Bill Atkinson’s HyperCard

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HyperCard, released in 1987, was a free, easy to use, hypermedia authoring tool. note The metaphor of a ‘stack’ of cards, and its english-like scripting language HyperTalk, note were immediately easy to understand. Most HyperTalk scripts could be viewed, copied and modified.

HyperCard was easy to create with. Graphics tools from the popular MacPaint note (an earlier creation of HyperCard author Bill Atkinson note ) were built right into the program. Editable, searchable text fields, and scriptable buttons were created just like graphics. HyperCard even included unique audio capabilities note unseen in modern tools. Perhaps most importantly, Apple distributed the software free with every Mac, encouraging the sharing of stacks.

HyperCard delivered significant computing power to creative people who had few preconceptions about what it should be used for. Artists, writers and other non-programmers dived in. Stacks were shared via BBSes, floppy disks and books. Many experienced programmers embraced HyperCard as well, and extended its functionality. There was an explosion of interactivity as amateurs, artists and creative professionals created interactive games, stories and other experiences.

This all happened in one-bit, black or white, on a 512 by 342 pixel nine inch monitor. note

This article will recall a number of works — influential HyperCard stacks plus a few other seminal wares — from a time when a whole new group of people were discovering, investigating and expanding a young medium. From there, we’ll share some of our experiences at Mackerel, as we stumbled onto multimedia, gathered our wits, and became vitalized by the constant opportunity for exploration and invention.

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