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Programming Apple

Why Was Hypercard Killed? 392

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the programming-has-to-be-hard dept.
theodp writes "Steve Jobs took the secret to his grave, but Stanislav Datskovskiy offers some interesting and illustrated speculation on why HyperCard had to die. 'Jobs was almost certainly familiar with HyperCard and its capabilities,' writes Datskovskiy. 'And he killed it anyway. Wouldn't you love to know why? Here's a clue: Apple never again brought to market anything resembling HyperCard. Despite frequent calls to do so. Despite a more-or-less guaranteed and lively market. And I will cautiously predict that it never will again. 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.' Slashdotters have bemoaned the loss of HyperCard over the past decade, but Datskovskiy ends his post on a keep-hope-alive note, saying: 'Contemplate the fact that what has been built once could probably be built again.' Where have you gone, Bill Atkinson, a nation of potential programmers turns its lonely eyes to you."
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Why Was Hypercard Killed?

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  • by Etcetera (14711) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @01:49PM (#38217158) Homepage

    What I'd really like to see is a merging of the capabilities of system level and interface level scripting languages. The interface guys are all in AJAX-y Javascript land, while system-level scripting (at least on a Mac) is through AppleScript -- HyperTalk for the OS -- and well-formed apps. Reintegration would be awesome.

    Remember this? http://www.latenightsw.com/freeware/JavaScriptOSA/ [latenightsw.com]

    App Store and iPhone locking notwithstanding, I don't think it's a nefarious user-cannot-be-developer intent (though I'm sure many Slashdotters will disagree), I think it's simply where the market went and Apple's over-extension got the better of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @01:53PM (#38217210)

    Bad caricature of Steve. Doesn't match reality. "You watch television to turn your brain off and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on." -- Steve Jobs, Macworld Magazine, February 2004

    MacWorld? Is that just an Apple mouthpiece to make the users feel good about themselves? How did he reveal himself to investors?

    "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

    -- Steve Jobs as quoted in BusinessWeek (25 May 1998)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @01:58PM (#38217266)

    LiveCode imports HyperCard stacks and is pretty much the continuation of HyperCard. It is multi-platform (Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, Web) and many apps sold on those platforms today are written in LiveCode. The company that makes LiveCode is www.runrev.com

  • Re:Occam's Razor (Score:5, Informative)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:06PM (#38217382) Journal
    Myst [wikipedia.org], which was a run-away hit selling millions of copies, was originally done in HyperCard.
  • by kachakaach (1336273) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:11PM (#38217424)

    HyperNext, HyperStudio, LiveCode, and SuperCard are all available and based on the Hypercard model, which is at least mentioned in passing in the article (but not the post, above). When I RTFA, I noted the author states: "All of (the programs based on the Hypercard model) are failures for the same reason: they insist on being more capable, more complexity-laden than HyperCard". Wow, adding more features and making programs more capable makes them a failure? Uh, no. In fact, Hyperstudio is really just an updated clone of Hypercard with lots of color and multimedia features added. The fact is that the Hypercard model had its place as an education tool, but was not that useful for most applications. The article, and the person who posted it here are not really talking about Hypercard, their rant is more a platform to spread conspiracy theories and Apple bashing, which is fine, enjoy yourself, but call it what it is.

  • Re:no conspiracy (Score:5, Informative)

    by itsdapead (734413) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:23PM (#38217554)

    there probably wasn't enough actual interest to warrant development.

    Nor was there enough interest to enable any of the similar products [wikipedia.org] from third parties to take off in a big way. AFAIK some of these are still going, but they haven't set the world alight. Actually, the closest thing to Hypercard that is a Big Thing is probably Flash - which has the huge advantage that it runs across multiple platforms.

    Hypercard was an incarnation of the Rapid Application Development Myth [wikipedia.org] - very quick to knock up an impressive-looking GUI, but much harder to produce a finished application that works "just so". Like all RAD systems, the danger is that the last 10% of the work doesn't just take the usual 90% of the time, it takes forever because you hit the limits of the system, and you end up having to re-write in a proper programming language.

    These things are actually aimed at a fairly narrow niche between users who don't want to develop anything, and programmers who'd rather use full-grown developer tools.

    Also, some of Hypercard's role has been taken over by (a) Flash (as noted above) and (b) the Web (either via lovingly hand-crafted HTML or user-friendly HTML creators). On OS X, there's Dashcode, as well as Automator and Apple Script.

    (Plus, I hate languages like AppleScript that try to use 'natural language'... natural language wasn't designed for programming, so why try?)

  • by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:27PM (#38217602)

    "How many computer magazines these days publish code listings, compared to in the 80s?"

    Github alone hosts well over one million accounts. Welcome to the 21th century.

  • by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecrans&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:29PM (#38217614) Homepage

    Apple didn't kill Hypercard, the WWW did.

    But by the time they actually stopped selling it, it hadn't been updated in many many years. All the people who were really into Hypercard had long since migrated into two different technologies: Supercard, which is still being made I guess (most versions of Myst were built on it), and this little technology called... oh gosh, what was it now... "HTML" or something like that.

    Largely, this. Also, HyperCard never really made the transition to color and "big" 14 inch displays very effectively. When it was killed in the 90's, it was still very much a product of the 80's. It just didn't do the sorts of things people wanted to be doing

    HTML (as it existed at the time) certainly didn't do everything that HyperCard did. ome of what HyperCard did, it frankly didn't do very well. And, HTML did do a lot of things that HyperCard didn't. (Like allow viewing of the content on something other than a Mac.)

    If HyperCard were still alive today in some sort of all-singing, all-dancing, 3D enabled full color incarnation, it wouldn't be a pleasant product to use. It wouldn't have the elegant simplicity. It would be an application with clear archaeological "layers" with very different API's for things added on over the course of decades by very different development teams, during alternating periods of growth and stability. Half the features would be deprecated, and they would be the only half that were adequately documented.

    The other problem is that HyperCard was always a tool for the sorts of people who would never seek out that sort of tool. If you were a serious developer making a spreadsheet app, you would be using a real language. HyperCard was the "friendly" "empowering" tool for folks who weren't programmers. Those people would never buy a development tool. The actual market for people willing to pay for Hypercard would be miniscule, and mostly consist of people who discovered it back when it was free and still remember it being fun. Since it is the sort of thing that can only be "discovered" but wouldn't be sought out by people who didn't know they wanted it, it would have been a bad business decision to spend money developing it.

    I say all this as somebody who loved HyperCard back in the day, but I think it just survived into a world where it had no place. The fact that it would have had some influence on the development of tools like Interface Builder is certainly interesting, but eventually we have to let it go.

  • by gnetwerker (526997) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:30PM (#38217632) Journal
    Ward Cunningham's first prototypes of the Wiki concept were built using a hypercard stack. Hypercard didn't adapt to the network (and most specifically the Web), and was replaced, not by something better, but by something different.
  • Mah (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:37PM (#38217718) Homepage

    As someone who was directly involved with HC2.0 and to some degree HC3.0, I can say with zero hesitation that HC did not die, it committed suicide.

    That suicide was due to all of the classic and well known problems in the industry, including but not limited to, monumental feature creep, empire building, left-hand-right-hand, second-system effect and the general craziness that was endemic to Apple before Jobs returned.

    HC3 was supposed to be HC2 further improved with real color support. In its last incarnation before disappearing it was a QuickTime module for embedding interactivity into movies. That is all the explanation anyone needs.

  • by voidptr (609) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:44PM (#38217806) Homepage Journal

    Note that Apple only sold XCode 4 to Snow Leopard users who weren't otherwise paying members of either the OS X or the iOS developer programs, ostensibly for SOX compliance reasons. Previously, major releases of XCode always coincided with major OS X releases and simply weren't available for earlier releases, and even after they started selling XCode 4, XCode 3.foo was still on the Snow Leopard discs.

    XCode 4 is again free in the app store, as long as you've already bought Lion either as an upgrade or via new hardware.

  • I was there (Score:5, Informative)

    by DennyBoll (413080) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:44PM (#38217818)

    I introduced Steve to Interface Builder in 1986 (at NeXT). (It was written in ExperLISP for the Mac - completely OO, and deeply integrated with the toolbox.). His first comments were typical Job's "I've seen much better...". He was referring to HyperCard. By the end of the meeting, he was sold, and NeXT built the Object-C version still in use today. We created an (unreleased) product that was an OO/incrementally compiled cross between HyperCard and IB in '87. I also built a much more powerful tool called Action! for the TI micro-explorer in '88.

    So Steve liked HyperCard a lot; he just realized that IB was more powerful. It is surprising to me though that he didn't pursue an easier to use variant... We still need one! Squeak is the closest so far.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:44PM (#38217822)

    That's why XCode is included with Mac OS X allowing the user to code for the Mac, iPhone or iPad or even just futz about with simple C code directly with the Gnu compiler.

    Mmmyep.

    Oh, wait...

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:44PM (#38217828) Homepage

    > But that doesn't mean Apple has to actively hinder the average user from becoming us.

    They don't.

    HC was dead long before Jobs returned. It hadn't seen a major release in years, and the lead develop was the only guy left on the team. I don't even think he was there when they bought OpenStep, let alone when Jobs took the helm.

    The only people saying otherwise are the haters here on /. and in an article by someone who admits to not really knowing. This is simply an example of people seeing what they want to see. This is why conspiracy theories are so prevalent.

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@nospAm.carpanet.net> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:11PM (#38218158) Homepage

    I hate to say it but...yah.

    spreadsheets are interesting as a solution because.... they are totally the wrong tool for just about every application that they get used for. However, they are often a great solution just because they are so fast and simple to setup, and many office workers already know how to use them.

    This reminds me of a debate that a previous cow-orker and I used to have about the break even point for automation. How much automation actually makes sense for a given job actually depends on a number of things, not the least of which is, how often its needed. If I build a new server once a year...who cares if it takes a whole day or even two? However, if I do it every week.... then a day or two is 20-40% of my time! If I do it every day.... then its 100% or just impossible as I fall behind....and we now need another employee.... and thats if we assume I am willing to stay at a job where I just do server builds every day, all day. (admittedly, if that were the case, i could be replaced by an intern or junior admin, but thats besides the point... how long is that guy going to stay?)

    Now before the break even point, there may still be reasons to automate, but, automation takes time, it takes testing, which also takes time. If I spend 2 weeks automating a process.... and that automation saves 6 hours every time.... but we only do it twice a year (yes a pathological case) then, its going to take almost a decade to pay off in time, and thats assuming we never need to make any changes. (unlikely).

    Now, you do get something out of automation besides time savings, you get consistency.... which can save time elsewhere. However.... all in all.... yes, spreadsheets are probably great for many things that they get used for.... just because they avoid all of this design and testing, in service of getting the job done.... its just a matter of making sure that you stop and do things "right" before the simple solution gets too out of hand.

  • Re:Rejected (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:55PM (#38218646) Homepage

    But they didn't reject BayCard.

    But to the point: HC died when it was sent over to Claris, and then sent back. When products get seconded like this it's almost always a kiss of death. Very few survive the process even once. Twice?

    Kevin tried to bring HC back to life pretty much single-handed, but it was not to be. When he left the jig was up, although I argue that was true long before. Its constant re-purposing did not bode well, and by the time I saw it in 1996 it was only nostalgia that I felt.

  • Re:Rejected (Score:4, Informative)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:58PM (#38218676) Homepage

    Likely on the basis that you aren't supposed to have programming languages in the iOS App store (stupid of Apple, but it's their sandbox).

    Apple hasn't stopped anyone from making HyperCard for OS X and if there was enough of a demand, I should think it would have shown up long ago. Remember, OS X comes with Applescript which, although a bit harder to use, covers much of the functionality of HyperCard.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:58PM (#38218684) Homepage Journal

    Do you have any idea how many hypercard applications, that means "programms" written in hypercard exist? I just threw away an old software catalog from 1995 or something. There where literally hundreds of "stacks" sold as applications.

    I myself have written an Japanese Vocabulary Trainer in Hypercard, with self drawn Hiragana Chars (Images) and a little parser to transform romanji input into hira gana.

    HyperCard was far ahead from childs toying.

  • by Lennie (16154) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:45PM (#38220344) Homepage

    HTML forms and Javascript IS pretty much modeled after hypercard.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @06:12PM (#38220642)
    Well if your typing romanji instead of romaji and breaking hirigana into two words, then it is clearly shit. There is nothing about hypercard that I can't shit out in 5 minutes with Flash, or JS, or HTML4.

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