Hypercard! The Software Tool of Tomorrow!

Encouraging people to write & submit new Hypercard stacks. Which, as a retro-tech challenge, I think is great. But. How about first having a decent modern Hypercard environment?

Why not? There's the classic John Gruber hit piece Why Hypercard Failed:

"Apple PR says it's a dead product so it doesn't matter if you like it! I like the Yankees who are also a bullshit PR project!"
—semantic analysis of all Gruber's posts produced this summary.

Stanislav (not a pleasant or generally useful person to me, but perhaps correct for once), had a different read of Why Hypercard Had to Die:

The reason for this is that HyperCard is an echo of a different world.  One where the distinction between the “use” and “programming” of a computer has been weakened and awaits near-total erasure.  A world where the personal computer is a mind-amplifier, and not merely an expensive video telephone.  A world in which Apple’s walled garden aesthetic has no place.

Apple did have a near-Hypercard tool, Dashcode, which was slightly more technical but not much; it auto-generated placeholder functions and you'd fill them in with JS and use local storage as your database. They never fully supported it, killed it, and pushed Xcode instead, which is like giving kids a backfiring nailgun with no safety instead of a plastic hammer. Now they're ludicrously trying to teach kids BDSM Swift with the lldb debugger repackaged as "Playgrounds". I feel so sad for a kid whose first experience of programming is 100s of "unable to satisfy template constraint" errors; that's some hard unyielding playground equipment there.

There's a few modern variants, but nothing I know of that works:

  • Uli Kusterer's Stacksmith is unfinished, has no binary download or web site, and the build instructions are very pro-dev. Last time I tried it I couldn't get it to build, so…
  • SuperCard is $180/$280. Ha ha… uh, no.
  • HyperNext Studio is based on RealBASIC, and is free, but rarely updated. Does not run classic Hypercard stacks.

So everyone just gives up and uses emulation, because making a new Hypercard is impossible. If you're going to do that, do it the easy way:

9 thoughts on “Hypercard! The Software Tool of Tomorrow!”

  1. @mdhughes I am consistently amazed each time this comes up. There may be a viable product here. Once upon a time, I was part of a team that tried to create a web version of HyperCard (tilestack.com). We didn't make it for ... reasons, but I keep wondering if we were on to something.

  2. I remember being really impressed with Hypercard, but becoming quickly disenchanted when I attempted to get it to do anything. I need to work with simple arrays and spent hours with obscure errors because I couldn't just access a data element. It looked teasingly like English, but had an undocumented syntax that was completely non-intuitive. I did manage to get few simple things working, but decided to avoid even trying to use Hypercard for any real project.

    To be honest, it had all the disadvantages of AppleScript, the undocumented syntax, the almost, but not quite English look and feel, a wonderful facility for setting up a GUI but an almost complete inability to actual do anything useful behind the curtain. At least AppleScript lets me build applications by banging together other applications, so the trial and error how to I get the second element in a list problem often winds up being worth it.

    Apple tried releasing a GUI building front end for their database product. No one used it. No one liked it. It was a lot like Hypercard, but had comprehensible syntax and semantics. Apple killed it too.

  3. @smokey Yeah, Cyan used HyperCard for all their early storybook games, up to the original Mac release of Myst; they rewrote it in a native player for Windows.

  4. @mdhughes I also remember being amazed learning that summer that our university system’s BBS was HyperCard, as well as some expansive games (Myst?), which another guy in the class played.

  5. @mdhughes I learned a little HyperCard on a whim in a summer program before my senior year in HS, and I ended up using HyperCard for all sorts of projects that year (people were amazed). It was fantastic, and I continue to miss it—though by now I remember zero HyperTalk. I really should spin up an emulator so I can play with the old stacks, though.

  6. @mdhughes ++ the Gruber summary cracked me up.

    At this point, I’m afraid our best hope will come from the Sketch/React brogramming crowd building prototype tools.

  7. @mdhughes What can I say, I still miss HyperCard and probably once each month I think "This would would be perfect for a HC stack" - small utility programs where I need a basic UI, noting fancy, nothing special but I useful automation tool for me.

  8. @johnjohnston Yeah, but LiveCode's also not HC-compatible, and more pro-dev than HyperNext. SuperCard's pricing is like Delphi now: They know they have old customers by the balls and prefer to squeeze those than grow.

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