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The Apple program which defined scripting and authoring, and let anyone program their computer.
Article 1 of 16 in series
After what seemed like forever to those of us who use HyperCard, Apple released version 2.0. We'll assume that if you are reading TidBITS, you understand more or less what HyperCard can do and how hard it is to pin down its abilitiesShow full article
After what seemed like forever to those of us who use HyperCard, Apple released version 2.0. We'll assume that if you are reading TidBITS, you understand more or less what HyperCard can do and how hard it is to pin down its abilities. Apparently, most 1.2.x stacks should convert to 2.0 without a hitch, although some externals may have problems.
The feature list, which is what you've all been waiting for, includes the following:
Variable card sizes from one square inch to 18 square inches.
Multiple windows, multiple fonts, sizes, and styles within a single text field.
Hot text (i.e. sticky buttons) implemented with three new HyperTalk functions, clickText, clickLine, and clickChunk, and a new text style.
Better printing capabilities.
Faster, more powerful HyperTalk environment that can run in the background under MultiFinder and includes a modeless script editor, a run-time compiler, and debugging tools.
Menu bar support and modeless dialogs
HyperCard 2.0 should be available in early July. The software alone is free and is available from the usual places such as user groups and dealers. If you want the manuals, it costs $49.95.
Apple Press Release
MacWEEK -- 08-May-90, Vol. 4 #18, pg. 1
Article 2 of 16 in series
The Top 10 Reasons HyperCard 2.0 Has Not Yet Shipped Disclaimer: It's all lies. Lies lies lies. These lies are fictitious. Any similarity to actual lies, fibs, or prevarications is purely coincidental. These lies are the property of the HyperCard Development TeamShow full article
The Top 10 Reasons HyperCard 2.0 Has Not Yet Shipped
Disclaimer: It's all lies. Lies lies lies.
These lies are fictitious. Any similarity to actual lies, fibs, or prevarications is purely coincidental.
These lies are the property of the HyperCard Development Team. Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or use of the pictures, descriptions, and accounts of these lies without the express written consent of the HyperCard Development Team would really be a bad thing, and in poor taste too.
Additional Disclaimer: These are last month's lies. This month's lies are very different.
10. Bill left without telling us how it worked.
9. We were saving it as a going-away present for Jean-Louis.
8. It took months to get the color out after we discovered that the manuals didn't mention it.
7. We introduced it at the annual developers' conference, and we thought there was a rule that says that anything you introduce at a developers' conference you can't ship until after the next developers' conference.
6. Bowling shirts just take longer than T-shirts.
5. For most of us, it was a great way to avoid sweltering in Boston in August.
4. It took months to devise all those phony seed releases, with all those phony bugs, which we were doing only as a clever ruse, of course.
3. Nobody told us you were supposed to finish the thing first.
2. Howard Spira had his money on System 7.0.
1. We couldn't ship until we had tested it with the new Macintosh LX, the one with the impressive performance, quiet ride, and distinctive styling, all for under $25,000. See your dealer today.
Kevin Calhoun -- email@example.com
Article 3 of 16 in series
A reader recently commented that it would be great if we could provide short abstracts with the titles in the distribution files (for those of us who can't sight-read either Binhex or StuffIt format :-))Show full article
A reader recently commented that it would be great if we could provide short abstracts with the titles in the distribution files (for those of us who can't sight-read either Binhex or StuffIt format :-)). We unfortunately had to reject his suggestion because writing abstracts for such short articles is kind of odd anyway, and TidBITS only takes about three minutes to download at 2400 baud one way or another. We could do so with the knowledge that the distribution files for TidBITS II will be human-readable, thus eliminating our reader's problem.
The title of this article, though, says it all. Apple transferred responsibility for the development, marketing, distribution, and support of HyperCard to Claris, effective in November. For those of you keeping score, this would seem to mean that HyperCard is no longer considered System Software, which is distributed solely by Apple. On the other hand, with Claris firmly in hand as a wholly-owned subsidiary, Apple can farm out anything it wants to Claris without fear of competition or leaks (short of the usual ones that supply MacWEEK's Mac the Knife with rumor fodder each week).
Two features of the press release were ominous though. The first one was a sentence that reads "The first broad US distribution of the new HyperCard 2.0 ... will be a Claris product." This would imply, at face value, that HyperCard will not be available until November. However, the press release does say that a version of HyperCard will continue to be shipped with all new Macs (thanks to Bill Atkinson for specifying that originally). We hope that Apple will ship HyperCard 2.0 with the new Macs being introduced in mid-October, but it's hard to tell since the hold-ups seem to be political in part, rather than just technical setbacks. Another indication of this is that the HyperCard engineers have started posting more frequently on Usenet. The second ominous part of the press release was the part that said "A complete HyperCard 2.0 authoring system, necessary for developing stacks, will be sold by Claris." Combined with the bit about a version shipping with new Macs, this implies that there would be two versions of HyperCard, one that was read-only version and another that allowed authoring (much like ToolBook). The good news? There will be only ONE version of HyperCard. The press release is misleading and poorly worded, and thanks to Chuq Von Rospach for clearing this up on the nets. The main difference will be that the bundled version will be set at a low user level (so novices cannot mess anything up inadvertently) and the procedure for switching to a higher user level will be hidden. The positive side of this is that Claris will presumably be distributing useful developer tools with the commercial version and developer tools are what made HyperCard popular by greatly extending its abilities. Claris will also provide developer support, which is always nice to have around in a pinch.
As long as Apple continues to provide a full working version of HyperCard with every Macintosh for free, we see no problems with the transfer to Claris. In some ways now, Claris is little more than another Apple division, albeit one with a name recognizable in the market and the staff and structure to develop and sell software. Perhaps Claris will be better than Apple about getting stuff out the door as well. :-) The free distribution policy was key in HyperCard's popularity, though it did bias the market against commercial stacks. The only way HyperCard will disappear now is if it can be completely supplanted by Apple's planned system scripting language, and we refuse to even hazard a guess as to when that will show its face.
Apple Computer -- 408/974-3019
Claris -- 408/987-7202 -- 408/987-7534
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Chuq Von Rospach -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Wilkins -- wilkins@jarthur.Claremont.EDU
David Emery -- email@example.com
Jeanne a. e. Devoto -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Article 4 of 16 in series
Apple's decision to transfer HyperCard to Claris may or may not have been the best choice, but it has fostered confusion about who gets what where why and howShow full article
Apple's decision to transfer HyperCard to Claris may or may not have been the best choice, but it has fostered confusion about who gets what where why and how. Got that? Good.
Here's the deal. A stripped-down version of the HyperCard distribution comes with every Mac. By stripped-down I mean that you don't get much with it - HyperCard itself, Home, and an Address and Phone stack. The HyperCard program is fully functional, but has been temporarily limited to the lower user levels. It's easy to get back to the scripting level, though, just type "set userLevel to 5" in the message box, then add that same line to the "on startUp" handler in the stack script. Other suggestions have circulated recently, though I tried the rumored technique of typing MAGIC in the message box, and it didn't work at all. If you don't know about stack scripts, startUp handlers, and the like, don't worry about it, it's not a big deal.
If you're a serious HyperCard programmer, you'll probably want the full Claris distribution of HyperCard (which I presume does not come set to userLevel 2). The Claris version is more extensive and comes on four disks. Goodies include items such as manuals, a HyperTalk Reference stack, and a Power Tools stack. I haven't seen the entire thing yet, but the tools are welcome. Most were available previously from shareware or public domain sources, but it's nice to have them provided from day one. It's $49 from Claris and you can order your very own copy by calling 800/628-2100 (at least in the U.S. - no international number was given, sorry). Operators are standing by. :-)
Once you've got HyperCard and the stacks and manuals, you may wish to purchase one of the voluminous manuals that seem to go so well with HyperCard. Danny Goodman has updated his "The Complete HyperCard Handbook" and the general consensus on Usenet says that it is still good for someone who is just learning HyperCard but isn't a very good reference manual. More for the serious user is Dan Winkler and Scot Kamins's "HyperCard 2.0, The Book," which is supposedly the final word on the subject. Other books exist too, but I haven't heard much about them yet. Sooner or later I'll make it to the bookstore to check these things out, but time is dear these days.
Some final information that Kevin Calhoun kindly posted and which I thought would be useful is what version of HyperCard gets along with which version of the system. Kevin posted a nice chart of the possibilities, but it boils down to the following. Use HyperCard 1.2.2 only with System 6.0.3. Use HyperCard 1.2.5 only with System 6.0.4 or 6.0.5. Use HyperCard 2.0 only with System 6.0.5 or 6.0.7. Experience has shown that 2.0 will not run with system software lower than 6.0.5, but the consequences for disobeying the rest of the rules are unclear because for months now, one of us ran 1.2.2 under System 6.0.5 and the other ran 1.2.5 under 6.0.3 with no apparent problems. Probably causes tooth decay or something, though neither of us have any cavities yet.
Claris -- 800/628-2100
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS Editor
Kevin Calhoun -- email@example.com
Article 5 of 16 in series
Yes folks, the epic tale of confusion continues. We just saw a press release from Claris and there are not one, not two, but three different releases of HyperCard 2.0Show full article
Yes folks, the epic tale of confusion continues. We just saw a press release from Claris and there are not one, not two, but three different releases of HyperCard 2.0. Don't worry, though, the HyperCard program is exactly the same among the three. If you're anything like us or other people on Usenet, you want to know what comes with each package. This wasn't made clear in the Claris press release (where do they get these press writers, anyway?). First the brouhaha when they announced that there would be two versions of HyperCard and forgot to mention that they would be the same program, and now this). Luckily for all of us, Kevin Calhoun, the HyperCard project leader checked into it and clarified the matter.
Here's the deal as of Monday, 03-Dec-90 at 15:49. I'm not making any guesses as to what will change by tomorrow, but I'll have sent out this issue by then (yes, we work on a flexibly tight deadline). Package #1 of HyperCard is the one that everyone who buys a new Mac gets, which is the HyperCard 2.0 program, three stacks, and a wimp 35-page manual. This version is set to the Typing level of access, but that can be changed.
Package #2 of HyperCard is the $49 upgrade kit, which includes five disks, the same wimp 35-page manual, a 600-odd page HyperTalk guide. You're paying for that last manual and the telephone support, but it's probably a good reference book - the previous one for HyperCard 1.x was quite good. Claris says the upgrade kit won't ship until around Christmas.
Package #3, the Development Kit, includes Package #2 and as a special bonus it has three more manuals, "Getting Started With HyperCard," "The HyperCard Reference Guide," and "Beginners' Guide to Scripting." Supposedly, the upgrade is the differential between the complete HyperCard 1.x and the Development Kit, which is aimed at people who are interested in programming in HyperCard but have never done so before. Of course, the Development Kit costs $199 and won't be out until February of '91, so it's probably cheaper to order the upgrade and buy a third party book that teaches HyperCard programming for $30, saving yourself $125 or so in the process.
Claris -- 800/628-2100
Kevin Calhoun -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Bushnell -- HyperCard Product Specialist at Claris
Article 6 of 16 in series
And TidBITS doesn't have it! I just checked all of the HyperCard stacks on my hard drive with the free "Find HyperVirus 1.3" stack from macclub benelux, the official Macintosh Users' Group of Holland (where the virus was first reported), Belgium, and Luxembourg, and it doesn't exist in any TidBITS stacksShow full article
And TidBITS doesn't have it! I just checked all of the HyperCard stacks on my hard drive with the free "Find HyperVirus 1.3" stack from macclub benelux, the official Macintosh Users' Group of Holland (where the virus was first reported), Belgium, and Luxembourg, and it doesn't exist in any TidBITS stacks. Phew.
So what is this virus? It appears (note that I haven't seen a copy yet) that it is one of the first of the HyperCard script viruses, if not the first (I haven't seen the Dukakis virus either). I gather that the virus takes advantage of HyperCard's message passing to install itself in stacks whenever possible. No ill effects have been reported, although one of its scripts plays the song "Muss i denn zum Staedtele hinaus..." which might or might not be an ill effect, depending on your musical tastes. (Do you get the impression that I'm doing this all completely second and third hand and don't quite know what I'm talking about? Good, because that's what's happening.)
I haven't heard of any of the major virus checking programs other than SAM (and Virex, eventually) changing to find and delete this new virus, probably because it would be extremely difficult to detect and remove any HyperTalk script that could be construed as a virus. I recommend either using the definition below if you own SAM 3.0 (2.0 can't find it because it doesn't have a data definitions entry dialog) or finding the free Find HyperVirus 1.3 stack from macclub benelux at your local purveyor of free and useful software.
Paul Cozza, SAM's author, posted this virus definition for SAM 3.0.
Open the Data Definitions dialog in SAM 3.0 Virus Clinic by choosing "Add Definition (Data)" from the Definitions menu. Then enter the following information:Virus Name: HC Virus
File Type: STAK
Search String pop-up menu: ASCII
Search String text field: if char 1 to 2 of LookAtDate <11
The string in the Search String text field above is an ASCII string. Blank areas between words are spaces. The string IS case sensitive.
As a guard against incorrect entry, SAM 3.0 has a "Check field" in the Definitions dialog boxes. If all of the above information is entered correctly, then your check field should be A0BD.
Symantec -- 408/253-9600
Microcom -- 919/490-1277
MacWEEK -- 16-Apr-91, Vol. 5, #15, pg. 17
Article 7 of 16 in series
I appear to have opened an intellectual can of worms in TidBITS-102 with my comparison of HyperCard and QuickTime and my statement that HyperCard was, in some respects, a commercial failureShow full article
I appear to have opened an intellectual can of worms in TidBITS-102 with my comparison of HyperCard and QuickTime and my statement that HyperCard was, in some respects, a commercial failure. That article provoked an extremely interesting and enlightening discussion with Kevin Calhoun, who was Apple's lead engineer for HyperCard 2.0 and 2.1, and with Mike Holm, who has been the HyperCard Product Manager since 1987.
I have received several other lengthy editorials on the subject of HyperCard and its success, and I'm pleased to announce that we will be putting together a special HyperCard retrospective issue to be released this summer when HyperCard celebrates its fifth birthday. That issue will explore what HyperCard truly is, where it has come from, where it is going, how it has succeeded and how it has failed, and in the same way that HyperCard itself has appealed to numerous different types of people, the issue will feature opinions from the famous and the not-yet-famous alike. However, you'll have to wait until this summer for that issue, and Kevin asked that I publish his reply to my controversial statements right away since he feels HyperCard is just starting to come into its own now.
Kevin Calhoun writes...
In TidBITS #102, you write that Voyager's Expanded Books are "one of the few commercial programs to use HyperCard." In my view, this is the kind of observation that can only be made by a person who's not paying attention! Let me point out some products that you've so far failed to notice.
ABC News Interactive offers more than half a dozen interactive videodiscs titles with HyperCard-based software. Warner New Media now has four titles in their series of Audio Notes, with the latest, "The Orchestra," released just last week. There are thirteen titles in Voyager's Video Companion series, four in their CD Companion Series, and three in their brand new series of Expanded Books. Stackware offerings are the cream of the crop among the CD-ROM products for Macintosh, with titles such as "Exotic Japan," "Baseball's Greatest Hits," "Anatomist," "Cosmic Osmo," and "The Manhole", in addition to the various series of CD-ROM offerings I've already mentioned.
Momentum behind these products appears to be building. Over the last six months, Voyager has released 14 new products; 11 of them are based on HyperCard. At the Macworld Exposition recently held in San Francisco, they sold out of their complete stock of two of their Expanded Books, 1000 copies of each in less than four days. They already have plans for dozens of additional titles for the series.
The biggest names in the industry - Microsoft, Claris, Lotus, and Apple - all provide online help in the form of HyperCard stacks. Yes, that's right: Microsoft Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 Macintosh, ClarisWorks, and Apple System Software 7, among others, are all products that use HyperCard.
And, of course, there are the dozens and dozens of high-quality non-commercial stacks that have been developed by university professors, corporate training departments, hobbyists, etc., and that cover a remarkably broad range of topics, from vegetarian recipes to Renault auto parts.
Most of the earliest software that includes QuickTime-based content has been developed in HyperCard, including "Baseball's Greatest Hits" and Apple's own "Apple Intro News." And by the way, this is a phenomenon that has occurred over and over again: whenever new multimedia capabilities become available to Macintosh, such as sound input, control of external video sources, and now QuickTime, they are often applied effectively for the first time within HyperCard stackware.
Elsewhere in TidBITS #102, you write, "Because there's no market around HyperCard, it's languishing at Claris and everyone is sitting around trying to figure out what to do with it." I think you should look again. Ask Nikki Yokokura, author of "Exotic Japan," if she is just "sitting around." Or ask Steve Riggins, chief propeller-head at Voyager, if he's still "trying to figure out what to do" with HyperCard. In my view, HyperCard is already one of the most useful and most widely used electronic publishing tools yet devised, and it has spawned a healthy number of impressive commercial products.
In your comparison of QuickTime and HyperCard, you write, "QuickTime is like HyperCard." This is not the case. QuickTime is a technology that will be incorporated into applications by software developers; HyperCard is a development tool that allows people like you and me to become software developers, so that we can apply technologies like QuickTime in ways of our own.
Mike Holm adds...
Kevin, good volley on the TidBITS article. There is a market around HyperCard, not only of products like those from Voyager or other interactive media publishers, but development tools as well. Just ask Ray Heizer or some others. We added a ten page supplement of new and updated products to the HyperCard Resource Guide handed out at Macworld. The thing to understand is that the overall market for development tools on the Mac is small to begin with, and HyperCard is perhaps the biggest fish in that small pond. The other thing to keep in mind is that HyperCard increased by a factor of four or five the number of people creating software on Macs over the last four years. This is a non-trivial number (low six figures), and one that IBM, Sun, and Microsoft all envy.
I restricted my comments about commercial stackware to just the one category of content-based software because that happens to be the category that interests me most and because it has recently begun to grow at a remarkable rate. I left out such things as Danny Goodman's new product, Connections, which had a very good review locally in the San Jose Mercury News. Perhaps it would be valuable to gather a list of all currently available commercial HyperCard-based products from TidBITS readers.
By the way, I object very strongly to the bias that software content is inherently less valuable than software functionality. This bias is reflected by the present lack of balance in the software market, which is full of whiz-bang file compression utilities but still short on engaging software content.
I like to think of things this way: a laserdisc or a videotape is software that contains a movie. An audio CD is software that contains music. The Oxford English Dictionary is now contained in software, after all these years, as is the full collection of the Louvre. When a large software library that contains such things becomes cheaply and conveniently available for Macintosh in a compelling interactive form, together with additional digital amenities, will today's critics of HyperCard tell us that they won't be happy until the library also includes a sufficient number of best-selling tools for toggling their bundle bits?
As for me, I think that content is the future of software. I'm looking forward to the day when there are software houses as large and high-rolling as yesterday's movie studios, with pomp and prestige and high production values, that turn out the equivalents of "Citizen Kane" and Tristram Shandy and "The Civil War" for software.
And Adam replies... -- You both make some good points here, especially about a field that I have been unable to watch due to lack of a CD-ROM drive. I think in part what I was getting at is that HyperCard is an incredible and flexible tool, but the primary stacks that have succeeded in the market are those that provide information, as do most of the examples. Of all people, I certainly cannot denigrate software content - after all, what is TidBITS but content? - but at the same time, we must recognize that both content and functionality have their place. I suspect that some of the tension here arises from the price differential - Microsoft can charge $495 for Word 5.0, but Voyager only charges $19.95 for their Expanded Book version of Douglas Adams's entire four book Hitchhikers Trilogy, a literary feat which took him a heck of a lot longer to put together.
Please also note that I have never implied that HyperCard as a product is a failure; merely that the type of commercial market that was anticipated by some after the initial release has not materialized. My fear is more that without the support of a commercial market (which perhaps Voyager and the others are providing in this respect) and with the confusing marketing policies surrounding it, HyperCard may cease to be a development platform of choice for the individual or may even disappear entirely, which I feel would be a tragic loss to Macintosh users, and even more broadly, to the entire computer community.
Maybe some of my worry about HyperCard relates to the trouble Apple had defining it early on; the term "software erector set" comes to mind. I imagined using that erector set to build castles, forts, bridges, and Rube Goldberg machines, but all that I see surviving on the commercial market are plain houses, albeit extremely nicely designed ones with interesting furnishings, if I'm not stretching my allusion too far. However, in the course of this discussion, I've come to realize that HyperCard's developers have always seen HyperCard as a tool for the individual (not as competition for MPW C) and as a launchpad for electronic publishing, one that I certainly took advantage of with the first 99 issues of TidBITS. My feelings that HyperCard had failed stem in this case from inappropriate expectations, supported as they may have been by mediocre marketing, and in fact from mistakes I made with that original TidBITS stack considering my means of distribution.
HyperCard and QuickTime -- I think my perhaps-too-subtle comparison of QuickTime and HyperCard wasn't sufficiently explained. I see them both as technologies that Apple created, developed, and marketed, albeit in different ways. Obviously HyperCard is a tool while QuickTime is an extension to the system, but my point was that if run-time read-and-link-only HyperCard had been created and marketed as a system extension, then the same sort of market that has sprung up around QuickTime would have sprung up around HyperCard, perhaps encouraging some of the more varied uses of HyperCard that haven't appeared or survived in the commercial market while not restricting the information publishers in any way.
HyperCard and Claris -- Finally, my statement, "Because there's no market around HyperCard, it's languishing at Claris and everyone is sitting around trying to figure out what to do with it," was poorly written, which accounts for the answer Kevin gave above. Users and developers have absolutely no trouble figuring out what do with HyperCard; just look at the gigabytes of stacks available as freeware or shareware. I should have said "and everyone there [at Claris] is sitting around trying to figure out what to do with it." I've heard rumors that the HyperCard team was facing some internal difficulties that were slowing development on 3.0, and it's obvious from the confusing upgrades and developers' kits and hardware bundles that the marketing folks are having trouble positioning HyperCard effectively. Something must be done, either internally between Apple and Claris, or through the creation of a free HyperCard Engine, to ensure that everyone can always use these stacks.
My sincere thanks to Kevin and Mike for participating and for providing such fascinating material for TidBITS. I'm sure that many of you will have immediate reactions to the opinions here, and if you wish to write a coherently-argued article supporting your opinions, send it to me and I'll consider it for inclusion in our HyperCard retrospective issue (but I can't guarantee I'll publish everything).
Article 8 of 16 in series
Apple has announced that, as of 14-Sep-92, it has begun shipping new Macintosh computers with a run-time "HyperCard 2.1 Player" program in place of the more-functional HyperCard 2.1 software that has shipped with all Macs since last fallShow full article
Apple has announced that, as of 14-Sep-92, it has begun shipping new Macintosh computers with a run-time "HyperCard 2.1 Player" program in place of the more-functional HyperCard 2.1 software that has shipped with all Macs since last fall. The company's license from Claris to distribute HyperCard itself expires on 30-Sep-92.
The Performa line, available through consumer retail outlets rather than dealers, is the first group of Macintosh computers to include the new HyperCard 2.1 Player software, which includes the player application, a special Home stack, and a Read Me file but no sample stacks or a manual. By the end of the month, Apple expects all computers in their inventory to include the new software in place of the full HyperCard version.
For Macintosh models of which a floppy-only configuration is available, such as the Quadra family and the IIci, a HyperCard 2.1 Player floppy disk will come with the system. Other CPUs will only include the software pre-installed on the internal hard drive.
New Macintosh purchasers who want the complete HyperCard package in order to develop their own stacks will still be able to purchase Claris's HyperCard Development Kit, which retails for $199. Most Apple dealers sell this kit.
Apple's research has shown that most people who use the free copy of HyperCard that came with their Macs simply use stacks that other programmers have designed, and Apple feels that few people will be affected by this change. While we feel that this may limit the number and variety of nifty stacks generated by "average Mac users," it does make sense not to force all Macintosh purchasers to pay for something that only a few use. (The same logic applied to Apple's decision to introduce the Macintosh IIsi with a single expansion slot, after they learned that most users of three-slot and six-slot machines only filled one anyway.) If Apple did not include the new HyperCard Player with the machines, we would complain vociferously... but this seems to be a good compromise.
Claris -- 800/544-8554 -- 408/987-7000
Article 9 of 16 in series
A month or so ago, a friend implored me to try and find the dirt on what was happening with HyperCard. I hadn't heard much of anything in a long time, which meant to me that the program was dying a slow and unnecessary deathShow full article
A month or so ago, a friend implored me to try and find the dirt on what was happening with HyperCard. I hadn't heard much of anything in a long time, which meant to me that the program was dying a slow and unnecessary death. Late last week Apple announced that HyperCard would have a new lease on life - on the Apple campus.
Apple plans to merge future versions of HyperCard into the AppleScript environment, something which should go over well with potential AppleScript users. Heizer Software probably won't be pleased to hear that their forthcoming front end to AppleScript will compete with HyperCard instead of just an Apple event-based interface environment from UserLand for Frontier scripts.
AppleScript will offer control and integration of the Macintosh environment via a scripting language that works with Apple events. Even though AppleScript has been talked about for years, and shown publicly for six months, it has yet to appear in a form that most people can use. Apple has scheduled AppleScript for release in the first half of 1993. By using HyperCard (or at least the ideas embodied in HyperCard) as the front end for AppleScript, Apple benefits both AppleScript and HyperCard. AppleScript needed a better scripting interface, and as Frontier proved, only wireheads can conceptualize the abstract Apple event links between programs. With HyperCard providing an interface for those links, the conceptualization should become much easier for the average user. As far as HyperCard goes, it will appreciate the relative freedom of being released from Claris's stable of productivity applications, where it never fit in. Although Apple made no noises about bundling a full HyperCard with new Macs again, and I doubt AppleScript will ship with all versions of System 7.1, there's still a sense that HyperCard is in some way back where it belongs. The world is safe for stacks again.
On a related note, I've heard that Aldus is busy drafting a statement on the fate of SuperCard, the HyperCard-clone produced by Silicon Beach Software before Aldus purchased the company. No news on what the word will be, but something is definitely happening there. SuperCard has never quite fit with Aldus's product line, which is interesting given that Aldus portrays itself as a communication company, and perhaps the primary use of SuperCard, and HyperCard for that matter, is communicating information on screen, much as does Persuasion, Aldus's presentation package.
Claris will continue to market, sell, and support the current version of HyperCard until Apple comes out with a new version sometime later this year. At that point, HyperCard will again become an Apple-labeled product, although I should note that in France and possibly other countries, Apple never stopped selling HyperCard. Response from users and others was extremely positive - Kevin Calhoun of the HyperCard team said only "Personally, I'm delighted." but declined to say more because he was so busy with the transition and catching up with email about the move, most of which, he said, was "very, very positive." Seeing Apple do things like this and the MODE32 deal restores one's faith in the company. We may not always like what Apple does, but it seems that they do listen, albeit with the speed of a corporate tortoise.
Article 10 of 16 in series
by Matt Neuburg
[Note: this review was greatly improved thanks to corrections and insights from Kevin Calhoun, HyperCard 2.2 team leader. Other sources: Danny Goodman, "The Complete HyperCard 2.0 Handbook;" Doug Clapp (ed.), "The Macintosh Reader;" Frank Rose, "West of Eden."] HyperCard 2.2 is here! HyperCard was what chiefly convinced me to buy my first Mac; I still regard it as the neatest, most useful, most generous program ever conceivedShow full article
[Note: this review was greatly improved thanks to corrections and insights from Kevin Calhoun, HyperCard 2.2 team leader. Other sources: Danny Goodman, "The Complete HyperCard 2.0 Handbook;" Doug Clapp (ed.), "The Macintosh Reader;" Frank Rose, "West of Eden."]
HyperCard 2.2 is here! HyperCard was what chiefly convinced me to buy my first Mac; I still regard it as the neatest, most useful, most generous program ever conceived. Generous because it was originally given away free (no more, alas!); generous because it lets you program the Mac yourself, easily and powerfully.
HyperCard History -- HyperCard came to life in 1987 as a brainchild of Bill Atkinson. If you love the Mac, you should worship Bill Atkinson. Anyhow, I do. Apple Employee #31 (from 1978), he pushed for Apple Pascal (I loved it), then for Steve Jobs's famous visit to Xerox PARC (which inspired the Mac); he solved the problem of "regions" (thus creating QuickDraw), designed and wrote MacPaint (which helped define the Mac), and was made an Apple Fellow.
As with everything that goes on at Apple, there's a secret history of HyperCard's evolution that may never be told; certainly I don't know it, but must be content with hints and myths which have themselves become part of its mystique. It seems that Apple originally wanted to promulgate MacBasic to let ordinary folks program the Mac, as Microsoft Basic had for the Apple II, but Bill Gates balked. Meanwhile Atkinson had been working on HyperCard (then called WildCard), built around four elements:
buttons to push
text fields to type into or click on
screens ("cards") containing buttons and text fields plus graphics
the capacity to set up automatic "links" to take you from one card to another
This fourth element, still residually present (e.g., in the LinkTo button of the Button Info dialog), was subsequently expanded into an easy programming language - HyperTalk, created by Dan Winkler. Besides letting you calculate, manipulate variables, loop and test, and do all the other things you expect from a programming language, HyperTalk includes system messages reporting user actions, commands to simulate them, and functions and "properties" to obtain and alter the state of the interface and the machine. The implementation grows out of Atkinson's and Winkler's expertise in graphics and programming; but there is also a spirit of organizing and sharing information (fields and graphics, and the hypertext-ish act of clicking on a button or word to see a new card), plus a sense of giving control to the user since HyperTalk puts some of the Mac's functionality and behaviour into easy reach.
That spirit was instantly embraced by the world that received HyperCard bundled with the Mac from '87 to '91. I wonder whether any application has ever promoted so tangible an ethos, or been so transformed and enlivened by users' originality and enthusiasm. You can program the Mac; you can give the stack to others, and it's simple to use - hence educators (like me) went nuts about it. You acquire a stack someone else has written: you look inside it, see what makes it tick, modify it. Plus, HyperCard is extensible: you can attach XCMDs and XFCNs to extend its functionality, and people who could program the Mac's guts in "real" languages like Pascal and C distributed numerous XCMDs and XFCNs over the nets for all to enjoy. Many XCMDs were so useful that their functions were incorporated into later versions of HyperCard.
But according to legend, HyperCard spirit has not been universally understood at Apple. There is a tale of how Atkinson threatened to give HyperCard away himself if Apple wouldn't bundle it. There are stories of Chris Espinosa and John Sculley having to push for its original release. Perhaps there was resistance to the idea of giving away for free an application that essentially let users write their own applications; certainly there was enough fear that the idea of "programming" would repel users that Apple gave it the euphemistic name "scripting." Fortunately, as Atkinson bowed out of the scene, others who shared the vision remained and new ones, notably Kevin Calhoun, came on board, and HyperCard 2.0 and 2.1, in '90 and '91, were gems. After 2.1, though, apparently came a terrible period where HyperCard went to Claris and nearly died, then came back to Apple where it remained endangered.
Happily, HyperCard has survived to become 2.2, thanks in part, I presume, to AppleScript, which has been incorporated into it. To read the press release gobbledygook, you'd think corporate Apple still doesn't grasp just what HyperCard is; it's billed as an "application development platform" letting you create "customized software solutions," an "optimal choice for commercial solution providers." The HyperCard heart, though, beats healthy as ever; its evolution has been no mean spiritual and technical feat, and users have much to be grateful for.
Improvements and Enhancements -- Version 2.2's improvements over 2.1 are many - mostly small tweaks to remove annoying shortcomings. 2.2 has nicer report printing; movable modal dialogs; Select All works in the Message box ; many limits (number of open windows, number of open stacks) are raised or removed. Sorting and finding are more powerful; date format conversion is better; doMenu can take modifier keys; and "there is" can check for disks, applications, documents, and card pictures. System messages, properties, and functions have been added to give handlers important, previously unavailable information: whether the menubar is showing, what the user is doing to the card window, where we're going in leaving this stack. There is better menuItem info, more convenient reference syntax. WorldScript is supported. At last you can determine the layering order of fields and buttons via a new property, "the partNumber." Clearly the HyperCard team listens to users and are serious users themselves.
More major changes make it easier to conform to the Mac Thought Police style. Radio buttons now automatically work in sets. Buttons can be disabled, and can be in standard Mac style. Simple pop-up buttons are now a standard feature, with an interesting by-product that a button can now be a container. Fields can more easily act like scrolling lists. Objects can be double-clicked.
Finally, a stack can now be saved as an application! The resulting application is essentially HyperCard itself (it's huge, and no faster than running under HyperCard), but it works, even if you "start using" or "go to" other stacks, and sure beats the hated HyperCard Player.
QuickTime -- HyperCard 2.2 supports QuickTime via the Movie XCMD and the MovieInfo XFCN. The Movie XCMD puts up a movie window, in any of several styles, with or without a controller; you can manipulate the movie from a handler, or let the user do it with the controller. Many features of the movie can be manipulated, with a number of valuable messages and a callback feature. A utility stack installs the XCMD for you and simplifies setting up a movie window.
Color -- HyperCard 2.0 introduced color "picture" windows, and you could click in them, but they weren't true cards; and true cards (with buttons, fields, graphics) were strictly black and white. Integrated color was a much hoped-for feature that Claris was reportedly working on for its abortive 2.5 version, but it was found to be too cumbersome. Now 2.2 provides a compromise, with a colorizing XCMD and a utility stack to ease the process of adding color.
You can color buttons and fields and add colored rectangular areas to cards; select or create the object, and click on a color. Each object has a solid color and can have a beveled edge of adjustable thickness. You can also display full color PICTs as part of the card. You dictate the layering order of the color items, and you can use over 25 transition effects as you apply color. The utility stack installs the XCMD, and modifies your handlers and gives your stack a database of permanently colored objects, so that color automatically appears. Color seems part of the card: moving the card or switching stacks presents no problems or major delay (unlike earlier third-party colorizers). You can also control the XCMD yourself, so that color objects can change in interesting ways as part of a handler: a button could suddenly become colored, a rectangular region of the card could change colors with a transition effect, and so on.
I have seen this system criticized on the nets as a kludge, but I find it ingenious. However, I was at first overwhelmed by the spectacular appearance of the Color Tools stack, and thought, "Wow, colored buttons and fields look like this?!?" But then I found that the stack's effects are achieved almost entirely with PICTs. If you want great looking objects you'll need to draw them yourself with a graphics application.
Inter-Application Communications -- The most sweeping change in HyperCard 2.2 lies in communicating with other programs. HyperCard has long been a leader here; even before MultiFinder, you could use HyperCard to launch another application, and return when it quit. Basic support for Apple events arrived in 2.1; HyperCard could easily send and respond to the required suite plus doScript and evaluateExpression, and could be made to dissect and reply to any Apple event.
Now, however, HyperCard accepts some 150 different events, operating on 17 kinds of objects and their properties; it is thus scriptable, and you can control HyperCard from AppleScript or any other Apple event-sending mechanism. HyperCard can itself send messages via any OSA (Open Scripting Architecture) system-level scripting mechanism you have installed, like AppleScript, Frontier, or QuicKeys. A statement in a script, or a multiple statements in a container, can be sent into the system in any of these languages via the "do" command. What's more, the entire script of any object can be written in one of those other scripting languages. If the language is QuicKeys, which is not message-oriented, you can launch it with a new "run" message. If the language is AppleScript, messages can be passed directly between it and HyperTalk.
Much of the value of this new power lies in the future. AppleScript can't yet drive every application, though StuffIt, WordPerfect, FileMaker Pro, Excel, and others are on board already. The Finder isn't directly scriptable, although several hacks work around this, and a scriptable Finder is now shipping to developers. But QuicKeys can type and push buttons in just about any application, and I've already automated several drudge activities by having HyperCard do the looping and variable-setting and calling QuicKeys to drive the other application.
The move to OSA support is partly of symbolic significance, confirming (I hope) Apple's commitment to AppleScript and to HyperCard itself. But OSA support is also of great practical value; its marriage to HyperCard gives AppleScript access to all HyperCard's capabilities and significantly extends HyperCard's reach.
Bugs and Shortcomings -- Apple fixed some bugs and serious misbehaviours, including the infamous "go first marked card" bug. Not everyone's wish list will be met, though. There's still no ControlKey function, and you still can't script the polygon tool. HyperCard's idle-time tasks, such as resetting the ItemDelimiter, still won't happen if a new message is pending (e.g. you clicked a button while the previous handler was running), and sending "idle" yourself is not a workaround.
Documentation -- The documentation (manuals and some stacks) is good, but not uniformly so. HyperCard is hard to describe or teach, and though the manuals do a remarkably fine job of both at describing and teaching and the included stacks are superb as models, the manuals have errors, ranging from simple misprints and misstated syntax rules to howlers like a demo script for a Replace function that breaks if the replace-text contains the find-text. There are also odd arrangement choices and some serious omissions. Properties of palettes and external windows are not included in the Properties chapter. KeyDown and CommandKeyDown are not listed among the system messages sent to a field, and we are nowhere informed that TabKey, ReturnKey, EnterKey, FunctionKey, ArrowKey, and ControlKey (though not CommandKeyDown) messages are preceded by KeyDown (indeed, the manual wrongly denies that this is so). The Choose message is not documented in the manuals; nor is the important new "run" message. Many basic arrow-key navigation shortcuts are documented only deep in a Help stack. The "dynamic path" is incorrectly explained in the HT Reference stack. The new "copy template" command is practically undocumented. Such shortcomings in the official documentation seem somewhat outrageous.
Conclusions -- HyperCard may not be free any more, but it's still a good deal. The propaganda says that the price will be $249 (or upgrade from registered 2.0/2.1 for $89), but $139 for a limited (unspecified) time; I ordered direct from APDA via email to <email@example.com> and paid $99. The package includes the HyperCard application; two manuals; over two dozen stacks of documentation and utilities; the XCMDs for QuickTime and color; AppleScript 1.1 and the rest of the "Run Time" Kit; plus ADDmotion II from Motion Works, an application and XCMDs for multimedia in HyperCard. My recommendation: run, don't walk.
Article 11 of 16 in series
Antiviral utility developers today announced the recent discovery of a virus that infects HyperCard stacks. The "HC-9507" virus infects HyperCard's Home stack when an infected stack is executed, and from there spreads to other running stacks and randomly-chosen stacks on the startup diskShow full article
Antiviral utility developers today announced the recent discovery of a virus that infects HyperCard stacks. The "HC-9507" virus infects HyperCard's Home stack when an infected stack is executed, and from there spreads to other running stacks and randomly-chosen stacks on the startup disk. Depending on the day of the week and the time, the virus can cause odd system behavior when an infected HyperCard stack is running. For example, the screen may fade in and out, the word "pickle" may be inserted into your text, or the system may unexpectedly shut down or lock up.
Symantec and Datawatch have released updates to their SAM and Virex tools, respectively, which find and remove HC-9507 infections in HyperCard stacks. Check your documentation for instructions on obtaining the updates. Central Point Anti-Virus, Disinfectant, and VirusDetective do not attempt to deal with HyperCard viruses, so no updates are being released for these tools. Mac users who do not use HyperCard need not worry about this virus; only executing an infected HyperCard stack will spread the virus.
Article 12 of 16 in series
by Geoff Duncan
HyperCard 2.3.5 Stack Update -- Apple has released a HyperCard 2.3.5 update in the form of revised versions of the Color Tools, Power Tools, and Audio Help stacksShow full article
HyperCard 2.3.5 Stack Update -- Apple has released a HyperCard 2.3.5 update in the form of revised versions of the Color Tools, Power Tools, and Audio Help stacks. Most significantly, Audio Help now works properly on PCI Macs and has been revised significantly to conform more closely to Apple's guidelines for sound input. In addition, Color Tools should be more reliable on systems with the Japanese or Chinese Language Kits installed, and the Picture XCMD in the Power Tools stack has been updated to support HyperTalk's support for the clipboard property. The update is about 850K. [GD]
Article 13 of 16 in series
by Geoff Duncan
Apple Releases HyperCard 2.4 -- After a two year lull, Apple has released an incremental upgrade to HyperCard, its venerable authoring and scripting toolShow full article
Apple Releases HyperCard 2.4 -- After a two year lull, Apple has released an incremental upgrade to HyperCard, its venerable authoring and scripting tool. HyperCard 2.4 adds extensive support for QuickTime 3.0 (including real-time scripting of QuickTime effects and playback), support for QuickTime VR scenes, and the capability to script connections to URLs via Internet Config. HyperCard 2.4 also has bug fixes and interface tweaks such as handler pop-ups in the script editor and floating windows that display correctly under Mac OS 8. Owners of HyperCard 2.3.5 can download a free updater (a 5.7 MB download); otherwise HyperCard 2.4 costs $99 through the Apple Store. Although this isn't the long-presaged HyperCard 3.0, rebuilt entirely on top of the QuickTime 3.0 architecture, the HyperCard team felt it was important to show motion and reward HyperCard's long-time supporters for their patience. [GD]
Article 14 of 16 in series
by Geoff Duncan
HyperCard 2.4.1 Update -- Apple has released HyperCard 2.4.1, a minor update to its long-lived authoring tool. HyperCard 2.4.1 fixes problems when using HyperCard with disks larger than 2 GB, and removes the persistent display of the Get QuickTime Pro movie when using HyperCard 2.4 with QuickTime 3.0Show full article
HyperCard 2.4.1 Update -- Apple has released HyperCard 2.4.1, a minor update to its long-lived authoring tool. HyperCard 2.4.1 fixes problems when using HyperCard with disks larger than 2 GB, and removes the persistent display of the Get QuickTime Pro movie when using HyperCard 2.4 with QuickTime 3.0. (HyperCard 2.4 was released under Apple's original, poorly received QuickTime 3.0 licensing terms; see "Apple Releases HyperCard 2.4" in TidBITS-427 and "Apple Revises QuickTime 3 Licensing" in TidBITS-430.) HyperCard 2.4.1 is available for $99 via the Apple Store; owners of HyperCard 2.3, 2.3.5, and 2.4 can download a free 5.2 MB update. The free HyperCard Player 2.4.1 (1.6 MB) is also available. [GD]
Article 15 of 16 in series
by Geoff Duncan
For more than ten years, Apple's HyperCard has been a seminal product, single-handedly defining scripting and authoring, spawning a host of imitators, and enabling users to do astonishing, one-of-a-kind things with their computers simply by tryingShow full article
For more than ten years, Apple's HyperCard has been a seminal product, single-handedly defining scripting and authoring, spawning a host of imitators, and enabling users to do astonishing, one-of-a-kind things with their computers simply by trying. Few things are closer to the true spirit of the Macintosh than HyperCard.
Now, without warning, Apple appears to be pulling the plug on this software original, just on the eve of its rebirth as a sophisticated QuickTime authoring tool. Explaining HyperCard's predicament means backtracking through a bit of history, but also reveals HyperCard's fundamental vigor is as intact today as it has ever been.
And So It Begins -- HyperCard is one of the most difficult-to-describe software programs ever conceived. Most applications perform a particular set of tasks: word processors manage text and documents; databases store and retrieve information; spreadsheets store data and perform calculations; Web browsers display online content. These programs have well-defined, concrete purposes: most Macintosh users could explain what these programs do and why someone might want to use them.
Not so with HyperCard: it's abstract. It can be made to do virtually all the functions handled by the applications above - some better than others - and many more tasks besides. It's one of the first true authoring programs, enabling users to organize information (graphics, text, sound, movies, and more) and use strong built-in navigational features and scripts to create unique functionality for precise needs. If this sounds suspiciously like programming, it can be: HyperCard includes HyperTalk, a pioneering English-like scripting language that serves as many people's introduction to programming even today. HyperTalk enables scripters to create everything from multimedia games, kiosks, and presentations to address books, custom invoicing systems, product demonstrations, online help, and much more, Plus, HyperCard has been quick to support key technologies like AppleScript, PlainTalk, QuickTime, and (importantly) WorldScript.
Who Are You? HyperCard's flexibility has been its greatest strength, and its abstractness has been its greatest hurdle. What does HyperCard do? Is it a playback engine? Yes. A development tool? You bet. A personal information organizer? Sure. A database? Indeed. A scripting environment? Yes. Many other things? Always.
But is HyperCard a multimedia authoring tool? Sort of. When HyperCard debuted in 1987, it was one of the first multimedia programs. Those were the days of expensive black-and-white Macs, and HyperCard's then-inspiring presentation capabilities owed a great debt to its primogenitor, Bill Atkinson, creator of QuickDraw and MacPaint.
But HyperCard's presentation and graphics are grounded in that black-and-white world, and to this day the HyperCard application still can't think in color. Over the years, third parties and finally Apple grafted extensions onto HyperCard that display color pictures, colorize interface elements, and support QuickTime. These add-ons attest to HyperCard's flexibility and let it serve as the basis for products like the wildly popular Myst. But these gizmos have major omissions, are often awkward, and can't disguise the fact that HyperCard is essentially a penguin in a technicolor dreamcoat.
With extensive effort HyperCard could be rewritten to think in color, but that opportunity has never appeared. With 1991's HyperCard 2.0, organizational and business constraints intervened, partly because HyperCard was moving to Claris and becoming commercial. At Claris, HyperCard languished and was returned to Apple where it languished some more. Meanwhile, products like SuperCard and Director evolved into mature, color-capable authoring environments. HyperCard's developers eventually added numerous enhancements - including the capability to build standalone applications, plus AppleScript and WorldScript support. But the needed rewrite for full color was never within reach.
What Do You Want? Then, Apple's QuickTime 3.0 project began. Three years ago, QuickTime was Apple's success story in a cacophony of falling profits, dwindling market share, and eroding customer confidence. QuickTime was setting the standard for digital video, and Apple was betting heavily on QuickTime's success.
In QuickTime 3, a "movie" is fundamentally just a container for various data types and can hold discrete objects - like a button - that might not have anything to do with audio, video, or traditional media. As long as these objects could receive events like mouse clicks, there was no reason they couldn't respond to actions from the user or other objects. That was the germ of the idea behind QuickTime Interactive (QTi); all QuickTime needed was a way to specify how objects should interact with the user and each other. QuickTime needed a scripting language.
Apple already had a scripting language and authoring tool in HyperCard, and it was soon a done deal. HyperCard 3.0 would be re-implemented on top of QuickTime using QuickTime data formats, turning HyperCard 3.0 into an editor for interactive QuickTime movies. Projects authored in HyperCard would inherit all of QuickTime's color capabilities and would work in any application - and on any platform - that supported QuickTime. The beleaguered, enervated HyperCard group became part of the high-profile, well-funded QuickTime group, and HyperCard aficionados rejoiced.
Apple has shown HyperCard 3.0 repeatedly over the last few years. The demos have been promising, with HyperTalk scripts embedded in QuickTime objects, HyperCard stacks running in Web browsers via QuickTime, and HyperCard displaying Internet content within stack windows. Many people have seen versions of HyperCard 3.0 in action and heard Apple representatives express their commitment to shipping HyperCard 3.0, although no firm release dates were given.
In 1997, Apple quietly informed developers it planned to ship QuickTime 3 without QTi. Since QuickTime 3 was the first fully cross-platform release, it made business sense to establish QuickTime 3 as soon as possible. Apple pushed QTi back towards QuickTime 4.0 but repeated its commitment to QTi and HyperCard 3.0. In the meantime, the HyperCard team released updates that brought HyperCard up to speed with Mac OS 8 and then rolled in QuickTime 3 scripting capabilities, along with a few other features.
Why Are You Here? In the last two weeks, however, troubling news has filtered out of Cupertino. Although HyperCard engineers have long worked on QuickTime itself- in part to ship QuickTime 3 and lay the necessary groundwork for HyperCard 3 - as of a few weeks ago the entire HyperCard team had been moved to QuickTime development. Right now, there is no HyperCard team, there are no plans for a HyperCard team, and no work is being done on HyperCard. According to reliable sources, Apple's Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller announced at an employee meeting in late October that HyperCard would no longer be developed. Despite a sustained hue and cry from the HyperCard community, Apple has made no official statement on HyperCard's future.
Why would Apple abandon HyperCard 3.0? Theories abound, but those that make the most sense to me involve QuickTime, not HyperCard. With QuickTime 3, Apple introduced an enormous, cross-platform media architecture that has been adopted as the basis for the ISO MPEG-4 standard. That's a substantial achievement, and one of only a few areas where Apple clearly dominates a portion of the computer industry. Estimates place QuickTime on more than 24 million Macs worldwide, and a survey by Media Metrix estimated that QuickTime was installed on almost 70 percent of the 35.3 million Intel-based PCs in the U.S in March 1998 - and that was before QuickTime 3.0 shipped.
Thus, QuickTime is subject to more industry buffeting and machinations than other Apple technologies. Microsoft has long fought QuickTime's dominance, particularly in Windows. Materials from the Microsoft antitrust trial reveal how Microsoft may have pressured companies to drop support for QuickTime and attempted to inveigle Apple into splitting the digital media market. Regardless of the truth of these allegations, it's clear that Apple spends considerable time and effort protecting the ground QuickTime has captured.
Given these pressures, I wouldn't be surprised if Apple had to make concessions to digital media developers - most of whom develop for both Windows and the Mac - to secure their support for QuickTime. One of those concessions may well have been a promise not to compete with QuickTime authoring and production software from third parties. Since HyperCard 3.0 is, in essence, an editor for interactive QuickTime movies, developers like Macromedia, Adobe, Sorenson Vision, TrueVision, Equilibrium, and Electric Image might balk at Apple developing and marketing an interactive QuickTime movie editor. Conceptually, the situation may not be dissimilar to Apple's rock-and-a-hard-place conundrum with Emailer: abandon the product and alienate your users, or press forward and alienate your developers.
So, now HyperCard has no development team, and QuickTime Interactive's capabilities are available only in small part as a set of low-level APIs for QuickTime application developers.
Where Are You Going? Remember how HyperCard got into this situation: lack of integrated color, which seriously hinders its utility for multimedia authoring. This is a classic example of how HyperCard's abstract nature is its greatest liability. HyperCard fills a myriad purposes for many Macintosh users without authoring a moment of multimedia. For example, HyperCard holds TidBITS together: all of our automation for subscription management, issue distribution, database management, Web site production, and mailing list archiving is built in HyperCard. Adam even distributed the first 99 issues of TidBITS in HyperCard.
People regularly hire me to work on HyperCard projects for business, education, and home users. Few of these projects use multimedia capabilities. They provide access to information and serve as tutorials for students learning to program or learn foreign languages; tie together applications in ways AppleScript can't handle alone; control laboratory devices; and much more. One of my largest HyperCard projects is Golem, an Internet robot that performs URL verification and Web page analysis for private clients, including big industry names like Microsoft. Others use HyperCard for everything from customized databases and contact organization to Web site management, television subtitling, molecular modeling, and content development for CD-ROM and Web-based projects. For startling examples of HyperCard's flexibility, read some of the HyperCard stories submitted to Jacque Landman Gay's Web site. In many cases, these projects were the sole reason Macs were purchased in the first place.
Some may argue HyperCard has outlived its utility: more modern programs can perform many of its functions. Utilities developers can dive into the fast-moving REALBasic. Scripters who integrate applications can build interfaces with FaceSpan. People accustomed to HyperCard can try multimedia authoring in the color-savvy SuperCard, which IncWell is reviving after purchasing from Allegiant. HyperCard users who need cross-platform capabilities can look at MetaCard, which can deploy to Windows, Unix, and the Mac. Scripting geeks can investigate Userland Frontier's automation and Web publishing capabilities. Of course, multimedia authors can plunk down a heap of money on Macromedia Director, the 400 pound gorilla of the multimedia industry, and those who want to plumb QuickTime 3 can build interactive movies with products like Totally Hip's Web-oriented LiveStage.
As good as some of these products are, none fully match HyperCard's flexibility, although many far exceed HyperCard's multimedia capabilities. Most of these products can't use the myriad externals available to HyperCard. Many have minimal or non-existent support for AppleScript or other OSA scripting languages. Some have restrictive scripting dialects, few offer HyperCard's integral navigation and data storage capabilities, and (to my knowledge) none offer the WorldScript functionality so important to international users. HyperCard remains in a class by itself.
What Can You Do? Today, HyperCard's fate is unclear. If HyperCard matters to you, let Apple know how and why you use it. If Apple sees that HyperCard sells Macs, offers unique Macintosh capabilities, and helps keep Macs in places where they would have been replaced by PCs long ago, Apple may better understand HyperCard's unparalleled value to the Macintosh industry.
Jacque Landman Gay of HyperActive Software has organized a snail mail campaign to explain to Apple Interim CEO Steve Jobs how HyperCard is important to Mac users. (An email campaign would be tantamount to mail-bombing; no one likes to be mail-bombed.) Numerous well-reasoned, polite letters from HyperCard users should be effective for putting HyperCard's status back on the table, which in turn should give Apple's HyperCard engineers - many of whom have worked thanklessly for years to sustain the product - the leverage they need to secure HyperCard's future. Everything you need is on HyperActive's Web site; the rest is in your hands.
Article 16 of 16 in series
Our article "Alas, HyperCard!" in TidBITS-453 brought in numerous messages ranging from expressions of support to stories about how HyperCard remains in constant use even todayShow full article
Our article "Alas, HyperCard!" in TidBITS-453 brought in numerous messages ranging from expressions of support to stories about how HyperCard remains in constant use even today. Most of the projects mentioned were not the multimedia projects that some people assume when they think of HyperCard; as Geoff noted, HyperCard doesn't compare with full-fledged multimedia programs like Macromedia Director.
But I don't want to recap Geoff's history and explanation of HyperCard's woes. I'm more interested in what HyperCard could have done for Apple, and what it might still be able to do.
To Compute Is to Program -- Most people these days probably wouldn't agree with that headline. After all, we spend our time in word processors, spreadsheets, graphics and layout programs, and of course, in email clients and Web browsers. However, in the relatively recent past, when our applications weren't as capable, being able to create a tool to perform a specific task was a prime force in attracting people to the Macintosh. TidBITS Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg, then my Classics professor at Cornell University, categorically refused to buy or use a Macintosh (the source of many after-class debates) until the release of HyperCard. Matt wasn't interested in an appliance - he wanted a construction set. He appreciated HyperCard's cleverly concealed power, which provides geeky concepts like dynamic typing of variables, object-oriented messaging, and an environment with no modal distinction between executing and editing. You can read some of Matt's opinions in his HyperCard 2.2 review in TidBITS-213 from February of 1994.
But more to the point, when we install contextual menu utilities, play with Kaleidoscope themes, or even carefully arrange icons in a specific window layout, we are programming our computers. We're using tools, admittedly high level ones, to create unique, customizable environments. I don't much like using Tonya's Mac, for instance, because I think it's set up "wrong," and of course, it is - for me. For her it's perfect. On our kitchen Mac, we compromise and leave it in a more or less stock configuration.
HyperCard fulfilled similar desires for many people. It was more work than arranging your desktop, but those who learned to use ResEdit to modify the startup screen moved on to HyperCard quickly when it came out, and one of the reasons was the promise of sharing, of increased community. Suddenly others could share your "programming" efforts. Stacks abounded and somehow managed to travel around the community, despite a rudimentary Internet. Sharing was in.
A few of last week's messages made an interesting point. People still think of HyperCard in much the way they think of a person. Many programs have personality, but HyperCard went beyond that, because it was a conduit for so many personalities. Each stack reflected the individual who had written it, and the fact that the interfaces were awful and the graphics were ugly merely reflected the fact that these were real people, warts and all, who were writing the stacks. Even more important, those stacks provided a pipeline to funnel a person's expertise and knowledge into a Macintosh for others to use.
The Business Case -- This is all very touchy-feely, but what about the business case? Although the vast majority of HyperCard stacks were frivolous, repetitive, or otherwise pointless, many others solved complex, highly specific problems. For example, after I graduated from Cornell, I wrote a HyperCard-based front-end for Cornell's public laser printers. It started as a way to solve the file format incompatibilities between versions of Microsoft Word, but evolved into a full-fledged dedicated print interface, information resource, and service logging application.
But my work was small potatoes compared to other serious HyperCard-based projects. Harry Stripe <firstname.lastname@example.org> is Manager of Line Maintenance Automation at Northwest Airlines in Minneapolis. He uses HyperCard to interface with the airline's mainframes, and has set up Mac systems all over the world specifically to run his custom HyperCard solutions:
"HyperCard is being used to support over 75 processes, running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One example is a mainframe paper-based system that would print an alert any time an aircraft maintenance item was signed off in our mainframe system. It was replaced by a much more flexible HyperCard networking solution, saving over $500,000 per year for the last three years. HyperCard is one of the main reasons Northwest Airlines still has over 375 Macintosh computers in more than 25 locations. Without HyperCard as a fully supported product, Northwest Airlines will have one less reason to continue to support the Macintosh."
The non-profit Hippocrates, Winslow, and Babbage Foundation collects clinical data pertaining to trauma care diagnoses, treatments, and complications from university-affiliated health care providers. The foundation provides the health care organization with necessary hardware and software, then makes the collected information freely available in aggregate form via the Internet to facilitate improvements in medical education and practice. According to William Burman, M.D.:
"On the strength of HyperCard, we have introduced the Mac OS into total DOS domains and won hard-fought battles with hospital information services which would not permit AppleTalk on their networks. HyperCard enabled us to demonstrate the capability of the Mac OS, leading to the purchase of hundreds of thousands of dollars of Apple hardware. Now, this hardware runs and provides a vital service in front of medical students, interns, residents, and attending physicians in emergency rooms, operating rooms, clinics, and wards in major teaching hospitals in the United States.
"If this software went away, it would be a disaster for us and the patients we are trying to serve. The fact HyperCard has been available and stable for over a decade (a practically unheard-of longevity in the computer industry) has enabled us to keep rewriting and refining our software to the point where it is now a nearly indispensable clinical tool. We need to bring some Apple executives on rounds with us so they can better understand what is at stake here."
These projects may not have been widely advertised commercial products, but they solve real problems, and what's more, they solve them in such a way that requires the presence of a Macintosh. When HyperCard was free and came with every Mac, organizations were willing to pay someone to write a custom HyperCard stack because they knew they didn't have to buy any more software. Whenever pressure came to switch to PCs, it was easy to point to the custom HyperCard stack and say, "No, I'm sorry, we can't switch, since our software runs only on the Mac." In all those years of PC users blithering on about the Mac not having much software, did anyone ever count the HyperCard stacks doing yeoman duty?
HyperCard was the glue that held Macs in place. The PC had word processors, spreadsheets, and so on, and there were even some HyperCard clones. But none of them were free, and none of them shipped with every Macintosh.
This trend was tremendously diminished by Apple's poor development record with HyperCard and by the fateful decision to make HyperCard a commercial product. I said this was a mistake back in 1990's TidBITS-21_, and expanded on it in an article that included fascinating messages from HyperCard's product manager and lead engineer in 1992's TidBITS-106. I'm usually quite embarrassed by articles from our early issues, but I think it's telling that my opinions have remained so constant over so many years.
Despite these obstacles, HyperCard stacks have kept the Macintosh in places where it would no doubt have fallen during Apple's past few bad years. For instance, we heard of a recording studio in the San Francisco area that created a custom contact database in HyperCard. Trivial, perhaps, but this one included not just artists' names and addresses but agents, agencies, rates, instruments, discographies, references, skills (instrumental or vocal arrangements, orchestration, dialog looping, impressions), location, travel fees, and even a collaboration finder, so you could see on a time-line who worked with who when, where, doing what, and for how much money.
And, Avi Rappoport <email@example.com> wrote to TidBITS Talk:
"My husband, Ed Allen, has been working with HyperCard for ten years, and, like Geoff, uses it in real life for serious projects. Right now, he's working at the Stanford Genome Sequence Center, part of the Human Genome Project, using HyperCard as a link between sequence analysis and a Sybase database back end. They just bought 20 new high-end Macs as part of this work."
Show Me the Money -- Although Apple PR never responded to my request for sales numbers for HyperCard, I doubt they were all that impressive and undoubtedly declined as time went on.
But we have examples right here of places where HyperCard resulted in Macintosh sales. Apple makes real money on the sale of 20 high-end Macs, and although there's no quantifiable benefit to Apple in an organization sticking with an existing Macintosh, the fact is that HyperCard stacks continue to run on today's fastest Power Mac G3s, where their performance rocks.
The presence of HyperCard in these situations actually lowers the cost of buying a new Macintosh because the alternative, buying a Windows-based PC, would require not just reprogramming time and effort in Visual Basic, ToolBook, MetaCard, or whatnot, but also downtime and conversion headaches. The much-vaunted PC price advantage disappears quickly when your custom applications can't move over.
Do It Again, Steve -- I'm going to go one step beyond the call to send politely worded snail mail notes to Steve Jobs about this situation. I suggest that in those letters, you make the argument that Apple should not only resume HyperCard development but also once again ship it with every Macintosh for free. I'm not talking about HyperCard Player here - I think HyperCard could pick up where it left off if the full program were once again made available.
There have been naysayers in the TidBITS Talk discussion on this topic, but most were introduced to HyperCard after it ceased to be free and ubiquitous, a compelling combination. Even releasing HyperCard's code to the HyperCard community wouldn't have the same effect as bundling it with every Macintosh and shipping with every release of the Mac OS. Only then can HyperCard return to its task of making the Mac indispensable.
I'm aware that this move won't make Apple any money up front, and for that reason, it won't be an easy decision. But many necessary expenditures don't make money up front. Marketing and advertising are pure money sinks, but as everyone knows, without them, it's almost impossible to have a popular consumer product. Feed the HyperCard team from one of those budgets, Steve, and think of HyperCard as a person that argues for every Macintosh on which it's installed.