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.