Ars Technica has a short article for HyperCard’s 25th Birthday.

I’m not sure I quite buy the notion of HyperCard as proto-web-browser. But I totally buy Atkinson’s original goals with it:

“Simply put, HyperCard is a software erector set that lets non-programmers put together interactive information”

It was not the first thing I wrote software in – that honour goes to GW-BASIC, I think – but it was the first tool I made something useful and unprovoked in. I was eight or nine when I discovered it at school. It made it possible to realise what was in my head, not what was in a book.

And it was the first thing that made designing the visual interactions of software easy for me. Software isn’t just arithmetic and lines of code – it’s something people use. HyperCard made sure that the visual end of software was usually the first part of a stack you made, not the last. (I was always disappointed that Visual Basic looked like it did this, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations).

Look at XCode now, with its integrated Interface Builder; that’s one of the many legacies of HyperCard. It showed the average computer user (not the average programmer) that interaction and interface was important to great computing experiences, and gave them the tools to poke around.

It is a tiny percentage of the reason I do what I do now, but a memorable one.

  • "HyperCard effectively disappeared a decade a go, making way for supposedly bigger and better things. But in my mind, the end of HyperCard left a huge gap that desperately needs to be filled – a space for an easy to use, intuitive tool that will once again let average computer users make their own tools. Such a project would have huge benefits for all of us, wether we are artists, educators, entrepreneurs, or enthusiasts." Lovely piece by Jer Thorp on Hypercard. I've mentioned Hypercard is quite formative for me, right?

Rails and Hypercard

22 December 2005

Gavin mentions the idea that Ruby on Rails might just be the new Hypercard – something I may or may not have discussed with him.

I think he’s right. After one of the London Ruby User Group meets, someone commented that all Rails really needs now is a killer easy-front-end for page layout, or an IDE for apps of some form, and it could really hit the jackpot. I immediately thought of Hypercard; it had the requisite simplicity, grace, and convention, and would be nicely suited to Ruby (just as it was to Applescript).

I’ve mentioned Hypercard before on this site. It was pretty formative in me finding a way I could program computers that wasn’t necessarily reams of code, of first making me aware of UI design, and of making programming fun. Rails has had a similar effect, properly kick-starting me into OO programming, and finally making me understanding and appreciate scripting languages.

The speed of gettings things working, that’s what matters. Not finished – finished might be a long way off – but you’ve always got something to show for your labours. That’s why I like it.