HyperCard On The Archive (Celebrating 30 Years of HyperCard)

On August 11, 1987, Bill Atkinson announced a new product from Apple for the Macintosh; a multimedia, easily programmed system called HyperCard. HyperCard brought into one sharp package the ability for a Macintosh to do interactive documents with calculation, sound, music and graphics. It was a popular package, and thousands of HyperCard “stacks” were created using the software.

Additionally, commercial products with HyperCard at their heart came to great prominence, including the original Myst program.

Flourishing for the next roughly ten years, HyperCard slowly fell by the wayside to the growing World Wide Web, and was officially discontinued as a product by Apple in 2004. It left behind a massive but quickly disappearing legacy of creative works that became harder and harder to experience.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Hypercard, we’re bringing it back.

After our addition of in-browser early Macintosh emulation earlier this year, the Internet Archive now has a lot of emulated Hypercard stacks available for perusal, and we encourage you to upload your own, easily and quickly.

If you have Hypercard stacks in .sit, .bin.hqx, and other formats, visit this contribution site to have your stack added quickly and easily to the Archive: http://hypercardonline.tk

This site, maintained by volunteer Andrew Ferguson, will do a mostly-automatic addition of your stack into the Archive, including adding your description and creating an automatic screenshot. Your cards shall live again!

Along with access to the original HyperCard software in the browser, the Archive’s goal of “Access to ALL Knowledge” means there’s many other related items to the Hypercard programs themselves, and depending on how far you want to dig, there’s a lot to discover.

There are entire books written about Hypercard, of course – for example, The Complete Hypercard Handbook (1988) and the Hypercard Developers’ Guide (1988), which walk through the context and goals of Hypercard, and then the efforts to program in it.

If you prefer to watch video about Hypercard, the Archive has you covered as well. Here’s an entire episode about Hypercard. As the description indicates: “Guests include Apple Fellow and Hypercard creator Bill Atkinson, Hypercard senior engineer Dan Winkler, author of “The Complete Hypercard Handbook” Danny Goodman, and Robert Stein, Publisher of Voyager Company. Demonstrations include Hypercard 1.0, Complete Car Cost Guide, Focal Point, Laserstacks, and National Galllery of Art.”

Our goal to bring historic software back to a living part of the landscape continues, so feel free to dig in, bring your stacks to life, and enjoy the often-forgotten stacks of yore.

34 thoughts on “HyperCard On The Archive (Celebrating 30 Years of HyperCard)

  1. Jim Steichen

    There was a similar program for the Amiga, called “CanDo!”
    Look into adding it to your archives. I still have binary executables and shared libraries for CanDo.

    1. Stephen F Wadsworth

      Geos on the C64. (Made it to the Amiga) and PC.
      Now an idea being implemented in the Cloud. Finally something Hardware agnostic.
      Idea behind Java and Open Source.

      So little Acorns. 🙂

  2. Steve Masiclat

    It would be great to add SuperCard stacks as well. HyperCard had major limitations, the main one being no support for color. SuperCard added that, as well as support for vector graphics. The standard for SuperCard stacks was “Guernica” by AND, an interactive exploration of Picasso’s masterwork. The project was a labor of love by Robert Abel, and it inspired many of us by demonstrating what interactive multimedia could be.

      1. KBeat

        Ha! And, FWIW, SuperCard stacks don’t have the same nostalgic appeal of HyperCard. The 1-bit dithering is part of the historic charm.

    1. Drewyer

      To this day I use HyperCard.
      I have a Power Mac G4 running OS 10.4.11 with Classic emulated on it.
      The G4 is wired via Ethernet to my main computer, this iMac 27 running OS 10.6.8
      I only run a couple of stacks that I tweaked for keeping my customer base from way back in the day. I still access that for calling some of the old contacts. Use Dialectic so it’s only a couple of keystrokes from thinking of what I want to do to calling. All on the 27” iMac here in front of me.
      Taking notes on the HyperCard program, Focal Point, and keeping them in order is totally without any thought needed. And setting it up to do that was all the matter of a few minutes of super simple programming. Note that
      What I loved about HC was the ability to program it while it was running and all on 1 Meg of memory!! Ran just fine on my old Mac SE bought in 1987, heh.
      I was certainly upset when Apple let it go fallow. To do the things that I did with a single keystroke back when I used it full time, takes multiple steps in multiple programs now. Of course one can use software to put the multiple steps into a program using unix or multiple steps with various programs using Youpi Key or Quicksilver, but these take you all over the place and required “eating around the back of your head with hot soup, left handed”, something like windows… LOL
      Oh to be able to do things the old simple way with ease.
      Nice smile remembering…
      Yeah, I do have a MacBook Air running the latest OS Sierra 10.12.6, but Snow Leopard still is my favorite. I can access all the other computers via ScreenSharing, so only need to go to the others for the particular program that they alone are capable of running. Nowadays, to keep up with the latest software which typically replaces older versions, requires purchasing new hardware. A semi-retired person doesn’t have the $5,000 per year to keep up with that kind of malarkey.
      Those were the days…

      1. Ken

        There’s a language called ‘LiveCode’ (http://livecode.com). They’ve got a community (free) version. It is Hypercard in a fun-house mirror. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s got the same program-while-using feel.

  3. Sam

    It’s rather sad that we’re celebrating Hypercard’s birthday by … running an emulation of a Mac Plus in a web browser.

    Everyone *says* they love Hypercard, but nobody designing a system today is willing to include even 1/10th the flexibility that Hypercard did. Where’s my social network with a tear-off editing palette on every page? Where’s my CRM with no separate “editing” and “viewing” modes? The one modern system which is mildly interesting — the web — has lost the integrated editing features it originally had.

    Most programmers today don’t even have the guts to follow Bill’s original *process* which resulted in Hypercard: an LSD trip. They can’t even copy the good ideas from 30 years ago, much less conceive of new ones.

    1. Bob Sneidar

      Never heard of Livecode?? http://www.livecode.com. It’s the successor to Metacard, which was a multiplatform successor to Hypercard. Much improved, you can create standalones with database support, compiled add-ons etc. I wrote a PDF forms import and fill application I use every day.

      1. Sam

        I haven’t, but I don’t think that’s an answer to my question. It looks like an attempt to drag Hypercard into the 21st century, and onto the web.

        What I’m interested in is why the other 99.99999…% of programs which are not Hypercard clones lack this class of flexibility in the first place. It may be possible to write a social network or CRM in Livecode, but a new app in these categories is not going to gain significant traction.

        There doesn’t even appear to be any guarantee that something implemented in Livecode exposes this flexibility to users. I don’t see anything inherent in the design which would make that true, nor even a discussion of the philosophy, in the documentation, which would encourage users/developers to do so.

        If the goal were “Object-oriented programming”, and Hypercard is Simula, then Livecode is (the programming language called) BETA. It’s neat that it exists, but its existence does not really change anything. Without a distilled philosophy, and advocacy for that philosophy across languages, nothing will change.

      2. Staran

        $1000 per year????? I don’t do subscription software plans, AT ALL.

        Not Adobe, not Micro$loth, not Livecode, not any program.

        Subscription software is a ripoff.

        Thanks but NO.

        1. Sam

          Calm down. It’s also GNU GPL. You are welcome to pay $0 for it, if you like.

          As for the other programs mentioned, I’m paying far less for Office and Creative Suite today than I was back when they only offered one-time licenses. I think people forget just how crazy expensive licenses used to be. CS had a 4-digit price tag, and there was a new version every year or two. Office was less, but still several hundred.

          20 years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to spend more on software than hardware. For professional users, it still isn’t. There’s a lot of software in this world with 5- and 6-digit price tags.

          Subscriptions when done right are the best of both worlds: constant updates and lower prices for users, and quick turnaround and more consistent income for developers. I don’t understand why users think developers are out to get them. Developers are showing they’re willing to accept *less* money in exchange for it being more consistent.

          Or in this particular case, they’re willing to accept $0, which makes the subscription complaints especially silly.

          1. Sabon

            The price isn’t lower. It is just spread out over time. You end up spending the same amount … eventually.

  4. Steve Lord

    Any chance of AmigaGuide archiving? That was the Amiga equivalent, and there were some really awesome databases in the Fred Fish collection. It should be possible to view in HTML with a Java viewer.

  5. Bruce


    I too loved Hypercard. The night I discovered Hypercard I stayed up all night and by the morning had written 70% of what had taken 3 months in the other database language. So I GOT hypercard straight away.

    Today, I programme in livecode, a thoroughly modern version of Hypercard or at least that is the source of its inspiration. It is solid, doing well and helps you write apps for MacOS, iOS, Android and more with more or less one code base. So hypercard is still helping me to this day. Why Apple let it die I shall never know.

    1. Sabon

      They let it die because the main act of searching, finding and consuming information is what *most* people would use HyperCard for. But *most* people, even given an easy interface to create their own stacks do not do so. They wait for someone else to create and then get a copy of it. If only they would take the time and effort to find out that they could customize it for themselves they would find a brand new world. But most people do not do that and the web did what they needed and it became more and more popular while HyperCard became less and less popular. Sad but true.

  6. Bob Sneidar

    I think your comment, “HyperCard slowly fell by the wayside to the growing World Wide Web” is not entirely accurate. Apple didn’t want to support the product anymore, even though it became a paid product, and one of the things Steve Jobs did when he first got to Apple was kill the project. At that time there were a TON of people still using/developing with it, even for all of it’s quirks. It fell by the wayside when newer operating systems made it unusable.

  7. Adam

    I am dying to know where some of these stacks were scraped from. I was made aware of this by a google alert for my name leading me to a HyperCard animation I made and uploaded to AOL when I was 10 which I was sure I would never see again. My mind was blown today. This is amazing.

    1. Andrew Ferguson

      I’m so glad you like the project. Allowing people to interact with stacks that they hadn’t seen for 20 years or so is exactly the goal I set out so solve.

      Some people with very good foresight scraped a large amount of the AOL HyperCard stacks before AOL closed that section down. I will be forever be indebted to them. I’ve also got large amounts from various FTP archives, and really any other source of stacks that I can find. If anyone knows of any large sources of stacks please do let us know because I may have missed them! (Contact details at http://hypercardonline.tk/about).

      –HyperCard Online Project Maintainer

  8. David Neale

    Wonderful! Thank you!
    HyperCard remains the best piece of software I’ve seen and used in almost 50 years of computing (yes, I started in 1968!). Loved it when it came out, love it now, even though I can no longer use it and am more or less forced to rely on its poor substitute , LiveCode.

  9. David Neale

    Great to see WorldStack among the uploads. I worked a lot with Henk on that stack, providing the texts, proofreading, etc. I came across Henk’s original WorldStack when we were, I believe, both members of the Benelux Mac Club (can’t remember the exact name). The design and programming were just about in place, but the stack lacked detailed information. I could see the potential, so offered to help. I didn’t have the WWW to help me find the information, but waded through numerous books, including Encyclopaedia Britannica yearbooks.
    Henk made great chocolate mousse.

  10. Bob S.

    I used to be an editor and developer for Nibble Mac/Macintosh Hands On magazine, which actually ran listings for HyperCard stacks. (And sold them commercially, so even if I find any, it isn’t feasible to upload them. Anyway.) I also independently developed one of the first email apps for the Mac in HyperCard, which worked with many popular BBSes of the time like First Class (which I believe both BCS-Mac and BMUG used) and TBBS along with CompuServe, the Source, and Bix.

    This is a huge treat to see. Thanks up front for your efforts. Can only poke around a bit during lunch but will explore greatly tonight.

  11. Craig Newman

    Just to be clear, LiveCode is what HC should have become had Apple paid attention to it. If you know HC, you already know LC, though it is far richer and more powerful, and requires just a small handful of mental shifts to fully grok.

    I am a long time HC die-hard and fan-boy. But LC is much, MUCH better. Much.

  12. Vicky Risk

    I have a couple of copies of the original manual, if you need that for scanning (I think they are autographed by Atkinson, actually). Let me know…

  13. Steve D

    HyperCard was the fastest way to create applications. In the old days, I did everything from building training with movie clips from laser disks to embedding Artificial Intelligence into the stacks.

    Supercard is still available. http://www.supercard.us/

    I believe both SuperCard and LiveCode have way to convert (mostly) your old HyperCard stacks. IMHO, SuperCard is easier to move to, but is limited to the Mac and does cost $. LiveCode has a free version and an ability to run on Mac, Windows, ios, and Android. The big hurdle for me on both is the different way they do backgrounds and what you can do on a background. It took some doing to get over this.

    I also found a service online that will read your old 3.5 in floppy disks and send you the files.

    1. Erich Brueschke

      Where is the free version of Live code you refer to? I would love to get it and get started again.

      Erich 🙂

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