HyperCard: The Original Bridge Over the Digital Divide

If Apple's HyperCard was alive this year it would be 25-years-old. Ars Technica has a wonderful retrospective on HyperCard, that reminds us what it was all about and its critical place in Internet history. I remember hearing about HyperCard and eagerly awaiting its public unveiling at a MacWorld convention in Boston in 1987. I sat in the audience watching the big demo and was wowed by HyperCard's 8-bit monochrome pixels and multimedia visual effects. (We used the word "multimedia" all the time back then -- it was the 20th century equivalent of the 21st century's "social media" buzzword du jour.)

When I joined Apple in 1992, HyperCard was part of the reason I did so: Multimedia hyperlinking bundled with a programming environment that a grade schooler could master was the pinnacle of human technological progress! Even though I was a professional programmer (I knew how to code in C and had read all 3 volumes of Inside Macintosh) I created hundreds of HyperCard stacks, mostly for fun and some for profit. It was a black day in 2004 when HyperCard went the way of Dodo and the rotary phone.

Various development tools and programming environments have tried to provide HyperCard like "software construction kits" over the years: Adobe's Flash, open source HTML & JavaScript, Google's Blocky are just three that come to mind. All of these tools start out simple but eventually grow into digital jungles of complexity that lock out amateurs and grade school kids alike. You don't find many 10-year-olds or school teachers writing W3C compliant HTML5 web applications.

But the original motivations that inspired Bill Atkinson to create HyperCard are more relevant than ever: In the future there will be two kinds of people: Those who use computers and those who are used by computers. I do not need to remind you that The Future is already here.

If you developed a stack or two way back when, I'd love to hear about your experiences or what you would do if something like HyperCard was available today.