Saturday 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.