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From HyperCard to SuperCard, with a little help from my friends

Contrary to what many folk think I'm not actually interested in computers, only in what they empower you to do. (I programmed my first mainframe computer over 45 years ago.) I seldom upgrade unless forced to, and I am still devoted to my eerily silent Apple Cube despite its great age (virtually "last century"). Above all, I am still running not only my business but also all domestic, personal, family and other contacts using a wonderful HyperCard stack that my guru Bob Tennent and I developed in 1989! HyperCard was fast, friendly, flexible and (perhaps fatally) free. It was easy to adapt to developing needs and I simply can't imagine life without it.

Sadly, although Apple has kept faith with its legacy users who can run HyperCard in a window under the obsolete OS9, successive upgrades have been less and less compatible with keeping my wonder stack updated, and no new Mac can run it at all. My Cube is groaning under its workload and has slowed to a point where I notice delays. I saw this coming, and actually bought HyperCard's modern descendant SuperCard a few years ago. And then I postponed and procrastinated ... SuperCard is fundamentally different, a more powerful piece of software, slightly scary. Despite being about 95% compatible with HyperCard, I was worried about the other 5%. Normally 95% of a programmer's effort goes into fixing the last 5%. No longer a spring chicken, I funked the idea of having my life and my business paralysed by inability to debug unfamiliar code. It was, after all, nearly 20 years since I had been competent at HyperTalk coding ... and my LaserWriter which also dates from that era is still going strong!

Fortunately, SuperCard has three enormous assets, beyond the fact that it works with modern Macs. First is a HyperCard conversion utility which (to my enormous relief) took my stack (now with nearly 9000 records) and converted it into a 95% usable SuperCard project. Second, there's a wonderful user group where my "seeking help" message (concerned with the other 5%) has already provided 47 response messages from SuperCard developers who are really generous with their time and expertise. Third is John Johnston, user group member and teacher at Sandaig Primary School in Easterhouse, Glasgow. He has already helped me loads by email, and I haven't even met him yet. Look at the pupils' blogs, podcasts and projects on his school's amazing website. The result is that despite a hair-raising week since I converted, some scary "Bad Star" messages and a lot of messing with code (SuperTalk, AppleScript et al), I now have a working project which is very nearly as useful as the previous stack and not all that much slower.

Whilst I appreciate Danny Goodman's altruism in insisting that HyperCard be free of charge, had it been sold even at a sensible price, I bet it would still be alive and well and available on modern Macs, thereby saving all of us who loved it the pain of switching to SuperCard. Just a thought about market forces.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 26, 2008 6:36 PM.

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