Home of Vision and Reality of Hyertext and Graphical User Interfacescpsr-history listKorrespondenzCorrespondenceFriedewald's ReferencesTed Nelson ReferencesAlan Kay ReferencesUnfinished RevolutionWeb ReferencesChapter 5: SynopsisReferencesContents of ThesisChapter 1: IntroductionChapter 4: Beyond the DesktopFeedbackSite MapCover & LogVision and Reality: Menu Image Map

Bill Atkinson was one of the school kids that had contact with Xerox Alto computers and Smalltalk during the 1970s. Adele Goldberg and Alan Kay of Xerox Parc’s Learning Research Group (LRG) conducted a lot of courses for children to evaluate their conception of interaction principles. During the 1980s Bill Atkinson was working for Apple Computer. He was member of the team that designs the Lisa Desktop Manager, he created MacPaint and in 1987 HyperCard (cf. 2.1.10). HyperCard uses a cards metaphor. Each card has the same size to fit on the original 9" Macintosh screen. The cards are organized in stacks where the user can flip through. The hypertext functionality comes in as HyperCard is combined with HyperTalk, an easy to learn programming language. A rectangular region can be made sensitive for mouse clicks with a tiny piece of HyperTalk. Most of the time, a click triggers the display of another card in the stack.

The wide acceptance of HyperCard was based on a free copy that was bundled with every Macintosh starting in 1987. For many people, it is their first contact with the concept of hypertext.

2.1.10 HyperCard

in Vision and Reality of Hypertext and Graphical User Interfaces

Apple HyperCard for Macintosh PCs is based on the index cards metaphor. But in contrast to Xerox PARC’s NoteCards, where a window corresponds to each card, the cards are always organized in stacks. As a consequence windows play a marginal role in HyperCard. Just one main window shows the front most card of a stack. All cards have the same fixed size to fit on the original 9 inch Macintosh screen.

The stack provides a standard order for the cards and even without any hyperlinks the user is able to flip through the cards of the stacks. One card has a special status. It serves as the home for the stack. The home card is accessible from any other card and acts as a landmark for orientation. It is also possible to show a gallery with thumbnails of all cards to gain an overview.

Cards are made up of three layers. The background layer is the canvas for the cards. It contains basic artwork that is common for the cards of a stack. The foreground layer contains the text and individual illustrations. The buttons layer is on top of the foreground layer. It can contain active regions that trigger scripts written in HyperTalk. This layer model causes serious problems. Whenever the text is relayouted the buttons need to be aligned again to cover the underlying text. Link marker and button are not connected with each other.

In spite of all shortcomings HyperCard was very successful. Reasons for that are ease of use, availability – it was bundled for free with every Macintosh – and the possibility to share stacks with friends and in online communities.

 For a free PDF version of Vision and Reality of Hypertext and Graphical User Interfaces (122 pages), send an e-mail to:

mprove@acm.org.       [privacy policy]