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Ars looks at 25 years of HyperCard


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Ars Technica has a wonderful writeup today about Apple's HyperCard, which would soon be celebrating its 25th birthday if it was still around. HyperCard was a wonderful tool; it provided a way for non-programmers to link "cards" of information with simple scripts and a variety of common Mac user interface elements. A button could play a sound, link to another card, or even perform calculations, so it was everyman's way of creating "stacks" of cards that could do amazing things.

How important was HyperCard to the world? Although we don't hear much about it today, it was the first implementation of what Ted Nelson proposed as early as 1960 as "hypertext." Many of the early Web browsers borrowed heavily from the design and functionality of HyperCard, with Mosaic and Netscape being the progenitors of today's modern browsers. HyperCard was developed by original Mac team member Bill Atkinson and made it to market in 1987.

Reading blogger Matthew Lasar's writeup on HyperCard brought back many memories for me. I can recall attending a seminar at an Apple office in Denver about HyperCard and its core scripting language, HyperTalk, shortly after its release. Author Danny Goodman ran the seminar and copies of his "Complete HyperCard Handbook" were handed out to everyone in attendance. That quickly became my favorite reference, and I began to create HyperCard stacks by the dozen.

I actually made money selling HyperCard stacks through Heizer Software's "Stack Exchange," where I sold a variety of reference stacks I had created. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, I gave a number of talks at the Institute of Gas Technology's annual Chicago IT conference talking about the use of hypertext and HyperCard in business.

While HyperCard hasn't been included with Macs for quite a long time (it used to come on a set of three floppies with every new machine), its descendants live on. The World Wide Web, SuperCard, and RunRev all owe a lot to Bill Atkinson's brainchild.

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