HyperCard allowed you to create “stacks” of cards, which were visual pages on a Macintosh screen. You could insert “fields” into these cards that showed text, tables, or even images. You could install “buttons” that linked individual cards within the stack to each other and that played various sounds as the user clicked them, mostly notably a “boing” clip that to this day I can’t get out of my mind. You could also turn your own pictures into buttons.

Not only that, but HyperCard included a scripting language called “Hyper Talk” that a non-programmer like myself could easily learn. It allowed developers to insert commands like “go to” or “play sound” or “dissolve” into the components of a HyperCard array.
Even before its cancellation, HyperCard’s inventor saw the end coming. In an angst-filled 2002 interview, Bill Atkinson confessed to his Big Mistake. If only he had figured out that stacks could be linked through cyberspace, and not just installed on a particular desktop, things would have been different.

“I missed the mark with HyperCard,” Atkinson lamented. “I grew up in a box-centric culture at Apple. If I’d grown up in a network-centric culture, like Sun, HyperCard might have been the first Web browser. My blind spot at Apple prevented me from making HyperCard the first Web browser.”

  1. tdkyo says:

    When I was a kid, I was so fascinated with Hypercard in my elementary school’s Mac. (Especially with being able to link to different cards) Unfortunately, I found quickly that it was not available for the PC. Then, I discovered Netscape Composer, and that’s the beginning of my programming career. 🙂

  2. ugly, constipated, and mean says:

    Hypercard hasn’t been forgotten by the people who matter, although I guess he wouldn’t have minded becoming a multi-billionaire like marc andreesen either.

  3. msbpodcast says:

    HyperCard and HyperTalk were to halves of a really neat platform. I used it and SuperCard in the late 80s on my original Mac.

    But, Bill Atkinson was/is right, it needed the breaking of the box-centric program view and the HyperTalk language was a YALOL (Yet Another Line Oriented Language) when it was crying out for a visual OOPI (Object-Oriented Programming Interface) such as found in IBM’s VisualAge Smalltalk (Or, for a behavior-based model, on some tool based on my own Rovira Diagrams)

    [Link fixed — ed.]

  4. veggiedude says:

    MacWorld UK just reviewed LiveCard 5.5 which converts hypercard stacks to iOS apps.


  5. deowll says:

    To me it seemed like a wonderful way to create truly complex documents. Stories that were linked to another and just branched off while linking back to the original or related story.

    In some ways it seems more like a web site creation software than a browser.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      HyperCard was used to develop the popular game Myst, and other early CD-ROMs.

      The Mac user group that I was a member of in the early ’90s – along with all other Mac user groups – would propose changes to the Macintosh operating system to Apple. I proposed of a way that HyperCard stacks could be converted to web pages. This would have been similar to the “Save as HTML” feature of Microsoft PowerPoint that was released years later. I don’t know if any such HyperCard utility ever existed.

      The Apple CEO of that time, John Scully, said that his biggest regret was the failure to develop HyperCard properly. The word “database” was used over and over again to describe HyperCard.

      In 1992, the Macintosh Classic II included a training tutorial for new users to the Macintosh that was a HyperCard stack. It covered the basics of the mouse, menus, etc. It was an “insanely great” tool.

  6. dadeo says:

    Woulda’ shoulda’, coulda’.

  7. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Jr Culture Critic says:

    My dad was onto computers from the get go working in the Air Forces first exploratory program. He brought home the first card punch encyclopedia from Britannica. I played with it. Grew up a few miles from Silicone Valley.

    Never thought there was a real application for home computers until I got one at work.

    Slap my forehead: I was “in” on computers from the get go and never saw them coming. I blame my father. He could have put down the beer and TALKED TO ME about his own vision.

    Instead, all I got was an abiding love of beer.

    Ha, ha.

  8. So what says:

    And if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass.

  9. brm says:

    One of the many things about the Mac I was jealous of as a PC user in the 80s and 90s.

    Where did it go? It was, briefly, and in a stripped-down form, the early web.

    The days when every home computer user was also a bit of a programmer… miss em. But the fact that my phone has more RAM than my first laptop did hard disk space makes it easy to move on.

    • GregAllen says:


      >> The days when every home computer user was also a bit of a programmer

      It was a remarkable time, right? I still marvel at how innovatitive average uses were.

      I work in schools almost none of the kids go beyond buying and using apps.

      To be fair, some are making interesting content — music, videos, etc. The vast majority are just texting each other.

  10. brm says:

    ps: love that the pic is from one of the greatest hypercard stacks ever.

  11. GregAllen says:

    I’m a dreamer, so I’ve had lots of ideas that other people did.

    But I never worked at Apple where they could have happened!

  12. Greg Brondo says:

    I’m pretty new to the HyperCard scene and found http://runrev.com — LiveCode. It’s a successor to HyperCard and cross platform. Fantastic tool. I highly recommend it.

    • GregAllen says:

      You are _new_ to the HyperCard Scene?

      Have you tried WordPerfect 5.1 yet? It’s fantastic

      • sdf says:

        Reminds me of Linux users. Functionality is low priority.

        • GregAllen says:

          Hey! Too close to home!

          Seriously, I see Linux as the exact opposite. I like it for it’s functionality.

          If I want bells and whistles, I’ll use something else.

          But for basic functions, I prefer Linux. Nothing fancy, just works.

  13. JimD, Boston, MA says:

    Hey ! WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS is the BEES KNEES !!! (And beats the pants off any version of M$ Word !!!)

  14. Greg Brondo says:

    Funny. Obviously you haven’t looked at LiveCode. And yes, I did use Wordperfect when it was the only choice for word processing. I also wrote 8bit assembly and remember when 4K of ram was massive.

    Kids with their iPad’s these days…… 😉


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