The iPad needs its HyperCard

Easy to use content creation tools are key to the iPad's long-term success.

(Note: With the iPad scheduled to arrive this week, we reached out to a number of folks across a variety of industries to get their take on the device and the changes it may usher in. We’ll be featuring these pieces over the next few weeks. — Mac)

Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of MAKE:

When I think about opportunities around the iPad, I recall the CD-ROM market of the late 1980s. CD-ROM followed packaged software but created a number of innovative “content” packages, creating new categories such as “edutainment” with products like Reader Rabbit.

iPad CoverageMy favorite CD-ROM product, which I thought held such promise as a landmark approach to multimedia, was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony by Robert Winter, a UCLA music professor. While listening to the symphony, you saw notes appear that explained the music and some of its features. This was liner notes on steroids. This CD-ROM offered something you couldn’t get on a TV or a stereo.

The Beethoven 9th application was written in Hypercard and it was produced by Bob Stein at The Voyager Company. Stein also combined documentary or feature films with the critical commentary in products like “A Hard Day’s Night” and children’s books such as “The Amanda Stories.”

The CD-ROM market also consisted of “productivity” titles from Broderbund such as Family Tree Maker and Print Shop. It also gave birth to a game market that culminated in Myst (also based on HyperCard.)

The market for CD-ROMs collapsed because the distribution channel for boxed software went away, and the web became the primary means for users to find entertainment, games and productivity apps. It was also true that the web lowered the bar for creating applications, even though it was much less capable of delivering rich content. (Nothing like the Beethoven’s Symphony app has been created on a website that I know of.)

So, when I think of the iPad, I wonder if a new opportunity will exist for interactive applications, which will find a space somewhere between a computer and the TV. They’ll need to do more than convey information, as most ordinary websites do. They’ll need to be more user-driven than television but they’ll need to integrate all forms of media. iPhone apps certainly look more like simple CD-ROM apps than they do websites.

What’s missing today is HyperCard, or an equivalent tool that can be used to create a new wave of applications for the iPad. And if Apple isn’t thinking about it, you’d expect that Adobe would be, especially since its acquisition of Macromedia brought in-house the other professional tool used by CD-ROM creators, Macromind Director. It’s not that HyperCard or Director is the answer, but I am just pointing out the lack of really good tools available for amateurs and professionals to use to create new kinds of applications for the iPad. HyperCard was not only used by The Voyager Company; it was used by teachers to create coursework; or students to prepare a report; it was used by individuals to develop novelty applications like recipe databases. We had highly produced, professional applications and mostly free shareware apps.

Making it easy to create content and increasing the number of people who can create applications for the iPad could be very important to its long-term success. The web has made producers of us all. If the iPad is just another consumer platform for consuming and not creating content, then it will just be another way to watch TV or listen to music or download information. Convenient, yes, but just another device. To be something different, the iPad must not be just a delivery platform but a creative one, offering professionals and amateurs an opportunity to create a unique experience with interactive media.

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  • Bob Calder

    It does indeed *seem* as if the device needs something special.

    The fact that nobody is stepping forward might suggest you should think about how you could do it with – . . . wait for it . . . QuickTimePro for fifty bucks.

    Basically, what you need to do anything in synch with music is an application that can grab the audio timecode. That’s why presentation apps don’t cut it unless you use Scala (PC).

    Scala used to have a Nix-like version for the Amiga. It would also make a fabulous home automation control app since it has I/O tools and is scriptable.

  • Juande Santander

    For computers of this kind I tend to be more web oriented, so I think this solutions fit nicely:

    Sage for computing:

    TileStak for the more HyperMedia part:

  • Noibs Guy

    What a great observation. Hypercard put so much power into an intuitive, GUI environment.

    If only…

  • patrick La Roque

    Couldn’t agree more. In fact I wrote this almost two months ago:

    Aren’t we in sync…

  • stefn

    Great idea. Way back, we used Hypercard to develop informational stacks at the publishing house I worked at. Used them for most of a decade.

    I keep looking at Bento, wondering why Filemaker can’t see the opportunity to move into this space: A fast, flexible database app that can be shared online via iWeb and MobileMe. It’s all there, just in antique pieces that seem to belong in the last millennium.

  • Matt Johnston

    I think there’s a real need for a HTML5 high level IDE to do for HTML/CSS what Flash does for Flash. I think @gruber said that. Maybe it will come from Adobe.

    There’s also a need for self-contained apps like Scratch – but will Apple allow authoring environments, even EDU ones, onto the iPad?

  • John Dowdell

    Wouldn’t HTML/JS be the equivalent of HyperCard for devices which have web access but no native code?

    (HTML+TIME and SMIL both offer time-based presentations, but I’m not sure how deeply these specifications were ever supported by the various HTML rendering engines.)


  • NickMMI

    Totally agree…. It would certainly be an interesting project. Something simple that teacher/educators could use to produce tests, quizzes and training material.

  • Roy Wagner

    Bring back HyperCard programs for the iPad would be great. I really enjoyed them “in the day” and think that they would be well accepted again.

  • Mathieu Nouzareth

    Youc an try the Corona Framework, it works great and is simple to learn. The closest you can find today for iPhone and iPad

  • Jack Repenning

    Penguin Books seems to think they’re stepping forward into this solution:

  • susan neuhaus

    I hope Apple is listening. A robust and easy to learn tool would make the ipad more valuable, and an “exchange” would make for a large and active community.

  • Joris Witteman

    Like another commenter says, HTML/CSS/JS/Ajax seems like the answer.

    Remember PastryKit? It allows web apps to be stored to your iPhone as a home screen bookmark, making it look and behave just like a native app.

    Can’t wait to write web apps for iPad and see how they work. Huge potential there if you ask me.

  • Tom

    Game Salad is another option.

  • Beau Vrolyk

    The iPad, like its various predecessor break-out products, defies definition and detailed prediction by pudits. If one could predict what it “needed” it quite possibly wouldn’t really be a break-out product.

    That said, IMHO, each time a new platform as really succeeded, it has been on the basis of an emerging platform tool that enfranchises a new generation of “authors”. The original Mac’s authoring platform turned out to be WISIWYG word processors (authoring documents), the Unix Workstation (authoring C software), the PC was Lotus 123 (authoring financial content), the Web was HTML and then Java/Javascript (authoring the obvious), the iPad…. I don’t think we can know. We can all predict and postulate, but until a large community of authors/programmers/directors emerges upon the back of a choose platform, we can’t “know”.

    In addition to a new authoring environment, a significant customer base for the content needs to exist. That, clearly, already exists for the iPad – even if only half the iPhone customers buy one.

    This will be fun to watch, as I firmly believe the iPad’s interaction modality is a break-out. The rest of the iPad is warmed over tablet stuff, but the interaction modality, that’s truly new and quite wonderful.

  • ObbieZ

    Back in the day when all computer interfaces were text-based, every computer had some version of BASIC included. So every user had a tool for making specialized quick-and-dirty applications. When the Mac came out, it became obvious that the BASIC we all grew up with was not up to the task of programming this new interface, but then Apple came out with HyperCard, and I saw it as the equivalent of BASIC for this new GUI.

    Many of us grew up with computers that came with a way for users to make their own custom applications. If these new devices are so “smart”, then they should come up with a way for us to get them to do what WE want them to do.

  • Lynn Fredricks

    There is a HyperCard for the iPad. Check out Revolution Mobile, coming soon from

    Revolution is the real successor to HyperCard. Not only does it remove all the limitations of HyperCard, but it also supports cross platform compilation to Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

    Runrev also uses a HyperCard compatible language called Rev.

    You can Revolution at or through Mirye Software at

  • Paul Souders

    The beauty of HyperCard wasn’t that it was a slick IDE or a universal platform (ala AJAX/HTML5). It was that nontechies — nonprogrammers and nondesigners — could use it to create graphically-rich interactive custom applications. It also served as a gateway drug into “real” programming. Sooner or later you hit something HC couldn’t easily do so you’d puzzle it out with AppleScript. But it didn’t require that depth of knowledge: you could do a lot with HC right out of the box.

    HTML5/AJAX/JS/Bento/whatever might emerge as the underlying technology but that’s not the point. If the interface doesn’t make it dead simple to do useful work without coding or pixel-pushing, it won’t have the transformative power of HyperCard.

    The Flash/Director model doesn’t even come close. Could you create something like Family Tree Maker in Flash without opening the Actionscript editor?

  • Tim O'Reilly

    From Twitter:

    @pl8t0 points out that “FileMaker’s Bento is in the running”


    @jorisw wrote “Seems like bookmarkable/storable PastryKit apps could be the answer. iTunes LP style. CSS/Ajax with some SQLite added.”

  • Tom Smith

    Who got rid of Hypercard in the first place? Steve Jobs… it was almost one of the first things he did along with getting rid of the Newton and ATG when he returned to Apple.

    Steve hated those godawful stacks that people used to make..some of them were ugly weren’t they?

    Steve hates everything about HyperCard… even probably the “programming for the rest of us” philosophy…. so don’t hold your breath… and go and learn Objective-C :-)

  • Mark Sigal

    Great post, Dale, and wholeheartedly agree. One only has to look at the importance of the NATIVE PLATFORM builder element in driving the success of the App Store and Ecosystem surround.

    Applying that same native platform logic here, the HyperCard-equivalent needs to e-book formats and runtime layers that support touch, tilt, movies, pictures, sound, computation, graphics, compass, direction, and connectivity, not to mention very deep media and apps libraries.

    I blogged on this one in fairly deep detail (including use cases) here:

    Rebooting the Book: One iPad at a Time

    Some inspiration for pondering the import of iPad comes from analyzing the evolution of movie making from silent films to talkies in the early 1920s. The advent of talking pictures not only changed how films were MADE but what films WERE.

    I expect no less with iPad. Food for thought.


  • Zaphod

    I used HyperCard. Still have a shrink wrapped HyperCard book and floppy disk :)

  • Peter Kirn

    I agree, Dale, but here’s a humble suggestion for the equivalent of HyperCard – an environment that does less, not more, and that (ironically) makes programming I think a bit more accessible by making it code-based:

    (and its JavaScript sibling, Processing.js, and its C++ sibling, OpenFrameworks)

    Oddly, growing up one of the things I found confusing with HyperCard was jumping back and forth between the graphical UI and scripting language. I think that having a clean, accessible code language can actually be easier to teach.

    I’ll note, though, I think there’s greater potential for this kind of tool (not only Processing) on open source platforms like Android and Linux. There are relatively few obstacles to tinkering (especially on Linux), and immediate and free distribution without necessarily having to have intervening developer fees and stores.

  • bowerbird

    i programmed an authoring-tool for multi-media presentations
    (including e-books) a decade ago (cross-platform in realbasic),
    and found very little demand for it.

    but perhaps times have changed.

    if you’d like to take a look at it, e-mail
    and i’ll dig it out and dust it off and send it over for review.


  • Lisa Spangenberg

    I would be overjoyed if Apple brought back the QuickTime version of HyperCard that was never released, and it was supported on OS X, iPad and iPhone. I also know that that will never happen.

    In addition, I know that even Voyager’s Beethoven’s Ninth depended on xcmds in C written by the amazing Steve Riggins, much as later products like Voyager’s MacBeth depended on C-strings, and XCMDS written by Riggins and the also amazing Brock LaPorte, as well as lots of really fiendishly clever HyperTalk scripts by people like Michael Cohen and Colin Holgate.

    Even bringing back HyperCard, or RunRev, won’t work now to do what Voyager did in 1989, 0r 1994. In all honesty, the best hope I have for media-rich, hypertext rich, networkable books is Sophie, also from Bob Stein, and also, still drawing on the talents of Steve Riggins.

    What about it Bob? Sophie for iPad? Maybe? Is it possible to use Java in Xcode for the iPad?

  • Daniel Sinker

    Bravo. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been waiting for Apple to repurpose TuneKit as a simple, multimedia publishing platform for the iPad. Something like that would be pretty easy to repurpose for this and it’s clearly needed.

  • Tim F.

    From what I am seeing, I don’t think there will be any dearth of these in-between, multimedia content-app Apps available.

    I think you are raising another point entirely that has nothing to do with the iPad or even Apple. The educational software market needs a kick in the behind and get up to speed with current technologies. Broderbund is still making software but it’s not good. Lots of educational titles seem to be produced by the lowest quality, least innovative developers. (This probably is largely due to many schools holding onto ancient, ancient software. Not only in this partly a cost issue, but it seems like educational software developers have completely lost track of what education wants: so teachers aren’t just holding onto PaintShop5 because they don’t have a budget, but because subsequent versions were worse.)

    I don’t see why XCode isn’t good enough and needs replaced… It wouldn’t be difficult to create quality “CD-ROMs” and even apps that allowed users to create their own “CD-ROMs” if you were a halfway decent developer who got to know XCode and CocoaTouch.

  • Tim F.

    I would also add that even though there are a number of high quality and innovative HyperCard-based applications that proved its power, the bulk of end user HyperCard materials were basically… crap. Sorry, there is no polite way to put it. Yes, the user loved the process when they were creating, but no one outside of the user cared.

    Bento fulfills the needs of data storage, retrieval, viewing… and otherwise, most end users would be creating the equivalent of photo slideshows with captions. What can be done today with iPhoto, iMovie, and Keynote far surpasses most of what was produced by the non-developers using HyperCard.

  • Jim Lambert

    Javascript is no HyperTalk.

  • Richmond Mathewson

    Runtime Revolution is as near as you will get to Hypercard; although it out-does Hypercard by leaps and bounds:

  • Marcio Alexandroni

    Hypercard = Revolution ( Not only an evolution of Hypercard but multiplatform and the Media version is free, where applications can run with a web browser plugin.

    Also, RevMobile comes this year with support to iPhone (alpha version is already available), Windows Mobile and Maemo.

    Marcio Alexandroni

  • Derek Breen

    I had EXACTLY the same thought, about a Hypercard-like app development software from Apple for iPhone/Pad. I have hopes that iWork’s Pad-specific KEYNOTE will eventually offer a stand-alone app export (like how Flash allows .exe export). I also expect Apple to release iLife apps for iPad within the next month or two, including iWeb, which could/should have “Export as iPad app” option.

    The latter, or some dedicated and accessible development application (iPad SDK “lite”) may just make home-brewed apps the “podcasting” of 2010.

  • MisterRon

    Although it is aimed at the Educational market almost exclusively, Roger Wagner’s modern version of Hyperstudio ( does virtually everything Hypercard did, is easy to use, and would be great to see on the iPad. Although I doubt if Apple will allow any programming language to be disrtibuted through the iPad store.

  • RObert M.


    Hypercard was THREE THINGS
    1) an easy interface builder (here the concept of piles & cards)
    2) an easy english like scripted language
    3) all built in multimedia capabilities

    Runrev is all that plus.. multi platform rendering, and much more..
    You can make very simple things very easily and get on to much more complicated stuff too..

    For me it’s the main reason for my coming back to programming.. I just would not do it in C..

  • Tantek

    Paul Souders nailed it.

    HTML5+microformats+CSS3+Javascript (in particular HTML5’s Web Forms 2[1] and CSS3 Basic UI[2]) provide many necessary building blocks for a web-based HyperCard, but they’re not sufficient.

    The missing pieces?

    1) a persistence model as simple as HyperCard’s (no current database/bento etc. solution is close; some combination of HTML5’s web storage[3] and hAtom[4] might be a good starting point)

    2) authoring built right into viewing. Imagine having the Safari Web Inspector and other “debugging” tools available by default and updated to be as simple/accessible/usable as HyperCard’s inspection/editor UI with integration of the aforementioned persistence model and you’re halfway there.

    However even with all the building blocks, the overall simplicity and ease of use of the resultant integration is key.

    And that’s just for parity.

    It may also be more interesting to interpolate forward from the vision of HyperCard into the context of today’s distributed multi-user web.

    I think EtherPad[5] could be considered a modern day simple stripped down “one card with one field and no graphics/scripting” distributed HyperCard.

    Perhaps if one were to extend EtherPad[6] (or rewrite something like it) with web storage, multiple cards/fields/buttons/images/audio/video (using HTML5+CSS3 primitives), and javascript handlers for those objects it might start resembling a modern day HyperCard.



    (with corrected URL [*] references)

  • Than Saffel

    What hooked me about HyperCard when I discovered was not any of the things the comments above touch on – it was the “What’s this?” feeling I got when I first started to play with Hypercard, which came bundled with our spanking new Mac Plus in 1988.

    I am a word and picture person, not a math or logic guy. I can figure stuff out, but through blind, crude hunches and abortive attempts. Hypercard was a great way for me to learn a little bit about how software and interfaces worked.

    What it was was essentially a starter Lego (or, if you want to go back a genration or three, Erector) set for nascent infotinkerers, en route to becoming full-blown Information Architects.

    As is my wont, it took me about a year of abortive fiddling to actually DO anything with Hyercard, and even then what I did was undoubtedly less that useless.

    But looking back on those first experiments with this totally open-ended-seeming fun tool, I recall the words of a friend justifying his purchase of two – TWO – 1954 Greyhound buses: “Because they’re fuckin’ COOL, man!”

    I’m not saying that I felt cool fooling around with Hypercard – I’m saying that IT felt cool to DO. Make a button, Click the button. The button turns black. Release the button. The button turns white. The screen changes – you “go” somewhere. You have made something. The sense of aimless discovery is akin to the fooling around in creeks that I did as a kid, and that my kids love today.

    So many of the comments above reference other tools that might assume the mantle of HyperCard, but few if any address the aimlessness factor that, to me, was the most addictive and revolutionary part of the program.

    And of course, there was no StackStore to grant or deny legitimacy. Your stack worked or didn’t, sucked or succeeded. Which is also kind of nice.

  • Jodi Schneider

    “I wonder if a new opportunity will exist for interactive applications, which will find a space somewhere between a computer and the TV” – The chumby is already in this space, and very hackable, though most apps are coded in flash, making this less immediate relevant to the iPad.

  • David Drucker

    I wrote a book on HyperCard and was sad to see its eventual demise within Apple. SuperCard was a worthy successor (and I used it for some key projects, including a room control system UI running off a touchscreen-equipped Performa), but Allegiant, the eventual owner of it, couldn’t make any money of it either.

    The key I always felt about HyperCard was the programming language. Hypercard was so successful partly because the programming language built into it, ‘Hypertalk’ was designed to be easy to learn and ‘English-like’. One could learn to make the transition from concept to pseudo-code to real code very quickly, and despite the fact it lacked a few key utilities (mainly arrays,linked lists and records), it could do an awful lot.

    The other thing it was missing was what another HyperCard clone called Spinnaker PLUS called ‘software slots’, which were plug-in objects that filled in gaps for special purpose apps. Needed a spreadsheet field with some sorting abilities? Someone undoubtedly could produce a software slot for you.

    If someone developed a product that was iPad/iPhone specific, included that easy-to use language (or easier, knowing what we know now compared to the late 80s and early 90s, which was HyperTalk’s era), included a well thought out software slot technology (a la RealBasic or even Photoshop’s plugin technology) and included a good drawing and painting environment for building simple UIs or tweaking imported ones, and you’d have a really powerful software platform.

    Note that now the hardware is fast enough that an interpreted (although some runtime compiling was eventually added to HyperTalk) would work now. Also, some built-in utilities for parsing text streams from the internet (an XML parser as well as a more specific RSS input), a browser field for the times when you have to throw a Hail Mary pass to Webkit would round it out nicely.

    The key sticking point here is that there’s really only one company in the world that can do this: Apple. Apple prohibits any other programming environment on the iPhone and iPad, so that they can control the authoring environment. So far, they’ve limited that environment to XCode and Interface Builder. There is a somewhat easier but still ugly Dashcode for building Javascript-based Dashboard apps — although they must live on the web and aren’t true disk-based utilities.

    I wonder if anyone is working on anything remotely like this within Apple? They certainly have the programming talent, and if they wanted to do a ‘programming for everybody’ product like they did with HyperCard, they certainly could. Unfortunately, Steve Jobs hated HyperCard, perhaps because it was another of those Sculley era products like the Newton, also ahead of its time and seriously flawed.

  • Matthew Fabb

    Perhaps with Adobe’s Flash iPhone packager might be the solution, which is supposed to work (although not sure by launch) for the iPad as well. Although Paul Souders brings up a good point in that Flash still has a bit of a learning curve for someone non-technical. Adobe and Macromedia before them have struggled with making Flash more complex for developers, while keeping it easy for designers to work with.

    Although now that I think about it Adobe’s new program Flash Catalyst is somewhat similar to the old HyperCard model. You can create screens of the application and link them to different screens, select items and make them into navigation buttons and so on. The resulting application is supposed to be passed to a developer to add more complex functionality, but still a lot could be done by just a designer with very little to no technical background.

    However, at the moment Adobe’s iPhone packager seems to only be coming out for Flash CS5, so it might be a while until Flash Catalyst can output a iPhone or iPad app.

  • Steven W Riggins

    Nice article, Dale! I did code Beethoven’s 9th for Bob/Voyager back in the “good ‘ole days.” I’m now looking at bringing some titles forward to the iPad as custom developed apps.

    There are the Revolutions out there which are very nice products, but too expensive for my blood when doing spec apps for people. HyperCard was good for many reasons, one of which it was free.

    My customized apps have not been tremendously hard to do other than optimize for performance on the original iPhone and iPod Touch. Things get tricky there.

    The beauty of Revolution type applications is that you can go from prototype to delivery quickly. I’ll have to check it out again to see what Revolution Mobile has to offer, should I ever be gainfully employed in iPad development :)

  • Bill Maya

    I would’ve considered trying out RunRev Mobile but the company wanted to charge something like $800 to try out their beta. No way was I going to fund development of their product no matter how good it was (and at the time it didn’t support the full iPhone API).

  • Substance

    Read Paul Souders comment, it’s better than the actual article.

    Tim Berners-Lee has said that his concept for the World Wide Web and its focus on hypertext was inspired by HyperCard. It would seem that as HTML 5 matures, the first company that can create an easy (as in visual, not hand-coding) HTML 5 content creator app will essentially be the next HyperCard.

  • Brice Le Blevennec

    Today I run a Web Agency ( but I started in 1991 as a Mac based multimedia producer. I have been developing interactive kiosks with Hypercard and XCMD do display JPEG and QuickTime 1.0 movies, I have suffered with VideoWorks then Director then FutureSplash then Flash and many more obscure multimedia production tools (some listed above)… The easiest, smartest, most powerful authoring tool I have ever used was Apple Media Tool.

    It is still maintained alive by TribalMedia under the name iShell as a multimedia authoring tools with it’s K language. It could trivially be updated to output iPad apps.

    Another option wold be Flux from The Escapers : it’s an HTML5/CSS3 WYSIWYG authoring tool that is close to your dream and it can create iPad optimized websites today :

    Finally Apple could put all their existing authoring tools (Dashcode, iWeb, Quartz Composer, Interface Builder, iDVD, …) in a blender. I bet on iWeb being updated for HTML5 with templates optimized for iPad for the general public and some Pro version closer to the current Dashcode.

  • Robert Cailliau

    Yes: Runrev, see
    It’s Hypercard++
    I’ve been using it for years.
    Next Runrev conference is in San José.
    Runrev on the web also replaces php on the server, javascript in the client and java for applets.
    ONE language for all!

  • bowerbird

    lisa spangenberg and steve riggins! we’re in good company! :+)

    seriously, it always strikes me as funny when people say
    “what we really need is something like what hypercard was”,
    and then i say, “i programmed that, do you want to see it?”,
    and there’s this big void of silence coming back in return…

    it’s lip-service, and little more. (and not even much of that.)

    which is why bob stein’s authoring-tools — from tk3 up to
    steve’s latest baby, sophie — have never really caught on…

    and hey, i bet most of you had never even _heard_ of run-rev…


  • Sheilagh is a great application for browsing around and learning more about the well organized media files, plus useful curriculum tools for teachers.

    It isn’t music… but it does structure and support discovery of multiple media formats.

  • Bart

    I guess this development puts an end to this conversation unfortunately –

    In some respects I understand Apple’s decision, but on the other hand, it really does make the platform a little too exclusive of a club and limits the ideas that can appear to the group of people who are or have access to objective C coders to help them put their ideas on the platform. In my mind, kind of lame.

    Also wonder how this will affect things like RevMobile?

  • Bill Seitz

    Ah, flashback to “Beyond Cyberspace” stack…

    Developing Scratch apps would be awesome.

    But I also love the DesktopWebServer approach that Tantek and others cover above.

    Does the iPad have sqlite baked in? CoreData?

  • Alan Bleier

    WikiServerPro seems to do almost everything you want
    but I’m not sure how easy it is to make a stack you can give to someone else

  • Bruce

    I used hypercard back in the day and as easy as it was I understand why Jobs killed it. The problems all seem to be apply to flash:

    1) Sturgeon’s Law on steroids. Take off the rose colored glasses for a moment and you will see that like Flash Hypercard had a large noise to signal ratio–far more than the 90% of Sturgeon.

    2) Jack of trades by accident. Hypercard like Flash stumbled into its prominence totally by accident–it was quite simply the right program at the right time. The problem was that as programs improved the limitations compared to more specialized programs created with more modern tools became all the more obvious.

    3) Model T on the Interstate. Like Flash, Hypercard didn’t really keep up with changes in computing. As a result more modern tools could run rings around it both in terms of size and speed.

    4) What Apple Human Interface Guidelines? Let’s face it, in terms of the Apple Human Interface Guidelines Hypercard like Flash was a train wreck in progress. You could do anything so any Interface Guidelines tended to get file 13ed.

  • Flyboy

    Where have you all been?
    RunRev Revolution see
    is the current incarnation of Hypercard.
    Hypercard has moved with the times and gone through a few name changes since Apple gave up on it!

    How can you all remember HC so well and so fondly, but not know about runrev? – It’s HC come of age!

  • Alan Bleier

    Since posting about wikiserver pro I’ve tried it, but have found a better solution for my needs for note-taking about numerous pieces of nanofabrication equipment: TiddlyWiki, a wiki in an single html file.

  • Chris Innanen

    Some bad news…

    Steve Jobs and Apple have officially KILLED the idea of a Hypercard-like product on the iPad and iPhone platforms.

    Even though Steve himself has said (recently) that Hypercard on iPad would be a good idea, he has now put a rather final end to the possibility.

    And it was halfway there!!!

    RevMobile was working. I paid for the privileged to get my hands on it early and have a couple of programs on my iPhone even now. I’ve used Hypercard and its descendants continuously since 1988, so you can imagine my excitment.

    But due to Apple’s licensing agreement changes, and even after further negotiations between RunRev and Apple, no intermediary translation layers or other languages are permitted at all.

    The full scoop is in RunRev’s blog here:

    And now I’m hundreds of dollars poorer with nothing to show for it. Thanks SO much Steeeeve.

    …It would have been so awesome.

  • Arethuza

    My current project is to try and build something like HyperCard for the iPad/iPhone using HTML 5:

  • soobrosa

    how about popplet?

  • Kamal Hussain

    iPad has dozens of free apps available, I have downloaded and tested some free ones and guess what some of them are great, but I must admin there are some craps free ones and paid ones available.

    pay as you go mobile phones

  • Ella Emma

    Script-based programming wouldn’t catch on for the iPad.
    Too much typing. iPad users are visual, tactile.
    The iPad is reviving Point-&-Click games.
    iPad users might welcome P-&-C programming.
    P-&-C programming exists: e.g., Agentsheets, Scratch
    The technology exists with HTML5.
    What is needed: the visual authoring environment.
    Imagine mTropolis (mFactory) built on HTML5
    OOP in a drag and drop tile-based metaphor.

  • Tim Walker

    Starting in ’87, I designed and coded VideoCards, a HyperCard-based front end for K-12 educational science videodiscs. The HC stacks stored text and picture information synched to video stills and clips.
    To me, the most revolutionary thing about HC was that I, as designer, could pass its authoring capabilities right along to the end-users: classroom teachers and their students. On top of the read-only information, they could add their own info, create video “tours” with a modicum of scripting, etc. On the PC side, we used Asymetrix ToolBook which was originally a clone of HC (not free however).
    I don’t know of any software since then that has so well supported this learning model of adding value to a shared knowledge base. HTML and wikis get you there, but I’m still searching for one piece of software that would let me publish a navigable multimedia database with Wiki-like open-endedness…

  • Pope Ratzo

    It’ll never happen. Apple, sadly, is married to the “walled garden”. They just don’t want you to do anything that might take you away from floating merrily down their revenue stream.

    Expect the next iMac and OSX 10.7 to adopt the “App Store” model. You know how you can download third-party apps that make Adobe products more useful? Won’t happen.

    This is the company that brought us the Macintosh and the Newton. It’s really a shame what’s happened to Apple. How much longer will they even be in the personal computer business? And by “personal computer” I mean something you can be creative on.

  • Writermonki

    The main thing that HyperCard did was make data persistence a non-issue. I think a 21century HyperCard would be a web 2.0 cloud app, but it would have to make data persistence a no-brainier. This would require a backend server. I think apple should do this and make it an open source project. Apple could then make, and if they wanted to sale, a GUI environment for creating applications. Their environment would be proprietary, but the technologies that power it would be open source, that way, the competition that followed would move in the right direction; making the best creation environment, not a slue of incompatible technologies that only work well on windows desktops. That’s the one thing steve really hates.

  • Ekami

    I stopped coding in HC when MacOS 10.5 unsupported Classic Mode. But i still use HC everyday under 10.4 + Classic for some very usefull stacks i created and i don’t plan to recode with Revolution. HC helped and permited lots of people to understand how Oriented Object programmation worked (even if there was only 2 or 3 classes) with HyperTalk ( variation of SmallTalk). But the OO model is still here in lots of software ( FileMaker of course ), maybe even in the OS.
    Now i must learn Revolution, and it’s a big joy coding again in HC mode, but with more power !
    HC concept is not dead ;-)

  • There’s a lot of things the iPad is missing. No USB port? Really apple? Anyways, thanks for the post.

  • I had to stop and pause for a sec when someone asked me whether the iPad has a USB port or not. Surely that’s the basic and most necessary thing for any computer based products.

  • cb

    All of the above should start with:

    – assume a person that can program machines

    – assume a person with a programmable idea

    else, the programming tool (that you love) gets played with and discarded (which is ok for many reasons)

    especially now that there are so many of them and the stuff they create is so accessable for “the rest of us”

  • seriously, it always strikes me as funny when people say
    “what we really need is something like what hypercard was”,
    and then i say, “i programmed that, do you want to see it?”,
    and there’s this big void of silence coming back in return…

    it’s lip-service, and little more. (and not even much of that.)

    which is why bob stein’s authoring-tools — from tk3 up to
    steve’s latest baby, sophie — have never really caught on…

    and hey, i bet most of you had never even _heard_ of run-rev…

  • Boddin

    I am still in mourning over the death of Hypercard. You could do almost anything with it. No database applications I have used since touch the flexibility and power of Hypercard. Apple did us a great disservice.

  • Writermonki hits the nail on the head in with the data-persistence issue and and cloud computing in that they are tailored towards the windows OS and not Mac OS. One would be foolish to assume that this didn’t play a role in the sounding of the death knell for hypercard :(

  • HELLO?!?!?
    You people keep going on about how great HyperCard was and no one is responding to what some people are saying…
    LiveCode (formerly called RunRev, Runtime Revolution, and MetaCard before that) IS HYPERCARD!!! Better it’s like HyperCard version 7 or 8 AND IT RUNS ON Mac, MacOSX, Windoze, Linux, thru a Web-Plugin, as a Headless Server on OSXServer & Linux, and mobile devices iPhone/iPad iOS, Windoze mobile, and now Android too!!! Apple fixed there license so RunRev can build for iOS again!

    Unfortunately the biggest difference between LiveCode and HyperCard besides modernization is $$$ price $$$!!! HC used to sell for like $50 for unlimited liscence, but LiveCode is $299 for one platform deployment pack and $99 more for each add-on platform so if you want to build apps for (1) Mac/Win, (2) Linux, (3) iPad, and (4) Android, that’s $600! Certainly not for the casual programmer or hobbiest.
    They do have a “personal” addition for $99 or 30 day limited free trial versions (but not for mobile versions yet) and if you decide to sell your apps you can pay the difference to go up to the commercial license.

  • Its simply amazing the blind spot Apple has for HyperCard and how a modernised version could empower and give pleasure to so many users. Lets face it, newbies can’t create in Objective C or get to grips with the API framework as its a mountain to climb but HyperCard would hide all that stuff behind English-like commands.
    It has to be Apple that does this because although RunRev tried they were blocked by Apple keeping the platform closed to other sotware creation systems.
    Compare this to the situation with Google Android where several alternative software creation systems have appeared – RunRev, Basic4Android, HyperNext Android Creator(HAC). Both RunRev and HAC are based on HyperCard and in time should open up the platform to newbie creators. As the developer of HAC I must admit to having an interest but do remember the time when HyperCard opened up the Mac to teachers and home developers.

  • malcolm

    I’m so sorry for the repeats – sent from an Android tablet having connections problems :(

  • LiveCode (RunRev) may be the modern version of HyperCard, but it doesn’t run on the iPad. Only its products can run on the iPad.

    Codify (son to be Codea), from, has the potential.

  • Max Schafer

    Livecode will allow you to make an app the will run on almost any platform, including Android.

  • Fred Illies

    AMEN to the idea of having a tool that allows regular people to create iOS apps. As a longtime FileMaker user, I’m APPALLED that I can’t create a FM app and run it as a runtime on iPad. FileMaker’s Layout tools and simple yet robust database tools would let users create all kinds of niche apps or tailored apps for their business. Suggesting Bento for that is a joke. iOS development is way too inaccessible and expensive to have the platform HYPERexplode as was suggested in this article.