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June 2, 2012 8:33 AM   Subscribe

25 years of HyperCard—the missing link to the Web
posted by Artw (56 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I kept my band finances stack running from 1992 to 2008. It did everything, kept track of booking details, musician payouts, band expenses, client list, performance schedule, etc. All hand-scripted to the group's exacting specifications.

Then they killed Classic Mode.

Now I use a combination of excel, stickies, calendar and quicken.

It's just not the same.

*sob*
posted by Aquaman at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I distinctly remember working on a HyperCard project for a presentation in 6th grade. We didn't have internet access at home so I had no idea what I was missing anyway, but HyperCard was definitely a few steps ahead of the web at the time.
posted by deathpanels at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2012


Yay HyperCard!

Got me started with programming. Such an amazing innovation.
posted by Windopaene at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2012


They should have pulled the plug on Hypercard after my fifth grade tour de force Star Trek game. Those Birds of Prey were my finest artistic achievement, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:50 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I messed around with HyperCard on my dad's old Mac SE/30. Some educational programs, some pretty sketchy little adventure games, etc. There was one stack that kept me amused for hours. Seemed a tech demo more than anything else, but again, this was before the web, so it was the first real chance to get lost on a wikiwalk.

I wasn't really in a position to do anything about it--partly because I was like 12 at the time--but when I got my hands on my first web browser on a PowerMac 7500, I immediately though "Oh, they're just doing HyperCard stacks over the Internet. Cool."

Having technology with no vision is no better than having vision with no technology. And sometimes you're just at the right place at the wrong time.
posted by valkyryn at 8:59 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it's possible to miss software, then HyperCard is the software I miss. I hope Apple or someone else realizes what a great thing it was and brings it back in some way.
posted by tommasz at 9:17 AM on June 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ye Gods of technology, make thee Hypercard happen on iPad!
posted by uraniumwilly at 9:22 AM on June 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, man.

Is there a way to play Scarab of Ra on an iPad? There needs to be a way to play Scarab of Ra on an iPad.
posted by rewil at 9:30 AM on June 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


If it's possible to miss software, then HyperCard is the software I miss.

There's a very real sense in which we live out our lives in software these days. I miss old programs and environments the way I miss houses and towns I've spent a lot of time in. I think anyone who's deep into computing long enough (and that's getting to be, like, the entire population; some of us were just a few years ahead of the curve) deals with the sometimes contradictory understanding that yeah, we've got it vastly better now than we did then in so many ways, but that not all of the change has conformd to a classical ideal of "progress".

The web is objectively better than HyperCard on almost every front, including in terms of the tools used to build it, if you really take an honest look at why the web has been so incredibly successful. The web is open and the web isn't owned and that turns out to be the whole ballgame. But HyperCard articulated a mode of authoring and editing that still hasn't been replicated, though it helped push us along to a real, working, democratic networked hypertext in all kinds of ways. I miss it constantly.
posted by brennen at 9:32 AM on June 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


This is great.

I have been mourning Hypercard for some time. I agree that it is the "missing link" that really reflects the way we began to be able to sort, hyperlink, and move information. I really do miss the card and stacking interface, too. I've asked about it on AskMe - whether there was anything similar but more up-to-date and robust - and people recommend Evernote, Scrivener, etc etc. None of them really offer that easy, smooth interface and total flexibility I have in mind.
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alas, HyperCard had some product positioning problems. Anyone using it seriously was better served with a more powerful program like Macromind Director. General consumers were mostly confused by it.

I remember around 1985, Apple delivered a huge HyperCard stack to dealers to run an interactive LaserDisc of video demos. I knew just what to do with it, since I worked on an prototype interactive LD player almost 10 years earlier. I converted the HyperCard stacks to Director and played it on a picture-in-picture with a $1400 RasterOps video digitizing card, which could pass through live video. This was the last time I ever wrote a driver in assembly language. But once that was set, everything worked beautifully. This is the sort of crap we did before QuickTime, just to get video on the screen.

Apple's last huge promotion of HyperCard was their infamous "HeloCar" Interactive Multimedia promo. Apple mailed out thousands of VHS tapes with demos of projects like animated storyboards in Hypercard. I had customers come in and want to buy this product. I told them how you do it yourself, it's easy. And they'd walk right back out the door.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:43 AM on June 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I remember my niece (a super programmer now) handing me a floppy disk with something called 'hyperlink' on the label in the 80's. Funny how I can't remember my kid's names but the wonder of watching the bold steps of brilliant minds crafting this 'new technology' will forever be etched in my memory. Nice link, thanks.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 9:48 AM on June 2, 2012


Man, I took some "Multimedia Narrative" class when I was an English major and we spent most of the semester learning and using Hypercard. I'd forgotten all about it, but this really brought back some memories.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:52 AM on June 2, 2012


It's not really mentioned in the article, but another aspect of the modern web that we owe in part to HyperCard is the wiki. If I remember correctly, very early incarnations of Ward's Wiki were stacks.

I keep wondering how you could bring more of the HyperCard feel to working on the web, without just creating yet another abominable, half-assed code-generating WYSIWYG monstrosity. Sometimes I think that a lot of the things HyperCard made possible in terms of editing are fundamentally at odds with the worse-is-better architecture of the web. Except for the browser itself, the tools I wind up using are arcane, modular, modest in individual scope, and built around editing structured text files of one sort or another.

Anyone using it seriously was better served with a more powerful program like Macromind Director. General consumers were mostly confused by it.

I guess I never used Director, but I wonder about that. Maybe it comes down to how you define "serious" use. I was an isolated schoolkid really getting turned on to programming, so the things I was building weren't a product for someone else to consume so much as they were craft objects for me to quietly obsess over. That was a pretty serious thing to me, albeit not one there seems to be much of a business case for.
posted by brennen at 9:55 AM on June 2, 2012


I went through university creating "multimedia" projects on HyperCard, but once I was out and getting paid for work it was all Director until it ended up just being web.
posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on June 2, 2012


Except for the browser itself, the tools I wind up using are arcane, modular, modest in individual scope, and built around editing structured text files of one sort or another.

I've ended up editing a lot of things in the DOM using firebug lately, which in some ways feels similar. Of course, once you are happy with it you still need to copy the results to a text file.
posted by Artw at 10:04 AM on June 2, 2012


Right, brennen, HC filled sort of a middle niche of sophisticated general users, giving them tools to write their own programs simply. It was empowering for a lot of people who had never written programs before. But pro coders were generally frustrated by the limits of what HC could do. Director had much better interactivity, with tools more suited to coders. But Director was pretty much a niche product too, although it would eventually turn into Flash.

I should also mention Apple Media Tool, which was the last gasp of Hypercard. It was basically a rewrite of HyperCard from the ground up so it had full color support, and better interactivity suitable for CDROM products. It was more like Director or AuthorWare but still had HyperCard-like authoring tools. I remember in 1992 when I went back to art school, I helped a guy write his MFA thesis in AMT, the first multimedia thesis ever accepted at our university. I did all the interactivity, he did all the content. He was doing an MFA in Dramaturgy and his thesis relied heavily on video clips of theatrical performances. Unfortunately, using AMT was a horrible mistake since there is currently no platform that can run it. His thesis is basically dead, which is a shame since everything he did is extremely simple by modern standards.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:14 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I built an interactive fiction game with an artist friend in a film noir style in 9th grade. To date, even after years of programming and creating web sites, I think of it as my greatest achievement! It was actually fun to play and taught me a lot about programming.
posted by cell divide at 10:20 AM on June 2, 2012


I've ended up editing a lot of things in the DOM using firebug lately, which in some ways feels similar. Of course, once you are happy with it you still need to copy the results to a text file.

I can imagine doing this for a mostly-static file of some sort, and I do tweak individual elements of markup in Firebug or Chrome's dev tools to experiment, and poke at live JavaScript, but so much of what I work with is built up in code that it usually makes most sense to jump over to the text editor and just refresh after I've made changes.

All the stuff I have at my disposal now is pretty powerful in the aggregate, but it's an entirely different mode of work.
posted by brennen at 10:23 AM on June 2, 2012


HyperCard for iPad would be the bee's knees. Nostalgia would envelop my body, similar to the scene in Cinderella when she just raises her arms and the gown appears around her.

I wish Apple would just formally announce that HyperCard is abandonware. Alas.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I took an entire class on HyperCard in the summer of '96. One of the things I remember most was that awesome feeling of being able to build something that looked "real" or "official," with a real "OK" button and things like that. And then I could infuse it with my own sensibility, renaming the "OK" button or drenching it in deep red or green or hiding it entirely. And I liked how all of the stack's users' options were up to me—I chose where to send them and what they'd see when they got there.

I still like putting hidden links in websites...
posted by limeonaire at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2012


I've spoken at a couple of conferences where I've made the case that Hypercard is one of the early examples of (accidental) open source principles leading to an explosion of innovation. While there was no an explicit legal mechanism requiring that code be readable and editable and redistributable, the nature of a hypercard "program" or stack meant that anyone who wanted to could lift the hood and start monkeying around.

People learned from the stacks they used, modified them to make them more useful, and every act of distribution was by definition an act of sharing. The eventual death of Hypercard, I think, had a lot to do with Jobs' vision of the future focusing on people who created things other than software -- basically, a world in which people could do creative things without mucking around under the hood. It was something he pushed for since before the Mac even existed, because he legitimately believed that a device someone had to muck around with was a failure.

I think that vision has brought Apple a lot of success in the short and mid term, but I believe that it will (ultimately) cut Apple's platforms off from a lot of the user-driven "micro innovation" that open platforms lend themselves to. Hypercard was a big part of that and it still makes me very, very sad.
posted by verb at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Computer ignoramus that I was and am, HyperCard was as close as I ever got, or ever will get, to programming. All I managed to do was automate a few things and set up a few simple calculations, but boy was it satisfying when I got it to work. My programs were minimally minimal, but I spent hours building linked stacks of information and having a great time with MacPaint.

Nothing around now lets me do anything like it. I cobbled together presentation, crude databases, desktop-publishing type documents, simple bit-mapped graphics, all sorts of things, mostly half-assed, but without buying expesive, single-purpose software. It was my swiss-army-knife program.

It was productive computer creativity for the un-geek. One niche it filled was education, especially since Apple was big in education at the time. Thousands of elementary and high school history, science, English, math, any-old-curriculum teachers developed tools and presentations.

But when the bean counters came to dominate Apple, that was the end of a tremendous opportunity for them and Apple as well. I weep.
posted by tommyD at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is at least Supercard which is still around and it will convert some HyperCard stacks. I built a massive data driven generative grammar insult and more generator in this program. Plus a graphical tarot card reader. Great environment to make things to play with.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:33 AM on June 2, 2012


If you like Hypercard, check out LiveCode
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:36 AM on June 2, 2012


(Speaking of Mac nostalgia: some years back I posted an AskMe about Studio/1, which was an awesome monochrome paint and animation program. I'd love to play with it again. I don't suppose anyone has any idea where this program might still exist in some sort of abandonware form?)
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:45 AM on June 2, 2012


As an aside, anyone looking for more in this vein could do worse than to search /r/programming. The HyperCard Lamentation is one of the Standard Recurring Proggit Threads.
posted by brennen at 10:58 AM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


In 9th grade our French teacher-- who somehow had gotten funding to build a web-connected computer lab-- had us do a Hypercard project. You could make awesome presentations with very little technical skill. One my classmates made an autoplaying presentation with voiceovers and Ken Burns-like drifting pictures, ending with credits slowly scrolling to "Baby I Love Your Way". I always wondered why Hypercard wasn't adapted as a PowerPoint-like program for Mac. Because on the surface Hypercard is very much like Powerpoint. Except, you know, full of awesome.
posted by zennie at 12:10 PM on June 2, 2012


There was an open source project which attempted to mimic HyperCard -- FreeCard, but it's no longer developed.

If so many developers liked HyperCard, you'd think there would be an active clone... the Wiki suggests there's a few.
posted by spiderskull at 12:22 PM on June 2, 2012


I remember looking at HyperCard in 3rd grade, and thought this is awesome I will make awesome games and shit with this! Instead I discovered Flash and messed around in that instead.
posted by BungaDunga at 1:20 PM on June 2, 2012


some years back I posted an AskMe about Studio/1

Hey, I remember that, it was a lot of fun. Studio/1 had some great animation tools which seemed targeted at HyperCard. I also recall their color paint app (Studio/8 I think) being pretty good.

I have a ton of old Mac stuff and I'm sure I have Studio/1 around here somewhere. I have an old Mac IIcx in the closet and it's probably on the hard drive. I wonder if there is any way to run an old OS like System 6 on modern hardware, so I can fiddle around with old apps. I bought an old Performa with an ethernet card (very rare in those days) for like $10 so I could migrate some data from obsolete media like 20Mb Bernoulli carts and 40Mb SyQuest carts, but I have never gotten around to it. This is a big can of worms that I'm not sure I want to open.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:48 PM on June 2, 2012


I tried HyperStudio way back when. It didn't have the HyperCard magic.

I have old mac hardware around too, supposedly for confronting migration issues, eventually....maybe....
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:22 PM on June 2, 2012


Why is there no demo?!</whine>
posted by Pronoiac at 3:11 PM on June 2, 2012


I think that vision has brought Apple a lot of success in the short and mid term, but I believe that it will (ultimately) cut Apple's platforms off from a lot of the user-driven "micro innovation" that open platforms lend themselves to. Hypercard was a big part of that and it still makes me very, very sad.

Heh. A couple of months ago, I got a Mac - the first one I've really touched since about 1998. And a few weeks back, I downloaded XCode. And I thought to myself, "Imma try to make me one of those iOS apps - there are millions out there, they must be easy to program, I bet Apple's made it just as easy as putting together a Hypercard stack back in the day!"

Enter goddam fucking shit puke Objective C. I know my way around a dozen programming languages. I have sat down at a Linux shell and woven a Postgres-driven web-based geospatial analysis system out of R, PHP, SQL, HTML and Javascript. It's been weeks now, and I'm still no closer to figuring out how to even start programming an iPhone app. As far as I'm concerned, Apple has taken all the fun out of computing.
posted by Jimbob at 3:42 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's not really much to Objective C. It's learning your way around the Cocoa/AppKit frameworks that seems like it could take a lifetime.
posted by valrus at 4:48 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


he legitimately believed that a device someone had to muck around with was a failure.

This is probably true, of devices that one has to muck around with. But there's room to acknowledge that people might want to muck around even if they don't have to.
posted by kenko at 4:56 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


HyperCard was great but it was too big. "Stack of cards" is a silly metaphor, they just should have called them books. Wonderful blank books that you could do anything with. It could be a journal, a sketchpad, a scrapbook, a reference. It was too big of a metaphor, it was a document paradigm for an OS. We already think web browsers are bloated monstrosities; HyperCard had to be a browser, editor, and database app too.

It was nice, though, that you could have entirely different stuff on different pages. Nothing has replaced that.

Document synthesis is something application designers just gave up on. Users try anyway. They paste all kinds of crap into Word and then watch as Word smooshes it all around and screws up margins and pukes up on itself as you try to scroll pages. They turn the first worksheet of their Excel workbooks (ahem) into weirdly formatted cover pages and instruction manuals. They combine documents as attachments to email with the email body serving as a cover page and table of contents. They ship folders of stuff with README files and big icons and hacked up backgrounds because there's no good way to package different kinds of stuff in one place in an organized way.
posted by fleacircus at 8:58 PM on June 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Stack of cards" is a silly metaphor, they just should have called them books.

But the thing I really loved about them was that they could behave like index cards, instead of books. That's what gave them the flexibility I really appreciated - especially for research.
posted by Miko at 9:04 PM on June 2, 2012


The stack metaphor fit pretty well for that, but rearranging pages is something you can do with 3-ring notebooks too, so it's still vaguely the book metaphor. Not that it matters too much; they are magic books.

One thing real physical cards can do that HyperCard (and other simple database form stuff) couldn't do well was let you take two out at a time and compare them, or have 5 out at once sitting there, etc. Easier to visually compare rows on an Excel sheet, but God help you if you need multiline text.
posted by fleacircus at 9:35 PM on June 2, 2012


HyperCard's greatest contribution might have been allowing a lot of artsty types who were scared of big, heavy programming to make interesting interactive things. As I hear it, Myst, If Monks Had Macs, and a number of the great Voyager CD-ROMs started as Hypercard experiments.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:37 AM on June 3, 2012


@Aquaman

The closest thing to that right now is probably FileMaker. It’s from the same era and a similar school of thought as HyperCard, but it’s still shipping.
posted by Sidnicious at 9:35 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Stack of cards" is a silly metaphor, they just should have called them books.

Before HyperCard, Bill Atkinson wrote a rolodex-like program called QuickFile. HyperCard basically springs from that, thus the card metaphor.
posted by D.C. at 10:35 AM on June 3, 2012


One thing real physical cards can do that HyperCard (and other simple database form stuff) couldn't do well was let you take two out at a time and compare them, or have 5 out at once sitting there, etc. Easier to visually compare rows on an Excel sheet, but God help you if you need multiline text.

A lot of how I've done research in the past was to make notes on cards. They'd be in various categories and at various levels of structure. Each of those lived in its own "stack" and could in fact be set side by side to compare, flipped over, reorganized on a big table that let me play with the logic or sequence of an argument, placed in vertical lines to recategorize, or be able to glance across an array of cards for all cards involving "religion," say, to see whether a thread was getting the right amount of attention across the project. Because cards are small, stackable, shufflable, easy to display, and easy to move, they are in many ways an ideal research and writing tool. Hypercard started to let you do some of this, and the addition of hypertext is pretty cool. Using information like that is much, much more flexible than a book or a binder, where reorganization is a pain in the ass, or a set of files. But this kind of physical-plane approach to organization, that lets you take in a large amount of information at once, but then coalesce it back into an efficiently labeled collection, is exactly what no notetaking software has been able to approach. I work with some of them now but I'm continually wishing for something that acts a lot more like true index cards, but with search, multimedia content, a citation tool, and hyperlinking.
posted by Miko at 10:43 AM on June 3, 2012


Some of this sounds and awful lot like the Wiki concept. I guess it ALL goes back to Ted Nelson and Vannevar Bush, so it shouldn't be surprising.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on June 3, 2012


I'm so glad to see that so many other people also feel like I do, which is that HyperCard is a program whose time has not yet come. It's a brilliant tool, which is just hanging around waiting for that one person to get an amazing flash of inspiration on a way to use it that will blow us all away.

Looking back, HyperCard's greatest accomplishment may have been to introduce so many of us non-techies-at-the-time to the fundamental conceptual framework of the internet and the things on it. I feel like "early use of HyperCard" may be one of the core skills that led to internet adoption and fluency.

I can't think of anything else that has so blown my mind with the feeling of infinite possibilities just slightly out of my grasp. R.I.P. HyperCard.
posted by ErikaB at 2:49 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before HyperCard, Bill Atkinson wrote a rolodex-like program called QuickFile. HyperCard basically springs from that, thus the card metaphor.

You know, I remember using a Hypercard personal organizer system, I think Atkinson wrote it, but I cannot remember the name. It was a damn wonderful piece of softare, I had never seen anything like it. It would be years until anything similar shipped. In some ways, no software has come close. I remember one task I set up, I'd put a pizza place on a card, have it dial my modem, and then pick up the call after it dialed. When I hung up, I left a timer running until the deliveryman rang my doorbell. Then I could sort all the pizza places by average delivery times.

I used this Hypercard system for everything in my life. I was totally organized. Then one day as I was doing a backup, it crashed, and took out both the original and the backup. And I have never been organized since then.

The closest thing to that right now is probably FileMaker.

Actually, Bento might be closer to HyperCard. It's a product of Filemaker Inc.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:51 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about Visual Basic?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 5:35 PM on June 3, 2012


You know, I remember using a Hypercard personal organizer system, I think Atkinson wrote it, but I cannot remember the name.

Focal Point? It was written by Danny Goodman, one of the most prolific Hypercard consultants and the author of Danny Goodman's Complete Hypercard Handbook and They HyperTalk Handbook. AKA the books that 11-year-old me had on continual rotating checkout from the local library...


What about Visual Basic?

Possibly, but one of the things that made Hypercard interesting was the very gradual ramp up from "organizing bits of data" to "programming." You could literally make flip book slideshows using nothing more than paint tools and the "MAKE NEW CARD" command, but as you desired more complexity you could add buttons, give them behaviors, start linking things in more complex ways, double-click the buttons and realize that the complex features you'd turned on were just a few lines of HyperTalk (designed to be as english-like as possible in small chunks) and so on.

I really don't know of many other software packages where "Using a tool built in Hypercard" could transition so effortlessly into "modifying the tool" and eventually "building your own tool."

posted by verb at 6:51 PM on June 3, 2012


Focal Point? It was written by Danny Goodman, one of the most prolific Hypercard consultants and the author of Danny Goodman's Complete Hypercard Handbook and They HyperTalk Handbook. AKA the books that 11-year-old me had on continual rotating checkout from the local library...

Yes! That is the one. I loved that program. I was dying to remember the name so I could look it up and check it out. And oh what I found. Check out this full episode of The Computer Chronicles from 1987, starting with Gary Kildall (!) explaining Hypercard, an interview with Bill Atkinson, then Danny Goodman demos Focal Point. You know, I recently worked with a company that spent $150k on Salesforce CRM software and consulting and still didn't have a CRM system as good as Focal Point. Then there's an interview with the Whole Earth Catalog people about their stacks. Then Voyager Co. demos a hypercard driven Laser Disc with still image storage of paintings from the National Gallery of Art. Wow, now this was what I worked on in college in 1977, finally on the market 10 years later.

Damn, now that is one hell of a show on Hypercard. That could have been the whole FPP.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:37 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


HyperCard is a program whose time has not yet come.

I think you're right. I think the next information-management software that really blows our minds will be developed by someone who admired Hypercard and couldn't stop thinking about it.

Check out this full episode of The Computer Chronicles from 1987,

Awesome. This absolutely proves how far ahead of its time Hypercard was: "a software Erector set". They certainly anticipated the graphical web and clickthrough navigation.

What's interesting is that, despite the number of applications envisioned, nobody reporting on it seems to have really deeply understood the paradigm shift this represented/represents. I agree that we probably still haven't fully understood and mastered the way individual people want to be able to make use of hyperlinking technology for their own unique purposes, and we still haven't given ourselves the tools to adapt it anywhere near as well as HyperCard aimed to.

How hip is Bill Atkinson? If I saw him at Green Drinks tonight I wouldn't bat an eye. I'd be all "hey, cool tech dude, nice glasses and awesome shirt. Tell me more about your killer app."
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on June 3, 2012


How hip is Bill Atkinson? If I saw him at Green Drinks tonight I wouldn't bat an eye. I'd be all "hey, cool tech dude, nice glasses and awesome shirt. Tell me more about your killer app."

Turns out, his killer app is a collection of amazingly gorgeous nature photos. 'Cause that's what he does now.

If anyone's interested, btw, the conference session in which I waved my arms vigorously and talked about Hypercard and its intersection with Open Source and broad innovation? The video's now online. Relevant bits start at 17:00 or so.
posted by verb at 10:08 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You should link to Atkinson's most interesting photo work. He published a book called "Within the Stone," of microphotographs of agates and other gems. Somewhere out on the web is a big PDF documenting how he photographed and printed the book, but Bill's download link is on MobileMe and is now dead. The only copies I could find floating around were heavily modified with spammy Amazon.com links. Oh I wish you could see it. Maybe you could email Atkinson and he'd send it to you.

Atkinson invented some elaborate photography techniques, since gems often have colors that cannot be captured photographically. Then he went to Japan to print it on one of the world's most high-tech printing presses. And again, he had to invent new advanced methods just to capture in print what he had in his photos. I think I recall he used like 12-color separations which is incredibly difficult to produce. That book is probably one of the most elaborate products of the printing arts that I have ever seen. I have seen plenty of multicolor seps, it's a standard technique in graphics, I've even seen lithographs with over 50 colors, but only printed as flat colors, never as continuous tone color photo separations.

I was actually so impressed with the description of how this book was printed that I went to Japan and was interviewing with printing companies, so I could work with these processes. Actually, I had been studying Japanese for years, with the intention of working in Japan, but Atkinson's book gave me the impetus to go and do it. If it weren't for some sudden family obligations that stopped me, I would be in Tokyo right now, working on those same presses.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


If anyone's interested, btw, the conference session in which I waved my arms vigorously and talked about Hypercard and its intersection with Open Source and broad innovation

I enjoyed that a lot, thanks for linking to it.
posted by Miko at 11:19 AM on June 4, 2012


charlie don't surf: He published a book called "Within the Stone," of microphotographs of agates and other gems. Somewhere out on the web is a big PDF documenting how he photographed and printed the book, but Bill's download link is on MobileMe and is now dead.

That's weird; MobileMe hasn't shut down yet, that happens at the end of the month. I'm going to look around a bit.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:27 PM on June 4, 2012


Here we go: Making Within the Stone, a 65-megabyte PDF. This MobileMe link will stop working by the end of the month.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:47 PM on June 4, 2012


Hey thanks for the link, I saw his MobileMe page, but I could not get it to work. Those download galleries were supposedly killed off by Apple at least a year ago.

The process is a little different than I remembered it, obviously, but hey, that was what, 8 years ago? He's using expanded gamut CMYK with custom seps, which sounds to me like a quick and dirty octochrome simulation in 4 colors. Nowadays most people would just use hexachrome.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:20 PM on June 4, 2012


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