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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 hessian (467078) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:37PM (#38217014) Homepage Journal

    In the 1970s, one manufacturer made the hardware, operating system and (most of) the software.

    Apple wanted to resurrect that model in the 1990s and got beaten back by the "open" architecture PC clones, which were from a more flexible type of system.

    Apple finally rediscovered its favorite business model in the iPhone, because cell phone customers haven't yet figured out that phones are little computers with antennas now.

    Jobs and his cronies killed Hypercard because it would have thwarted that model. With Hypercard, all software was driven by a powerful database and configured as interface. It would have revolutionized the web and how we make custom software (now done in VBscript) today.

    But, it might have let things get out of control, and Apple couldn't allow that.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:42PM (#38217078)

      Look, the average user is not us. The average user doesn't want to program their computer. The average user is, in fact, in the market for an expensive video telephone that also plays Angry Birds. That's why HyperCard was killed, and why the company that killed it went on to make literally unimaginable amounts of money. I don't like Steve Jobs or the direction Apple has gone in the past twenty years but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that "what I like" is "what everyone wants and needs"; there are enough people here already doing that.

      • by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:52PM (#38217194) Homepage Journal

        Look, the average user is not us. The average user doesn't want to program their computer. The average user is, in fact, in the market for an expensive video telephone that also plays Angry Birds. That's why HyperCard was killed, and why the company that killed it went on to make literally unimaginable amounts of money. I don't like Steve Jobs or the direction Apple has gone in the past twenty years but I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that "what I like" is "what everyone wants and needs"; there are enough people here already doing that.

        beh. the average office drone actually needs/wants to get easier. hypercards helped with that kind of stuff. they were used by now bald senile geezers to do stuff that nowadays turns into a fucking web app with a 9 month acquirement/development contract. I suppose it helps the economy in some weird way though. same goes by the way to desktop access databases which have their place. nowadays it's put online after being contracted to some php dweebs.

        you want the real reason hypercard got killed? Jobs had too much riding personally on tech from next.

        next.

        • by Anrego (830717) * on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:06PM (#38217378)

          Or Excel.

          As a developer my first instinct was to baulk.. but I've come to accept that Excel can be pretty useful for ultra simple business "apps". Most business-y stuff revolves around tables of numbers anyway.. throw a little VB logic in there and you can get a lot done for very little effort (and you won't even miss that chunk of inner child).

          • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@carp a n e t . net> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @04:11PM (#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.

            • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:12PM (#38218860)
              It is also a matter of who's time does it save? Perhaps burning 2 weeks of your time is worth it because it is saving your boss that 6 hours twice a year, or your customer who is frustrated with the process. Or automating is the only way it will get done. As it: the user just won't do that step unless you make it really easy for them. Ex. add the time you started this task to this spreadsheet every day will you? Versus a form popping up asking "what's your task"? In my experience automation tasks often happen because there isn't anything better for you to do. Say your doing sys admin work. 20hrs a week you are sitting around because things are running smoothly. So you spend that time automating things so that each week the remaining time required becomes less and less. You can than manage more things, or spend more time reading comic books or whatever.

              Lastly a huge justification for automation: things are done consistently. Forms are completely filled out, user accounts are profiled correctly, network shares have group rights assigned appropriately etc. If you do things manually you might forget something, or leave random stuff incorrect later (ex. employee leaves a department but no one knows what they have access too, what they should have access to etc, so it is always a manual process doing any change).

              • by TheCarp (96830)

                Yup, I can't disagree.... there does seem to be a bit of a catch 22.... if you have time to work on automation, its probably because you don't need it. You are increasing your capacity when you are already over capacity. Maybe you need it down the road and know it now....which is good, but... maybe you are wasting your time, but, is it a waste if you don't have much else to do? (actually, there is some good reason to not have admins too overloaded, because if they are always at capacity, you can't deal with

            • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @10:07PM (#38222112)

              I automate things because I can.

              I watched a coworker have to click 'submit' and then select 'today' 40 times in a row every day because the required data entry tool for attendance tracking comes up with a blank slate, not sensible defaults for the use case.

              So I made a daemon app - when you click the submit button, it auto-populates whatever you had there before. Saved 30 minutes every day.

              But I didn't calculate how much time it would save. I just knew it would be annoying as piss to do that 40 times a day, and she didn't have the skills to fix it. So I did. On my own time, after hours.

              I chose my house via website scraping and automation, and I know far more about various internet related subjects than any reasonable person because I insist on automation. I would rather automate a task that I might use again rather than do it twice manually. Sometimes I don't have the choice.

              I don't know WTF hypercard does exactly, but I can guarantee you that anyone who used it has a leg up on their coworker or cohabitant or cohuman.

              The more you practice saving time, the better you get at actually saving time. Hypercard, Excel, Powerpoint, whatever it is - there are shortcuts, and we should practice using them. Point is, you have to practice saving time. If you automate something that no one ever uses, you probably learned something. And that means a lot, probably more than whatever you earn per minute times the number of minutes spent.

        • by Slashdot Assistant (2336034) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:16PM (#38217490)
          FileMaker Pro and Excel cover the bulk of small-scale tools and automation needs in the office. AppleScript and Automator bind them together to be able to build some pretty good systems. You may be romanticizing the old days. Just as now, most people had neither the ability nor the inclination to make things easier. HyperCard was powerful and relatively accessible. Let's not kid ourselves though that the average number cruncher or sales guy in an office is going to fire it up and quickly churn-out a CRM system that isn't a piece of shit?

          It's mostly pot-luck if someone in the office has a hacker mentality or even enough of an interest to begin coding/scripting. Given how computing in general has changed, I'd suspect that a smaller percentage of people are coming in to today's workforce with a hacker mentality. How many people below the age of 30 would have begun with computers that dropped them straight in to BASIC? How many computer magazines these days publish code listings, compared to in the 80s?
          • by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:27PM (#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 Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:53PM (#38217938)

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

              I miss those days. Copy typing in a progran for hours from the magazine. Finally to type RUN, and see the glorious "SN error at 30", and the dawning realization that you had hours more of trying to figure out your typos, or worse trying to figure out what they had misprinted. Then to finally get it to run only to discover the magazine artists had shown great artistic license with their artwork next to the program listing.
              Finally to forget to save it to tape, shut off your computer, and realize you could do it all again tomorrow. :) Those were the days.

              Also, get off my lawn.

              • by irving47 (73147)

                Sounds like every encounter I had with the code printed in 3-2-1 Contact magazine.

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        With you, and it sucks.

        I've come to accept that what is best for most users, best for software in general, hell best for technology in general tends to directly conflict with the way I personally want things to work.

        Web apps, "the cloud", computers being replaced with media appliances, software development being more about understanding all the existing technologies out there and how to glue them together than doing actual problem solving (big time if you've done the Java thing but even our venerable c++ is

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Interesting use of the word "best". I've never considered it synonymous with "most popular" or "easiest to sell", though, of course, for some purposes it is.

          I *don't* think that "locked in" is best...except for certain specific purposes. Common purposes, but still fairly specific. When I design a GUI I want limits around how the end-user can customize it...unless it really easy to reset it to the default values. This is the real defect with Smalltalk designs (well, Squeak, anyway). HTML doesn't have th

          • The I think the Apple IIgs version of HyperCard supported color. Hyper Studio (a clone of HyperCard) is still available and is on the Mac App Store.
          • by lennier (44736) on Thursday December 01, 2011 @12:58AM (#38223246) Homepage

            When I design a GUI I want limits around how the end-user can customize it...unless it really easy to reset it to the default values.

            Actually, I think this is the biggest problem with GUIs: that the developer can lock down the end-user from customising it. You're not me, you don't know how I like my desktop to look, it's really not your business telling me what my GUI should look like unless you're paying for my computer.

            See, as a user, what I really want isn't a whole pile of non-interacting "applications", each of which thinks it's the best thing since sliced Marmite, loosely joined by a filesystem and OS in which they savagely compete for my attention. What I want is to build a personalised workflow of "data I really care about" and "stuff I want to do to that data", and your application-developer mindset about what you want your application to look and feel like doesn't really appear on my radar at all. I want something a bit like a giant spreadsheet where I can plug in every possible data source and transformation as just sort of functions out of a toolbox. I don't want applications, and I especially don't want "apps", as in super-dumbed-down applications which don't even believe in using a shared filesystem.

            But the way we've built things at the moment, we've priviledged this rather out of date concept of "application", and left the idea of "data" in the dust. And the GUI model has somehow lent itself to that. I think mostly because the GUIs we've built have been excessively cranky and explosive contraptions which melt down at the slightest touch of a pixel out of place. I'd like to think that that doesn't have to be the way of the future. Shouldn't a GUI just be something like a skin over the data which is already there? But we've never made a way to expose the raw data without doing so in shiny chunks of non-user-accessible pixels. Would be nice to change that.

        • by bberens (965711) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:10PM (#38218840)
          I think what you're seeing is that the basic fundamentals of computing concepts (disk IO, networking, sorting algorithms, etc.) are all largely "solved" problems. We'll continue to see evolutionary improvements in these areas but it was very exciting when we went from 0 through the first few generations of PCs. With modern languages, libraries, and frameworks we're actually doing much harder work. You see the low level stuff is all "internal" to the computing system. It's pure math, something the machines are quite good at. What's really difficult is taking business concepts and converting that into a "computer concept" and then turning that information into something that is meaningful to a human on the other end. It's a mixture that includes not just math/logic but also psychology and sociology if you want your software to be useful. IMHO the new cross-domain (domains here being math, psychology and sociology) is much harder than the stuff we did previously which was much more pure math. The more "pure" experiences you're looking for do exist but they're getting to be more and more niche in the areas of large scale simulation, massive databases on the Google/Amazon scale, etc. Admittedly I'm in the relatively young generation of programmers so most of my "low level" work was academic, but I personally found that work much easier to do than the stuff I currently get paid for. Writing software with mass appeal and good usability is quite difficult.
      • Look, the average user is not us.

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

        • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:41PM (#38217768)

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

          No, it doesn't. I figure Apple does it out of benevolence to the human race.

        • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:44PM (#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.

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

          And what makes you think they're doing that? They still offer all of their developer tools for free, and some of them (automator, dashcode, quartz composer) are very approachable.

          I learned to program with things like hypercard, and sure I miss a few things from those days. But we still have learning tools just as good, if not better. They just have different names.

          And as for people writing their own programs in HyperCard? I don't care how many people did it, it's a bad idea. Programming should be done by pr

        • I sure wish somebody would hinder people from getting a quarter of the way there and thinking they are us...

          What's that proverb about a little knowledge, please remind me?

      • by robmv (855035) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:06PM (#38217384)

        Centuries ago (in some parts of the world a mere fraction of a century): Look, the average person is not us, The average person doesn't want to read and write, they only want to follow the rules we write and read for them.

        Stop being elitist, some day people will have the tools to solve their computing problems themselves. Regular users write spreadsheets, add formulas, add simple scripts, they only need better tools to do more than that

      • by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:36PM (#38217710) Homepage

        "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
        - Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of DEC

        Steve Jobs also famously said that the people don't know what they want until it is shown to them. He spoke of Henry Ford, saying that if he had asked what people wanted before the automotive revolution, they'd say a faster horse.

        I don't believe people don't want to program. In fact, they absolutely do want to program. They just don't want to learn a programming language to do it. Natural language programming and learned skillsets are how we teach children. Few people want to use a calendar, but you can talk to Siri, and it interfaces for you. Few people want to work spreadsheets, but Mint.com does all of the calculations for you.

        People want to be in control. They just want that control to conform to their natural skill sets, not new obscure skill sets.

        • by squiggleslash (241428) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @04:25PM (#38218268) Homepage Journal

          Agree.

          Also, if people didn't want to program, Excel wouldn't be so damned popular. Excel and other spreadsheet systems are used 90% of the time as an IDE with a really good integration of data and logic.

          Always thought Microsoft missed a trick by not integrating Excel into Windows, actually making it the shell. They make have pissed off a lot of computer snobs, but there'd have been a dramatic improvement in usability - as in advanced features being intuitively used by regular users, and it'd probably have put the final nail in Apple's coffin.

          Alas, they thought web browsers would make a better shell, and, well, now it looks like we'll all be working on iPads. Great.

          • And then we would've had to deal with corporate desktops that look like the crappy Excel sheets HR drones create, now that's a future I don't have any interest in. People may want to program but they can't. 90% percent of programmers can't turn out a decent program let alone users. Apple (or more correctly Jobs' Apple) wants great apps, apps that do what the users wants in a well thought out logical and stylish manner, apps created by programming artists (this is the ideal, I know full well they themselves

          • by Colin Smith (2679)

            Which came out first on the NeXT.

            Excel is what Microsoft has done for innovation and bringing the world forward in this space. i.e. Nothing.

            Seriously. What are you thinking? Microsoft's business model is selling you the same thing again and again and again every 18 months. This time with strips.

        • by elhedran (768858)

          People want to be in control. They just want that control to conform to their natural skill sets, not new obscure skill sets.

          Welcome to Siri. I'm still seriously surprised by some of the questions it can actually handle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jgrahn (181062)

        Look, the average user is not us. The average user doesn't want to program their computer. The average user is, in fact, in the market for an expensive video telephone that also plays Angry Birds.

        Isn't it possible that this is because Apple and others trained the average user to believe that?

      • by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @04:13PM (#38218180)

        The average user doesn't want to program their computer.

        Have you ever noticed that whenever anyone in IT speaks of the "average user," it is always with more than a hint of contempt?

        And so we throw the exceptional user under the bus because (we claim) the "average user" doesn't want to think. I did not know we were in the business of promoting mediocrity.

        I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that "what I like" is "what everyone wants and needs"; there are enough people here already doing that.

        Amen to that! However has it occurred to you that users might not only be different from "us," but also different from one another? I think there is a lot more diversity in the computer-using population than we tend to think there is: diversity in expertise, diversity in needs, diversity in preferences.

      • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @05:04PM (#38218742) Homepage

        Correct.

        The computers I use are nothing like the ones my wife or parents need. They have no use for 12 cores and 48 gigs of ram . They don't know what a compiler is. They mostly think programmers are weird magical beings that speak in "binary" and know how to do their own taxes. When I talk of all the work I do with virtual machines, I now make references to Inception, because that's as close as they will ever get to understanding the concept. They think a server is a mythical hyper-expensive meta-machine that is neither PC nor Mac, that houses mysterious super electronics including quantum processors and dilithium cores.

        These people never had a use for Hypercard, and never will. They can barely distinguish the two buttons on a standard mouse, and have to retype their password 10 times until they get it right (it's "password2", because "password1" would be too obvious!). For their uses, the more appliance-like things are, the better. Most users today are stumped by a command line. God forbid they'd have to use that thing with all the letters on it, that's for "serious hacker shit" only.

        Apple simple saw that the so-called "power users" were a dwindling species, replaced by Lifehackers and Redditors and other barely-technical wanna-bes. Now you're either a user or a developer, with not much of a market for people stuck in the middle, where Hypercard thrived.

    • by mr100percent (57156) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:45PM (#38217112) Homepage Journal

      So, you believe Apple is a bunch of fascists, and for that reason they killed one of their programming languages? Baloney. Steve Jobs was the one on stage at NeXT showing how even a child could write GUI apps. He made XCode free and bundled it with every boxed copy of OS X back in 2001 when Microsoft required a paid dev account.

      • by billcopc (196330)

        XCode is not Hypercard. There is a giant chasm between the two.

        I use XCode, but I'm a software developer by trade. XCode is like Visual Studio with more bugs. Hypercard was more like Apple's minimalist take on MS Access + VBA... and yes, I know Hypercard came first, I'm just making a comparison.

        My mother wouldn't know what to do with XCode, but she's quite handy with MS Access or Excel and a few simple macro scripts. If she'd been a Mac person, she would have used Hypercard a fair bit. You could throw

    • With Hypercard, all software was driven by a powerful database and configured as interface. It would have revolutionized the web and how we make custom software (now done in VBscript) today.

      If you think custom web software is all being written using VBscript, I don't know what to tell you. In 2001, maybe - in 2011, definitely not.

    • WTF? Anyone who really wants to do some entry level programming can use HTML and Javascript, which have become really, really powerful. Hell, Microsoft even released a HTML5 demo of Windows Phone 7 [microsoft.com] and it runs beautifully on the iPhone.

      The iPhone has some of the best open web standards support, and Apple is leading the way by trying to make all their latest and greatest tricks (CSS effects and all) into published standards anyone can take advantage of. Anyone bemoaning the loss of Hypercard is ignorin
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:37PM (#38217024) Journal

    Where have you gone, Bill Atkinson, a nation of potential programmers turns its lonely eyes to you.

    Bill Atkinson: ... and that is how HyperCard works. Sir, HyperCard stands to transform most of your average users in application developers. It will be liberating and put the world at their ...
    Steve Jobs: People don't "want" to be liberated. People don't want to think. People don't want to have the burden of imagination placed on them. They want my imagination superimposed on top of theirs. They want what I tell them to want.
    Bill Atkinson: ... okay ...
    Steve Jobs: Nobody knows what to do with your 'HyperCard' program, look at all those buttons. All those buttons screaming at me, all night long. Pushing me into the lockers. Stealing my lunch money. NO MORE BUTTONS.
    *hurls a paperweight as hard as he can several feet from his desk*
    Bill Atkinson: Um, we can change the UI ...
    Steve Jobs: More than that, trim it down. Just a few options. 'Applications' is too broad -- too many branching factors.
    Bill Atkinson: Well, we could limit it to just database applications ...
    Steve Jobs: No, you know what people like? Photography. Make it make photos! Hold on a second ...
    *Jobs snorts a huge line of cocaine off his desk*
    Steve Jobs: Oh jesus that was good. Wait, wait I'm getting something ahhhh ahhhh la la la la la ahhh I'm getting something. Write this down: Postcard making application ... ahhh that takes your photos and sends them to people ... ahhh over the goddamn internet ... with very few buttons.
    Bill Atkinson: Sir, you're throwing away such a powerful application for mere postcard func ...
    Steve Jobs: Goddamnit Atkinson, this is exactly what HyperCard -- I mean PhotoCard -- needs to make it out there. Now go forth and do!
    Bill Atkinson: Yes my master ...

    And that's where Bill Atkinson has gone [youtube.com]!

    • by mr100percent (57156) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:49PM (#38217150) Homepage Journal

      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

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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 Anrego (830717) *

      Sad/annoying/depressing thing is.. he was kinda right.

      I'm definitely no fan of Steve Jobs or Apple .. but I have to admit they identified the subset of functionality that most people wanted and nailed it. It sucks that powerful computers full of potential are being replaced with locked down portable facebook appliances .. but that's what most people want.

    • That needs to be made into a South Park episode!
  • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:38PM (#38217030) Journal

    The spirit of hypercard was easy content creation/scripting by users. Over time that became Geocities, and now it's Facebook. Very few people want to program as an end in itself, and it's not like hypertext went away, the tools just became progressively less low-level and geeky.

    • by Forbman (794277) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:51PM (#38217186)

      Actually, I think that more than a few do, but the current programming tools are actually more or less for those who do it for a living.

      BillG was right - give the amateurs a decent enough tool to make THEIR lives more interesting. Granted, it does then frustrate the hell out of the professionals at work when these amateur hacks somehow metastasize off of their original builder's desktop and becomes a business tool, but... the wiser of us then see this as an opportunity to come up with a spec for a "real" application that is much closer to how the people actually doing that work see and do their work...

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > Actually, I think that more than a few do, but the current programming tools are actually more or less for those who do it for a living.

        This is it right here. As systems have gotten more complex, so have the APIs and languages. Things that used to be relatively simple to do even in assembler are far more complicated to the point of driving way all but the most stubborn.

        Programming doesn't have to be purely the domain of the specialist.

        Stuff like Hypercard is all about lowering barriers and allowing use

    • Take a look at MIT Scratch [mit.edu]... Hypercard it is not, but it is an insanely simple parallel procedural programming system (aimed at 14 year olds). "Millions" of apps have been written and shared in Scratch. A lot of these "apps" are just kids drawing a picture with the included paint program. If that's what they want to do, more power to 'em. If they want to go further and make a flipping storyboard, or add music or sprite animation they can.

      Computers should serve people as they want to be served - we shou

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:42PM (#38217080)

    Supercard didn't flourish. The market was just too tiny. In many ways, Filemaker and similar apps filled the niche.

    If people REALLY wanted a Hypercard-like program, there were alternatives.

    • by sunderland56 (621843) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:57PM (#38217254)
      Any cancelled project that was *truly* useful has several open-source versions of the same idea. So, where is hypercard for linux?
    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:15PM (#38217470) Homepage Journal
      Supercard was expensive, it's not the sort of thing a parent would buy on a whim. The beauty of Hypercard is that it came with the OS so kids could discover the joy of coding on their own. The language was designed so a person reading the source could start to figure it out quickly. It was the perfect gateway language.

      Unfortunately, Hypercard gave way to Hypercard Player, which then became a specialized commercial product, and at that point Hypercard as phenomenon was dead.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Unfortunately, Hypercard gave way to Hypercard Player, which then became a specialized commercial product, and at that point Hypercard as phenomenon was dead.

        It's funny as Hypercard died way before iOS did.

        Hypercard Player was something that came out early 90s. It basically limited the access to what you could do with Hypercard. Earlier revisions simply hid the options, so you could enable it in the Home stack through a secret command or by manually setting the level and removing the rectangle covering the

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Supercard was not an adequate replacement for HyperCard. It increased the level of complexity to where it was competing with other things, like Javascript, Python, Smalltalk. And it was only better than any of those in that it was more like HyperCard.

      HyperCard was useful for getting things done *QUICKLY*. That was pretty much it. It got extended in lots of ways, but every extension took away from it's core value.

      Additionally, HyperCard was valuable BECAUSE you could count on every Mac having a copy. Wh

    • by Zadaz (950521) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @06:47PM (#38220378)

      If people REALLY wanted a Hypercard-like program, there were alternatives.

      Yup. It was called HTML.

      Around 1995 there was a university teaching some kind of "The future of publishing" class. It was mostly just Hypercard. Some FTP, Gopher, etc. About 3 weeks in the prof came in said "To hell with Hypercard, we're learning HTML." even though the prof was learning right along with the students.

      Within a year all of those students had been scouted by internet startups.

  • bring back Cyberdog [cyberdog.org], which made it easy for users to do their own web mashups.
  • Occam's Razor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ink (4325) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:47PM (#38217142) Homepage

    Or, it could be that all those fond memories of Hypercard are exaggerated. I can't recall even one such application that was useful apart from simple educational games. The challenge in creating a GUI-based development system has been tackled many times [wikipedia.org]. The most recent one that I have used is the default Mindstorms programming environment LabView [wikipedia.org], which I quickly discarded for a gcc-based environment.

    The one killing blow that keeps me from really using these environments is that they are fundamentally incompatible with version control. This means that they cannot be large projects, or have much collaboration -- relegating them to trivial systems, which are all I remember Hypercard being.

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

      by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:06PM (#38217382) Journal
      Myst [wikipedia.org], which was a run-away hit selling millions of copies, was originally done in HyperCard.
      • Re:Occam's Razor (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Alomex (148003) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:58PM (#38217996) Homepage

        The exception that proves the rule. If on the other hand you had listed hundreds of applications, you would have proven your point.

        Same thing happens with functional programming. People don't realize just how pathetic it sounds when they always use the same three examples to prove that they matter.

        Compare this to the list of examples you would give if you were asked for successful programs written in C, C++ or Java.

    • LabView [wikipedia.org], which I quickly discarded for a gcc-based environment.

      The one killing blow that keeps me from really using these environments is that they are fundamentally incompatible with version control. This means that they cannot be large projects, or have much collaboration -- relegating them to trivial systems, which are all I remember Hypercard being.

      I "invented" a flow based graphical programming system for my Master's Thesis decades ago, while I was writing it up, I tripped across HyperCard and LabView, which both did very similar things. These systems are excellent for certain applications, especially signal processing with LabView. There's nothing inherently incompatible about LabView and version control, you can build hierarchical systems and make changes at any level, just like subroutine calls. The source code itself checks into subversion jus

      • by ink (4325)

        They may lack "automatic redline change" illumination, but that's not an impossible thing to add if anybody wanted it.

        Version control is a lot more than that; you have to manage branches and merging which would require a lot of work to integrate into a visual development tool. As it stands, the LabView user would still need to understand the code underneath in order to meaningfully contribute. Integration is another mess (how do you write test cases in a visual designer?).

        Having "grown up" with the Amiga, visual development has attracted me, but it has never escaped the realm of neat toy.

    • by petsounds (593538)

      Useful for whom? HyperCard was probably the most friendly, accessible, yet powerful way to introduce people to programming the industry has ever seen.
      I created a full RPG on my Mac Plus using HyperCard when I was in my teens. Sure, I'd read through a C book and could do command-line programs, but rich GUI experiences? That was way beyond what I had a handle on. But, enter HyperCard, and I had a full development environment which let me easily program multimedia experiences. My RPG had animated graphics, a c

    • by swb (14022)

      Back in the 80s when I got my Mac Plus and Rodime 20MB external hard disk, I remember trying to make something out of Hypercard and found it entirely frustrating. It wasn't programmer-friendly enough to create anything like an application, and it was kind of putzy to work with what it could do.

      And didn't doing anything "cool" (animation, sound, etc) require some kind of plug-in/add-on module written in a real programming language?

  • by Etcetera (14711) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:49PM (#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 Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:50PM (#38217168)

    Probably because spreadsheets and PowerPoint solve most of the same problems, but in a fashion that PHBs and MBAs are more comfortable with.

  • no conspiracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:51PM (#38217176) Homepage

    People tend to see conspiracies whenever something doesn't go the way they'd like. "Why didn't you do what I wanted you to do? It must be that you have a secret plan and you're out to get me!" In reality, I doubt that it was about Jobs wanting to make sure people can't do [whatever] with their computers, but because various people don't want to bother with it. In spite of the article's claim that there were "frequent calls to [revive Hypercard]" and a "more-or-less guaranteed and lively market", there probably wasn't enough actual interest to warrant development.

    See here's the thing: there are lots of things aimed at allowing people to script/automate things. There's Applescript and Automator, and some of these sorts of "programs" can be made with Filemaker products. If you want to get deeper, you can get Xcode for free. It's not as though there are no tools available.

    I think the real problem is that there's a lot of people who don't want to deal with the complications of making their own applications, even if it's as simple as Hypercard. Then there are people who do want to make their own applications and are willing to learn Xcode. There isn't a lot in between, and for those people, Automator and scripting serves well enough, and Apple probably thinks those are better solutions than Hypercard.

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

      by itsdapead (734413) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:23PM (#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?)

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

      by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@@@jasonlefkowitz...net> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:59PM (#38218008) Homepage

      Or an even simpler explanation -- rather than going through Apple's portfolio looking for things to axe, Jobs instead went through the portfolio looking for things to keep, and axed everything that didn't make the list. Given Apple's cash-strapped position in the late '90s, the list ended up being relatively short -- desktop Macs, laptop Macs, OS X -- so anything that wasn't directly related to one of those things was going to get cut.

  • by mikael_j (106439) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:52PM (#38217198)

    Ok, so maybe AppleScript and Quartz Composer aren't 100% exactly what Hypercard was, but they're still there, and there's Xcode if you want to do "real" development. Not to mention that you've got all the usual *nix tools available if you're that kind of power user.

    To pretend that Apple killed Hypercard because it interfered with the Mac "walled garden" is just a conspiracy theory. If that was the reason it was killed and remained dead then Mac OS X wouldn't ship with python and Bash. Apple wouldn't have been giving Xcode away (and recently selling it as a download for $5). Nor would they have provided Quartz Composer and AppleScript.

    But yeah sure, walled garden, ooooh, spooky...

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      The idea that Hypercard was killed because of the "walled garden" idea is absurd. Way back then, there was no "walled garden" concept. This was way before Apple got their reputation for wanting to control everything.

      Here's an easy answer- Jobs didn't want his people to keep working on something he thought was not useful. But conspiracy theories of "echos of a different world" and "mind amplifiers" sound so much sexier.

      • Clearly you never tried to upgrade the ram in an early model Mac. It was extremely difficult and required special tools. Many configuration aspects were locked down too. You also couldn't define your own paper sizes for the printer drivers and many of the OS settings could not be altered without installing 3rd party tools.

        There has always been some form of "walled garden" in apple products.

    • by voidptr (609) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:44PM (#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.

  • Doesn't the relative failure of LiveCode and SuperCard in the market show its a non-starter?

    Also I have no interest in developing for a proprietary language. Having one company in control of the lang and its distribution is just obsolete. So bye bye.

  • by ultramk (470198) <ultramk@nOspaM.pacbell.net> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:55PM (#38217224)

    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.

    Seriously, just about anything you could possibly want to do in Hypercard could be done just as easily in HTML with the advantage of being accessible to the world at large. There were a few exceptions, but those were taken care of at first by plugins and now by HTML5.

    Mind you, I say this as someone who ran the Hypercard SIG at one of northern California's largest MUGs.

    • by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecrans AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:29PM (#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 @03:30PM (#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.
    • I understand that when Tim Berners-Lee was coming up with a language to put his web pages together he almost decided to use HyperCard (I don't know why he didn't, anyone?).

      Now imagine a world where HyperCard (available on Macs only) had been used as the development language for the WWW. Then maybe Apple would've kept selling their (then) overpriced Macs for a few more years and Scully would've held onto his job a few more years (do I have the years right?). Steve would've retired early, being embittered b

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:58PM (#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

  • by ifrag (984323) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:59PM (#38217294)

    Maybe Apple won't bring it back, but others have taken a shot at making similar products. For a while I used a tool called "Runtime Revolution" which as I understand it is very similar to what Hypercard was. Even has the same terminology like "cards" and "stacks". It was also cross platform for Win / Mac / Linux.

    It looks like the company has transformed this product into something called LiveCode [runrev.com] now.

    The somewhat tricky part about programming with it is the thing is basically always running, no compile step involved, although there were buttons to halt message passing so it could basically be paused for when UI work required to UI to stop doing stuff.

  • by kachakaach (1336273) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:11PM (#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.

  • Mah (Score:5, Informative)

    by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:37PM (#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 cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:37PM (#38217724)

    I RTFA, I used Hypercard and SuperCard for some quick prototyping for a HCI class. SuperCard was a superset of HyperCard, and I think you could import any Hypercard deck and have it Just Run(TM). It was not controlled by Apple, in fact it's still around. I needed to search for it to see if it still exists. Not saying the audience doesn't exist, but nobody is clamoring for it

    The two Steves had radically different ideas for the direction of computing. Woz was a tinkerer, wanted everyone to be able to do anything, even if that meant shorting your board and starting a small fire. Jobs saw a computer as a great tool but as a near infinite state machine, it needed to be simplified and controlled a bit if everyone was to use it. Both models work, for a subset of people, and with some crossover. I'm a geek and like to tinker (Woz model), but sometimes i just want stuff to work (leans towards Jobs model). The removal of a tool that didn't make much money for the company and left some threads showing is consistent with the Jobs model, with no evil overtones.

  • I was there (Score:5, Informative)

    by DennyBoll (413080) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:44PM (#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 @03:44PM (#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 Caerdwyn (829058) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @03:49PM (#38217898) Journal

    If Hypercard and the concept behind it is so great, why aren't you superior basement-dwellers writing your own? If you've been "bemoaning" its loss for over a decade, why aren't there a hundred open source versions?

    Oh yeah. You want Apple to do it for you, at their expense, so you can take it for free while at the same time claiming you invented it and bashing Apple for doing all your research and hard work for you. You want to keep yourselves on pedestals so that nobody can send an email without consulting a Birkenstock-clad neckbeard. Too bad Apple is making all the toys that previously were your domains to "idiots" and "sheep" and anybody else who doesn't think that you should need to devote your life to computing to be "worthy" of using a computer.

    No wonder nobody important pays attention to what the "Slashdot community" wants.

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