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Ars Technica writer Matthew Lasar got thinking about his happy memories with Hypercard and whatever happened to it. Released in 1987, it would have turned 25 years old this August had it not been withdrawn from the market in 2004. Entrepreneur and coder Tim Oren argued at the time that it never really figured out what it was. But creator Bill Atkinson admitted two years beforehand his crucial mistake: he didn’t take advantage of the web and let hypercard stacks connect over the internet as well as locally. Had he done that, things could have been very different.

So what does that have to do with today? As one commenter points out, it left a gap that has never really been filled:

The world desperately needs a modern version of Hypercard that lets *non-programmers* easily create and link entire new storehouses, repositories and novel worlds of information and aesthetic creations.

This is particularly pertinent in an age of data journalism being the new punk and ongoing arguments about whether people should or shouldn’t learn to code. (Let’s not even get started about designers and coding).

It’s also worth remembering that Hypercard was fun. See Lasar’s fist memory of the product :

But after we set up the Mac, I sat down with it one evening and noticed a program on the applications menu. “HyperCard?” I wondered. “What’s that?”

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.

Intrigued, I began composing stacks. None of them amounted to anything more than doodle-packed matrices of images, sounds, and aphorisms, but I eventually glanced at my wrist watch. It was 4:00 AM. Startled and quite tired, I turned in with visions of stack buttons dancing in my head.

an you really say that about PHP or LISP? We’re getting there with Lego Mindstorms NXT-G language (seriously, their lego-like action system is addictive should you ever get the chance), but even the most accessible programs still require coding. The closest I’ve seen in the commercial sector would be If This Then That, but I’d argue it’s more of a global macro system than one that actually lets you do things.

[EDIT: of course, there's a Quora topic for that.]

Vicky Teinaki

An England-based Kiwi, Vicky is doing a PhD at Northumbria University into how designers can better talk about touch and products. When not researching or keeping Johnny Holland running, she does the odd bit of web development, pretends her TV licence money goes only to Steven Moffatt shows, and tweets prolifically about all of the above as @vickytnz.

2 comments on this article

  1. kasper kamperman on

    I can think you can do a lot of interactive things kind of simple with Scratch: scratch.mit.edu.

  2. Pingback: Links for June 1, 2012 | Rick's Daily Link Collection