Women in Technology

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Article:
  The Death of HyperCard?
Subject:   Rumors of my death greatly exaggerated?
Date:   2001-09-03 18:47:22
From:   connolly@world.std.com
Buying a new G4 with OSX pre-loaded, reading the buzz in the Mac mags about the drive to convert to OSX, and sensing that those who donít convert will wake up one day to find that subtly but surely the world has passed them by, all led me to ask myself whether my HyperCard stacks (including my crude but devilishly useful Buttons) would work under OSX. So, I surfed around to find Mr. Storyís article, The Death of HyperCard, the iHUG.org site, and related postings strongly suggesting that the answer might be, No. So, on August 29, 2001 I wrote Mr. Jobs a letter, a copy of which is reprinted below. Iím waiting for reply, which itís too soon to expect.


Then I read a bit more on the Web, and am left with the impression that since Spring, not a lot more has been said on the topic, either by Apple or by the commentators in the know. There seems a pregnant silence. Thereís been nothing new posted at www.iHUG.org since a February press release and its booth at MacWorld.


I also read the surprisingly numerous, and at times actually moving, pleas from HyperCard users the world over (physicians, manufacturers, researchers, librarians, teachers, scientists, etc.) whose professional pursuits and businesses seem literally to depend on HyperCard. See http://homepage.mac.com/iHUG/WhyWeUseHC.html.


I set to wondering again, this time whether the silence signals reason for hope. Is Apple, or someone, perhaps considering putting out an OSX-compatible HyperCard?


The users posting these impressive and persuasive entries to "Why We Use HyperCard" must be but a fraction of those similarly affected. By and large these folks donít seem to be computer-gurus with excess time on their hands to investigate the issue, but rather geologists worrying about mineral veins in rock formations, teachers worrying about their students, and clinicians worrying about their patients. The posted stories probably reflect the tip of an iceberg. The majority of those potentially affected probably donít even know it.


Are the ramifications of abandoning HypeCard perhaps registering?


All the while, my search for some actual statement by Apple on the question comes up dry. I havenít found anything that says that, no, Apple will not be supporting HyperCard under OSX. Itís all rumored.


Therefore, might it be that Apple has taken, or is taking, note of the dislocation to befall all these trusting good citizens should rumor become truth? Might the sky not fall after all?


I have but a dim appreciation of the goings-on in things computer. I look at most of the books published by OíReilly and the stuff at www.slashdot.com with more perplexity and wonderment than understanding. I donít know Python from Cocoa. I have vague notion that a computer company makes money by staying ahead of the wave, identifying before the next guy new ways to make things ever more interconnected, web-oriented and feature-rich. And, I enjoy the privilege of being able to reach out as a blessed consumer of these amazing things and touch the hem of the cloth.


But I know that a humble little thing called HyperCard, in my case version 2.1 no less, lets me make my computer do just exactly what I want it to do, and then to get on with my life. Nothing else to come down the pike has come close. I cannot imagine abandoning the whole thing.


People say that itís obsolete, that time has passed it by, let the old dog die in peace, respectably. Let it go. But, to my mind, it would be worth keeping some old Mac in a corner running OS9 in perpetuity, if thatís what it took to preserve the usefulness of HyperCard, without a single advance, new release or improved version, just the way it is. The old dog still barks at intruders, gets my newspaper and meets me at the bus stop. If he gets sick, by all means let him go in peace. But if you move, take him with you. By all means, donít shoot him. And, if he does die, get another one just like him.


Jack Connolly
connolly@world.std.com



Hereís my letter of 8/29/01 to Mr. Jobs:



Mr. Steve Jobs
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Computer, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, California 95014


Re: Hypercard and OSX.


Dear Mr. Jobs:


Is it true that we wonít be able to use our Hypercard stacks under OSX?


I hope itís not so. I realize that Iím just one more voice out there with problems and perspectives limited to mine. But, unless I bring them to your attention, I will feel that, at worst, I wonít have any right to complain and I'll never know whether I could have changed it. At best, maybe one more voice will make a difference.


My entire law practice resides, in one form or another, on Hypercard stacks: contacts, client profiles, individualized forms of captions for pleadings, motions and briefs, timekeeping and billing, etc. What makes the set-up especially valuable is the Hypercard scripts that Iíve written for each stack. These scripts arenít polished. But they allow me to construct a letter, motion, memo of law, list of search results, etc., with the flick of a button. I can write and print five letters in the time that I guess most members of the bar take to write one. I can do all my monthly bills in about 45 minutes. Iím not computer-literate, particularly. But, I tweak my scripts and write new ones to make the whole system work better, automate new tasks when the idea hits me, or add a feature. To just the extent that I need to be, I guess Iím a programmer. I read up on what I need to know, and then write the script.


So, I can spend my time thinking about my clientsí legal problems, and finding ways to fix them, rather than reading a big manual trying to find out where the professional programmer buried the feature I want to use, if indeed itís there. And then, a month later Ö Ö trying to remember where that built-in feature was, and how to use it!


I donít know of any other software that gives the freedom and control over what my computer does for me that Hypercard does.


With OSX, will I somehow be able to keep using these stacks and scripts? I really do hope so.


As background, we are a seven-lawyer firm, doing litigation and commercial real estate. We continuously have been all-Apple since our founding in 1986. We had original Mac Classics and Imagewriter printers in those days. Apple really allowed us, refugees from big firms, to strike out on our own. We didnít need secretaries working overtime, an MIS department, or degrees in computer science, like our IBM PC brethren. We just plugged in our Macs and went to court. I suppose that we have bought 30 or 40 Apple computers over the years. We now have 10 and an Ethernet server. We hung in there not long ago when everyone else said to give up on Apple. Weíre glad we did. We are quite compatible with the outside world, and probably are more "computer-literate" than PC users. I think that is because even the most obtuse of us understands his or her machine, to the extent lawyers can. With a little help from David Pogueís book on OS9, we can make our computers do what we want them to do to get our jobs done.


Hypercard is a humble and quiet, but vital, part of that. And thatís why Iím writing to you now.


I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you very much for your time and consideration of my case.


Very truly yours,



John M. Connolly