25 Years of HyperCard

This Arstechnica article by Matthew Lasar highlights the fact that the original prototypical new media development tool developed by Apple, HyperCard is 25 years old today.  Below, Matthew describes his early experiences using it:

I opened the app and read the instructions. HyperCard allowed you to create “stacks” of cards, which were visual pages on a Macintosh screen. You could insert “fields” into these cards that showed text, tables, or even images. You could install “buttons” that linked individual cards within the stack to each other and that played various sounds as the user clicked them, mostly notably a “boing” clip that to this day I can’t get out of my mind. You could also turn your own pictures into buttons. Not only that, but HyperCard included a scripting language called “Hyper Talk” that a non-programmer like myself could easily learn. It allowed developers to insert commands like “go to” or “play sound” or “dissolve” into the components of a HyperCard array.” [Read More]

Matthew’s comments certainly resonate with my own early experiences developing ‘stacks’ and I have to agree with his central thesis that HyperCard was the gateway to the web and many visual programming concepts.  In my dealings with those involved in the implementation of DAM systems these days, I often find at least the developers (and sometimes the PMs too) often cut their teeth using HyperCard and it was hugely important in the development of the whole new media industry.

Looking at the screen grabs of some of the commercial stacks, I’m also struck (once more it must be said) by the relatively slow real technological progress of the software sector in terms of what functionality is offered to end users.  It does seem to involve an excessive amount of wheel re-invention and a zig-zag progression pattern that resembles a drunk trying to find their way home after a heavy evening out on the town.

I had forgotten about the Voyager eBooks that were developed using HyperCard, granted the viewing device is more portable, but they don’t look much different to Kindle Touch titles you see now – which are also black and white.  One does have to wonder if we’ll be looking back in 25 years time at the DAM systems on offer today and commenting that although platforms and delivery methods may have changed, the features and usability haven’t moved on as much as they should have?

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