drug for it.

      I remember building some fairly complex things in Hypercard, and I'd certainly call Hypertalk a rich and also fascinating programming language. When we were looking at SOA orchestration approaches, I used Hypertalk as an alternative to the current set of XML-based, damned-impossible-to-read set of popular orchestration languages.

      Hypertalk is 'object oriented' in a way that I haven't seen in main-line languages, and that in some respects (IMHO) reflects the poor state of language design as much as anything

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:36AM (#23535321) Homepage Journal
    .... he missed the mark.

    This is not even a hindsight article as the hindsight is still based on speculation.

    Of course as things at Apple have evolved in this vain, We have Automator [wikipedia.org] and its phenomenally (cough) successful.....

    Of course Hypercard and Automator are platform specific (mac only) but as a comparison to platform agnostic and network-able relatively easy scripting, there is REBOL [rebol.com] and specifically REBOL VIEW (if you want to discuss web browsers). But how successful has REBOL become?

    What Automator generates under the hood in teh way of files, when a person creates an automation, is incredibly massive. Especially in comparison to the incredibility small scripts of REBOL.

    I'm not promoting either here, just presenting a comparison that is relevant to the speculated hindsight of the WIRED article.
    • by wootest ( 694923 )
      Automator is nothing like Hypercard except for the part where it does something somehow related to scripting. (And I'll be damned if I'll compare anything related to scripting to Hypercard.)

      You could build databases and small Flash-like games with Hypercard (inevitably someone will point out how an early version of Myst, maybe the demo, was written in Hypercard, so it might as well be me). You can build workflows - scripting pipelines - with Automator, and in specific cases you can do it much easier and bet
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jandrese ( 485 )
        At least the Mac version of Myst was still pretty much based on Hypercard. They had a lot of extensions and whatnot working behind the scenes, but from what I saw it was largely still a Hypercard stack.

        In fact it was far from unusual to find commercial software (especially games) written for the Mac back in the day that used Hypercard. The best thing was that you could open up the stack in a text editor and read the source (Myst was compiled sadly, so this wasn't an option) despite everything the author
    • I've never yet found a single solitary use for Automator, but back in the 90s I used to build Hypercards that did all sorts of things, mainly automated text processing taxing quark documents and turning them into rudimentary HTML. It was soooo easy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Didn't HyperCard also spawn AppleScript? My understanding is that without HyperCard there would be no AppleScript as we currently know it, as it was based heavily on the design of the HyperCard scripting language.
      • by Monx ( 742514 )
        HyperTalk was also the basis for Lingo (Macromind Director's scripting language). HyperCard is Flash's earliest ancestor. HyperCard could have brought Flash-like apps to the Internet in the late 80s.
  • No such thing existed at that time. In 1985, the networks were fragmented into dozens of incompatible protocols, the environment which could have made Hypercard into the first web browser simply didn't exist and therefore there was no opportunity to make it into such.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:58AM (#23535403) Homepage Journal
      Not if he restricted it down to all Apple machines. They could and did interconnect with local-talk.

      Who says you HAVE to be mulitplatform to be useful?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by artemis67 ( 93453 )
        Connecting stacks through dial-up modems was probably the logical development path, and I think there was a commercial extension for HyperCard that negotiated a modem connection. However, it only sent text across the modem connection (rather than an entire stack). And, of course, modem speeds were a limiting factor because the stacks tended to bloat rather quickly once you started adding images to it. Web pages only had to load one at a time, whereas a HyperCard application might require the whole stack to
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Typoboy ( 61087 )
          You refer to Harry Chesley's HyperBBS [mememotes.com] which I used to run as my first BBS, before switching to Coherent [franklin.ch].

          HyperBBS would 'read' every page of a stack to the modem-connected user, buttons would be menu items, editable fields would be inputs, and locked fields would simply be read.

          Choosing a menu item would take you to another page..

          The modem user didn't see it, but the home menu (IIRC) looked like a house, the cards for logging in were embellished for the benefit of no-one but the sysop.
    • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:04AM (#23535659) Homepage

      No such thing existed at that time. In 1985, the networks were fragmented into dozens of incompatible protocols, the environment which could have made Hypercard into the first web browser simply didn't exist and therefore there was no opportunity to make it into such.
      Since you mention incompatible protocols, there's another related issue. Unlike the WWW, HyperCard was proprietary, and the hypothetical NetHyperCard would likely would have remained so to some extent.

      Its open nature was (as far as I am aware) a major benefit of the WWW, and probably helped it take off pretty quickly. Thus, it's *not* a foregone conclusion that a proprietary NetHyperCard with very similar capabilities would have taken off in the same way.

      In fact, it's quite probable that had NetHyperCard existed and been released in the mid-to-late 80s, it would have been been Mac only and tied specifically to AppleTalk networks [wikipedia.org] (rather than TCP/IP). This is already partly implied by what you say above; but I also think that NetHyperCard would have *remained* proprietary and Apple-centric- and hence a niche product- until (or *if*) a clearly successful open product persuaded Apple to change their mind. Which likely would have been the WWW anyway!

      But by the time it was visibly successful enough to force Apple's hand, the WWW would likely be the established standard. My guess is that- allowing time for the company to action it- Apple would have released a pseudo-open, multi-platform, TCP/IP-friendly version of NetHyperCard circa 1997-99. And since everyone would already be using the WWW, NetHyperCard would still be ignored.

      To cut this long story short, even if it had been invented long before the WWW, I still think it's unlikely that we'd be using NetHyperCard instead of the WWW today.

      Of course, had NetHyperCard been invented before the WWW, it's quite possible that Apple could have taken legal action against it in some form; but even if successful, I think that this would be more likely to stifle things overall than make NetHyperCard a success on the scale of the web. In that sense, I'm glad that it never came to fruition.
      • by osgeek ( 239988 )
        Yep. I hate to knock Atkinson since he did such phenomenal work - but a net-savvy Hypercard still would have been missing the important revolutions of open software and open protocols.
      • What it would have taken for HyperCard to compete with the Mosaic browser would have been nothing short of a tear-down/rebuild of HyperCard from scratch. Interlinking stacks would have been difficult (how do you link to a single page in someone else's stack?), plus the issue of bandwidth (downloading whole stacks vs. downloading single pages) for dial-up users. The demands of HyperCard as an internet application would seem to have been radically different from the animal that is was.

        It's fun to think about,
    • by hitmark ( 640295 )
      funny thing is that tcp/ip is a "virtual" network that can be stacked on top of any number of real networks (ethernet, token ring, you name it).

      internet isnt really a single large network, its a network of networks, all of whom can carry tcp/ip.
    • No such thing existed at that time. In 1985, the networks were fragmented into dozens of incompatible protocols, the environment which could have made Hypercard into the first web browser simply didn't exist and therefore there was no opportunity to make it into such.

      That's funny... I'm pretty sure TCP/IP was introduced in the late 70s/early 80s specifically to combat this problem. ARPANet itself switched over on January 1, 1983; As I recall, it was one of the later networks to start using TCP/IP.

    • Actually, one solution to this would have been to offer an ofline browser though a dial-up BBS. User's who connected to the BBS could put in requests for data from certain servers on the internet, then at the end of the day, the BBS itself would connect to the internet and cache the requested data for the user to access when they returned the following day. (Sort of like a really slow version of an RSS feed...)

      As for a realtime browser, it's possible it would have worked with HyperCard. As long as you avoid
  • That is nothing compared to what happenned with Mac Basic. This is an early case of Bill Gates bullying another company with gross tactics [folklore.org].
  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @08:43AM (#23535343) Homepage Journal

    In 1989, Arthur van Hoff [developer.com] developed a HyperCard-inspired system called GoodNeWS [google.com], written in PostScript, for James Gosling's NeWS window system. Arthur later went on to work at Sun on Java, wrote the Java compiler in Java, the AWT gui toolkit, and the HotJava web browser.

    GoodNeWS was later renamed HyperNeWS, then later HyperLook [art.net]. I went to Glasgow to work with Arthur at the Turing Institute, to develop HyperLook into a product, and I used it to develop the first Unix version of SimCity [art.net].

    HyperLook was really wonderful, because it combined the strengths of HyperCard with the superior graphics and programmability of PostScript, and the network communication model currently known as AJAX.

    I've written down some Ideas for Sugar development environment from HyperLook SimCity [laptop.org], with lots of links and illustrations, relating it with many different programming languages, user interface systems and applications that have inspired me.

    Here is just the stuff about HyperLook -- the article goes on further to discuss and compare other technologies I think are interesting and applicable to the OLPC's constructionist education project.

    Ideas for Sugar development environment from HyperLook SimCity

    I love the ideas behind Smalltalk, EToys and HyperCard, and would like to combine them with ideas from visual programming languages like Robot Odyssey, KidSim, Klik-and-Play, SimAntics, Body Electric/Bounce, Max/MSP/Jitter, etc.

    Here are some ideas about HyperLook and other systems, that could be applied to Sugar:

    HyperLook was a PostScript-based user interface development environment for the NeWS window system, which Arthur van Hoff created at the Turing Institute in Glasgow. http://www.donhopkins.com/home/catalog/hyperlook/ [donhopkins.com]

    I helped develop HyperLook into a commercial product, with a editable user interface development environment, as well as a redistributable non-editable runtime, and I used it to port SimCity to Unix, and develop other components and applications . http://www.donhopkins.com/home/catalog/hyperlook/ [donhopkins.com] http://www.donhopkins.com/home/catalog/hyperlook/HyperLook-SimCity.gif [donhopkins.com]

    HyperLook was inspired by HyperCard, but it additionally provided a client/server programming model, and more powerful graphics and scripting based on NeWS's object oriented dialect of PostScript. http://www.donhopkins.com/home/catalog/hyperlook/TalkInterfacing.gif [donhopkins.com]

    The NeWS window system was like AJAX, but with:
    1) PostScript code instead of JavaScript code
    2) PostScript graphics instead of DHTML graphics, and
    3) PostScript data instead of XML data.

    It had a unified programming/graphics/data/networking model based on NeWS's extended multi-threaded object-oriented dialect of PostScript, instead of a hodge-podge of accidental technologies. (Although I will be the first to admit the X11/NeWS merge was quite a hodge-podge and huge-kludge!) NeWS had an object system based on the simple dynamic ideas of Smalltalk, implemented with the PostScript dictionary stack, supporting multiple inheritance and runtime modification of objects and classes. http://www.donhopkins.com/home/catalog/hyperlook/HyperLookInfo10.g [donhopkins.com]

  • What's an "Internet browser"?

    He could have invented a "web browser" easily enough without an "internet" - just having a few computers would have worked just fine.
  • xcmds (Score:5, Informative)

    by mondotom ( 703921 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:05AM (#23535431) Homepage
    hypercard did connect to networks by way of developer written "xcmds". There were usenet, gopher, rpc, ftp, telnet, wais xcmds. There was a project called "spider" from ATG that did link hypercard across a network. However, the ecosystem of network computers was so small in the mid 80's it did not flourish.
  • by Arcturax ( 454188 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:14AM (#23535459)
    It was so easy to use and the program language was incredibly flexible and you could write almost english like statements with it.

    I did some amazing stuff with Hypercard when I was in high school. I created several games, though I didn't have the net then and was unable to release them. One of the games was a full blown RPG game (icon like, think early Ultima games) where you moved using arrow keys. I even implemented fake windows using fields so you could select spells and the like. Monsters could cast back at you as well and there were flying fireballs/iceballs that were animated using hypercard script. Another neat innovation was making the card bigger than the screen size (I was a on a Mac Plus at the time). When you neared the edge of the screen it would scroll the viewport with you. There were other neat things like you could walk behind treasure chests and columns if your guy's middle point was above their middle point, or in front if he was below their middle point on the screen. It could also save games out to disk separate from the card and load them in to continue. I wasn't able to finish it, but it was working extraordinarily well. Unfortunatly, my old Conner 80MB drive got corrupted and I lost everything. Months of work blown away thanks to the fragility of System 7.

    So that project ruined, I went into making a multiuser home stack since I found the home stack with it kinda of useless and boring. I implemented the ability to have hypercard users and each would have to log in and then would be set permissions to use stacks (scripting, authoring, etc). It also had email that would tell you when someone read your message and later I was able to exent that to network email and even instant messaging when I got a copy of an XCMD that let me send data over the Appletalk network. This was before things like email and instant messaging were available to anyone but college people and researches who had access to this thing called the "Internet". The main screen after logging in had your email, make important notes (Quick notes I called it) and also a "Quick Connect" section that let you launch favorite applications and stacks from the control panel. Lastly, there was an administration application that would let you manage users rights as well as reset passwords and lock or unlock accounts. You could even run reports on their log ins and activity. I still have an earlier copy of the system, before I had networked email and I think I still have the IM test stack I made as well.

    The rest of my stuff, including an attempt to recreate the old RPG was lost when I entrusted them, including my copy of the Hypercard application to a Zip drive. Click of death brought back the pain of the original losses and now I have no more copy of Hypercard and I cannot find a replacement or my original disks. Then college came and I was pulled into C programming and what not. But I never forgot Hypercard and many times while working in C, I would lament about how easy the task was to do in Hypercard, and what a grind C made it into.

    What I do have, I am tempted to email my stuff to Atkinson, if he still has a public email, to show him what a 14 year old kid was able to do with this thing. Mainly the early version of my multiuser stack, the admin too, and if I still have it, the IM app. I did make one more thing, but it's probably better I never give it to anyone... I made a hypercard virus stack. Not a C virus, it's written in hyperscript and basically it tries to find your other stacks and infect them with itself rendering them useless. I never released it and it was made just to see if it was possible. So yes, Hypercard was extremely powerful and really, I wish it had become the web because it is so freaking easy to use, even compared to web tech we have today.
    • I'll note that HyperCard GS, the IIGS port of HyperCard, DID have such a multiuser function. I guess schools must have demanded it...
    • by symbolic ( 11752 )
      Awesome history there. It's sad to see that all your work was lost - I know that feeling.

      Hypercard was indeed an amazing product, but I will never understand why certain decisions were made. For example, why did Atkinson choose to have hypercard objects violate Apple's own user interface guidelines? Why wasn't color ever considered? (Well, it was eventually, but the solution seemed like a clumsy afterthought).

      I think even today something like Hypercard (included as part of an OS) would be very useful, with
      • Color WAS considered, but to do animations and the other things HyperCard did in B&W requires several offscreen bitmaps. They're not too intensive at 1 bit per pixel (640x480x1, or 38K), but downright prohibitive on the hardware of the time when done in color (640x480x24, or 0.9MB). Keep in mind that a color-capable Mac II (vintage 1987, same as HC) only had 1 megabyte of RAM standard, so one full-color bitmap for one stack would have needed ALL of the memory in the computer.

        People forget just how far
        • by symbolic ( 11752 )
          Your point is totally valid. It did seem however, like other products (SuperCard for example) incorporated color without too much trouble.

          And I remember Nine to Five Software and Reports for Hypercard - that was one product that really opened Hypercard up for more serious applications.
          • by shmlco ( 594907 )
            True, but again, you have to remember the timeline. The first version of SC didn't hit until two years after HC was released, which was, again, only two years after we had the first color-capable Mac (Mac II) and Color Quickdraw. So 90% of the hardware base was still B&W.

            And SC itself didn't do card/background bitmap-everywhere color, but only supported colored buttons and smaller bitmap objects. And with HC there were questions as to how color stacks would play on B&W machines, backward compatibili
    • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Sunday May 25, 2008 @01:57PM (#23536977)
      That virus sounds interesting; I remember there were a couple of viruses out there for HyperCard; I remember dissecting one of the disinfectant programs and realizing that it worked by trapping the "set" command which (as I recall) was used to infect other stacks or change the info in them. For someone who knew little about computers it was amazing to be able to figure out what an application was doing and how, and even make your own. I made an application to help with writing papers that could store little bits of information (mostly quotations) along with bibliographic citations to use by copying and pasting into a word processor. (I probably should have been just writing the papers at the time but writing the program was way cooler).

      One of the coolest apps I remember reading about was from an article in High Times about a guy who was growing weed remotely; he had his garden monitored by X-10 cameras all connected to a Mac plus. He'd dial into his mac from anywhere and connect to a HyperCard stack; from the stack he could see whichever camera angle he wanted and control when the water and/or lights would turn on. He could tell if a light had burned out or whatever, and there was some kind of motion detector that would tell the stack to call his cell if someone entered the facility. All in all, it was pretty clever app illustrating some of HyperCard's possibilities; I can only imagine what could have been done with HyperCard and the Web.
      • by g-san ( 93038 )
        I'm calling bullocks. I doubt a Mac Plus has a port you could connect an X-10 camera to, much more than one since the modem would be on the "Modem" serial port. And there were no cell phones in Hypercard/Mac Plus days. Or maybe you are an avid High Times reader complete with the avid High Times reader short term memory loss and you just forgot some details.

        Maybe a QuickCam, that eyeball shaped thing that connected to pre USB Macs. And maybe a call to a pager, but I don't know how he would get so much contro
        • Not sure about the details, I assumed it was X10, I don't remember if it said what kind of camera they connected or whether they were making it all up, but I certainly didn't make it up myself (though you may be right about my memory). There were cell phones in those days, as I recall, just not as popular as they are now - this was early 1990s; it may have been a pager that he calls back into. But the control of the Mac all took place through hypercard, that's what I remember thinking was so cool about al
  • by Everyman ( 197621 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:30AM (#23535529) Homepage
    Strangely enough, HyperCard didn't crush the corporations like Kevin Kelly promised it would:

    "HyperCard is uniquely suited for activist causes. It goes without saying that its great ease of use and flexibility favors the underdog. Activist groups have often relied on people power and maneuverability to counteract the brute economic and political force of various Powers-That-Be; HyperCard can enhance both of these advantages."

    This quotation is from page 164 of "Signal: Communication Tools for the Information Age," Kevin Kelly, editor. Foreward by Stewart Brand. A Whole Earth Catalog. Point Foundation, 1988.
    • I've got the book in front of me. Nice shot of the Earth, from the Moon, on the back cover.

      The layout of the page doesn't make it clear that Kelly was talking about "revolution". The "revolution" quote seems to be an excerpt from one of the two listed newsletters (Windoid/AHUG [Apple Computer, M/S 27AQ, 20525 Mariani Boulevard, Cupertino, CA 95014] or Open Stack [Walking Shadow Press, P.O. Box 2092, Saratoga, CA 95071]).

      The full quote is:

      Sample copy for SASE from Apple Computer, M/S 27AQ, 20525

  • HyperCard Smut Stack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SimHacker ( 180785 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:37AM (#23535561) Homepage Journal

    Anybody old and perverted enough to remember the infamous "HyperCard Smut Stack"?

    I still associate nipples with the "ping" sound.

    Years ago I was recounting how cool HyperCard was to a group of people at some dot-com trade show, and when I mentioned the HyperCard Smut Stack, one guy (Chuck Farnham) said "oh, I wrote that". My jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out, not only because I happened to run into the author after all those years, but also because he would actually admit to it!

    But as it turns out, Chuck has no shame. He used to do bizarre live stunts on Live 105, a San Francisco Bay Area radio station, on the shock jock Alex Bennett Show [wikipedia.org]. He's infamous for some of his other exploits (this is just the tip of the iceberg, most of the other stuff is really not safe for work, let alone live radio):

    During his days at Live 105 Alex would have stuntman Chuck Farnham cover himself with food to feed the homeless. This allowed Alex to get around the San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan's ban on feeding the homeless without a permit.


  • Free with every machine. Easy to get into, you could pretty much write pseudocode and tweak the proper bits and you had an actual program.

    Yes, it was runtime, no, it wasn't pascal, and no it wasn't app-able.

    And as a bone to throw hereabouts, it was open-source-ish. You could set the userlevel to prevent damage and reset it to inspect the source. And you could password all that too, but it was share-able by default.

    But you were certainly programming a computer to do something you needed done and wasn't on
  • It gave rise to millions of useless Hypercard stacks, similar to the millions of useless video clips that fill youtube.

    Most remembered Hypercard items were the Serial Port tool kit and the Lisp extensions.
    • ah yes, but the morons that created those useless hypercard stacks are now looking back at how they began their carrer, and (at least me) wishing perhaps they hadn't just fucked around with hypercard and actually tried to learn more about it. Maybe I would have been a web programmer in '95 (as a kid genius) instead of '05 (so I would have actually made some money at it).

      So what will this new generation look back on and wish they had done more with? Maybe not youtube, but myspace and facebook provide quit
  • Except for the english-like language, most of HyperCard's features can be simulated on the web using Flash. You just need to adapt the paradigm a bit... e.g. a card in a stack is instead a frame on a (stopped) animation.

    I've remade some of my early crappy games [newsdee.com] in Flash and released them online [newsdee.com]. With a bit of a framework (i.e. button components, dialog boxes) you can recapture the same feel and fun while creating stuff. I've chosen to use B&W graphics, but you don't need to be constrained by that...you'
  • by jht ( 5006 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:24AM (#23536105) Homepage Journal
    My tech skills have never (and I mean never) been inclined towards programming. It was always by far my weakest point. Anything more than a simple shell script has always been beyond me (despite that, I've managed to have a decent career in IT because there are a lot of things other than programming I can do well, fortunately).

    Then HyperCard came out. It is still the only programming environment that I understood immediately. Within a few months, I'd produced several applications of varying usefulness (a guitar tuner, a lotto application that automatically tailored to each state's game, and a train layout app) that I happily posted around for downloading and even got a few dollars for. I re-wrote my resume as a stack, and sent it around on a floppy when I was jobhunting (This was before the Mac ghetto era of the early '90s). I could do things with HyperCard that I never was able to master with conventional languages.

    Basically, in my eyes, HyperCard was the best chance ever at a programming environment for average people. It had plenty of flaws, and never even properly made the transition to PPC (let alone today's era), but it was an amazing tool - especially for the era. I do still miss it now.
  • Hypercard was something of a rip-off of ZoomRacks [wikipedia.org], a good idea that suffered from coming out on Atari hardware in the 1980s.

    Hypercard itself was kind of a neat idea, but its programming language, Hypertalk, was all too much like COBOL. It also had a terrible approach to data access, with forms like FIELD 6 OF CARD 372. If the thing had a relational database model underneath, it could have been very more broadly useful, rather than merely cute.

    • by hawk ( 1151 )
      That would have come from a dull-witted programmer.

      How about "field color of card description" . . .

      I used hypercard as a front end to prepare merge files for Word in the early 90's. It could preprocess and adjust to my arbitrarily introducing new fields (I'd dump the file dnames, and then the contnets, and wouldn't have to adjust my word file.

      I could produce nearly complete bankruptcies and divorces quickly. At the time, competition had driven the price for summary divorces (agreed terms) to about $100 p
  • by grikdog ( 697841 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:48AM (#23536211) Homepage
    Hypercard was slower than cold, frozen, Arctic molasses. We could demonstrate a peppy-seeming way to accomplish some serious text collecting, but by the time our client had entered so much data that re-entering it would be prohibitive under deadline constraints, the Fatal Flaw in this stupid equation had emerged: Getting data back OUT in a useful format, even merely the useful task of editing it, was hair-pullingly, exasperatingly, blue air and cusswords SLOW. Hypercard was, in short, a hot app, especially for our unfortunate sales team. The next year we completely rewrote our "prototype" Hypercard stack from scratch as a plain, ordinary Macintosh C program, discovering event loops and everything, and recovered some good will from Sales, but many of those first-year clients had been burned so badly they never came back, and since the community of users tended to talk to each other, we had about two years to get our new programming right before it had to to matter again; to this day, I still regard Caroline Rose and Inside Macintosh as my personal saviors.
    • Should have tried Reports for HyperCard. Super fast searching, sorting, report layouts, labels, mail merge, row/column views, you name it, it did it. It understood the HC file format, and effectively bulk-loaded entire sections of the stack into ram for searching.

      Claris was once interested in acquiring it, but didn't when they decided it would have too much of an impact on FileMaker. Ran rings around the silly thing.
  • If I recall, Hypercard stacks could do pretty much anything they wanted to on your computer. We could have had the ActiveX security nightmare years earlier.
    • by sjf ( 3790 )
      A type of Hypercard extension called an XCMD could indeed do anything, it was just compiled C or Pascal. In fairness, the Mac of that era lacked memory protection, and that was a much bigger security issue than a lack of sandboxing, so this was not a problem limited to Hypercard. Sneakernet suffered from very real security issues: I've never gotten a virus over the internet, I did through casual disk swapping.
      • by argent ( 18001 )
        In fairness, the Mac of that era lacked memory protection, and that was a much bigger security issue than a lack of sandboxing, so this was not a problem limited to Hypercard.

        You don't need memory protection to implement a sandbox. And if you don't have a sandbox it doesn't matter much is you have memory protection or not, as Microsoft has so amply demonstrated over the past decade.

        I've never gotten a virus over the internet

        Neither have I, but as a network administrator I've had to clean up plenty. One very
  • Well, just about the only thing that the Web did differently from previous hypertext systems was that it was open and networked.

    So, if only hypercard hadn't been closed and proprietary, and if only Apple networking hadn't sucked badly back then, then it might have succeeded.

    Of course, let's not forget that there was very little that was actually new in Hypercard to begin with.
  • I was taking a Hypercard class at university back in... Probably 93. I believe the class was part of the Journalism dept (for either insightful or random reasons). One day about 1/2 way through the class the prof comes in breathless and excited. He shows us Mosaic, starts explaining how it works. Before the end of the day he's scrapped the curriculum and we've started leaning HTML. (Which at that time took about an afternoon). Hypercard 101 had effectively become a web design class.

    I have some nostalgi
  • I like the concept of Stackware such as HyperCard. I personally have programmed and maintain an Application [druckfarbendoc.de] built in RunRev that has a custom designed pixel-true layout of the UI. Aside from the strange language associated with RunRev ('Transscript') which is something like "Lingo done right" (Yeah, I know how bizar that sounds) it is a neat concept and lets you roll procedural, extremely visual oriented apps with zero fuss. Building my App in something like Java would have been a Nightmare.
    However, working
  • The lack of HyperCard (both creation and execution) is why I didn't buy a Newton. I had (and have) no use for most (if not all) of the apps bundled into PDAs, but the ability to create my own would have sold me one in a NY minute.

    BTW, how easy is it to dump apps from (?whatever)ROM on current PDAs and add things of more interest to me in the freed space?
  • by Budenny ( 888916 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:27AM (#23542185)
    The real problem with HC was the Cupertino lockin mentality. They have always had this tension between a software group, which would, if left to its own devices and tasked with maximizing the business, sell on all platforms - third party hardware in the case of the OS, or Windows and Unix as well as Mac OS in the case of Hypercard. They've even had the same tension with hardware - if they cut the hardware group loose, they would probably sell millions of designer computers with Windows rather than OSX preinstalled.

    You can see the potential realized in the case of Filemaker. When released to Windows, it turned into a real business and did not hurt the Mac at all. You can also see it in the case of iTunes. But with Hypercard, the mania for Mac-only solutions to promote the sale of Macs resulted in the destruction of what could have been a great standalone business unit. In effect, Apple forced the creation of Visual Basic, and then forced people to take it up, by denying them the product they would have bought if they Apple had just made it available. E-World was the same blinkered and doomed thinking. And in the early days of Classic, in effect they forced people who wanted computers to Windows, when they would probably rather have, many of them, had Macs. Apple could not meet the demand, and would not meet the price. But the customers had to have computers, so they bought from people who would sell to them. Who can blame them?

    In a typical show of pique, they then killed HC rather than, for instance, open source it. The attitude seems to have been that if we could not make it work, and make it work on our platforms only, then no-one should have it. In case they made something of it?

    Apple has done well in recent years. But nothing like as well as it could have done if it had bent its efforts to allowing the really creative groups in Apple to form business units and take their products to market and follow the trail of demand. And if it had stopped spending so much energy on stopping people buying Apple products because their requirements did not exactly fit in all respects with the Cupertino model of what they should be.

    If we look at the recent results in absolute terms, it seems a great story. If we look at what could have been, its the record of a company consistently failing to realize the potential of its own creativity. Crippling it, in fact.

    The essential conceptual failure is the failure to appreciate that the fact that something is impossible to run on non-Apple systems is not a benefit to the Apple user. It applies to OSX as much as to e-world as to Filemaker. Its a focus on delivering what you think is your prime quality, integration, while failing to see that your real strength is as an innovator and business segment creator.
  • I wonder if "TileStack" is going to be Mac Exclusive? I'm assuming that it is. If it can run on Windows I might take a look at it.

    Please, refrain from making a flippant reply dissing Windows and endorsing Linux. I know how great Linux is already.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.