Apple, featured

HyperCard’s 25th Anniversary

12 Aug , 2012  

Welcome to HyperCardSaturday was the 25th anniversary of Apple’s HyperCard, a visual stack and card-metaphor database and application tool for the Mac. HyperCard introduced many Mac users to some basic object oriented programming concepts, though HyperCard’s HyperTalk scripting language was somewhere between a quasi object oriented scripting tool and a Visual Basic-like language.

While working at EDS, we used HyperCard on a number of projects; creating a personal information manager app called Executive Desktop, and using HyperCard as an interface to back end systems and dial up stock quote services. Creating stacks (apps) in HyperCard is how I wound up with my top-notch Advanced Technology Projects team in a meeting with Bill Atkinson, HyperCard’s creator, showing him our apps and asking questions about future HyperCard capabilities, and later demoing our apps to Apple CEO, John Sculley, not long after Steve Jobs unceremonious departure from Apple.

HyperCard proved to be much more than just a card and stack-based database and scripting tool. It was also a fast, lightweight prototyping tool. But HyperCard was so versatile it suffered from somewhat of an identity crisis; was it an interactive encyclopedia, digital instruction manual, contact list, database or programming tool? It was all those things but to fully understand HyperCard, you had to use it. HyperCard’s versatility may have been what led to its eventual downfall, after being shuffled off to Apple’s Claris software division.

Looking today at HyperCard’s early implementation of the hypertext concept, you can see it could have become something of an early web browser. I remember reading somewhere Bill Atkinson saying if HyperCard had been created in a network-centric company like Sun, it would have been a web browser. Even so, HyperCard was both innovative and a very fun environment for work, experiment and play.

Thank you Bill Atkinson and HyperCard.

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Cloud, featured, IT

IT can’t say No anymore, Learn how to say Yes

11 Aug , 2012  

[REPOST] If you are still from the traditional “IT Land of No”, your IT customers are already going over, under and around you. And they have been for some time. Every No is yet another shovel of dirt thrown on your own effectiveness within the organization. IT customers are bringing their own iPhone and Android smartphones and even computers to work, using file sync services like Dropbox on their company computers, using their credit cards to set up their own shadow IT environments in Amazon or other public cloud services, and more… all to avoid dealing with the IT Land of No.

As engineers, our problem solving training taught us to eliminate all the obstacles, and if your proposed solution still stands once all the possible no’s are eliminated, you likely have a workable solution. The problem with our training? It’s slow, leads to analysis paralysis, and most importantly causes you to automatically say No to your IT customers. At least that’s how they will see it.

While at the Cloud Leadership Forum a few weeks ago, I sat directly across from an IT manager who was a good example of an IT curmudgeon. We were discussing using cloud services to deliver IT as a Service and he kept saying things like, “they’re going to ask for their own virtual machines…No, they can’t have that.” Oh my. We need to undo this programmed behavior and learn how to say Yes.

How do you learn how to say Yes? The simplest approach is often holds the best approach. Start by just saying Yes upfront when an IT customer asks you for something. Literally, say it out loud to them; “Yes.” Don’t drag them through all the No’s to get to the Yes. Alternatively, say something like, “I’ll bet we can find a way to do that”, even if you don’t quite know yet how you’d solve their need or achieve what they’re asking. Next, ask yourself “how can I say yes to their request?” and start down the solution path without verbalizing all the No’s. What wasn’t possible a year ago might just be possible today or maybe you discarded their request out of hand in the past by habitually saying No. It’s simple but taking this approach really does work.

Once you’ve started to break the No habit, get out of the defensive IT position. Start by thinking about and learning how to do what your IT customers want… before they start asking. We’re tech people and there are things we’d like to do at work but haven’t figured out how to do yet. Threatened by BYOD? IT customers are already coming to IT with “how can I…” questions. So start figuring out the uses, apps to use, and requirements like security, remote access and data protection, before they ask you. Be ready with Yes answers because you’ve anticipated the need and gained enough insight how to support it. This is just one example.

Envision the future and start trying it now. And learn to embrace change… even better yet, how to enable and help make change happen. And when the next IT customer comes with their request, start your response with; “Yes, we can figure out how to do that.”

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