Blogging through Hypercard
September 16, 2013 1:08 PM   Subscribe

"Today I would probably describe Archipelago as a group blog. It was a computer-based system that allowed about a dozen members to regularly post short essays and whimsical observations. Each member had his or her own icon which appeared next to timestamped postings which contained pictures, sounds, and hyperlinks. All pretty standard except for one thing: the year was 1988." The archives of Archipelago show a glimmer of what the social web was to become over the next two decades.

... how could you operate a group blog under these conditions? Easy. Just assemble a quarterly volume of postings on two or three diskettes, make a dozen copies, put them in manilla envelopes, slap on some postage stamps, and mail 'em!

The unlikely combination of 21st century hyperlinked multi-media with 19th century envelopes and postage stamps gave Archipelago a ponderous, magical quality, like a steam-powered Babbage engine full of bytes and pixels and polished brass. The software was created using an innovative but now defunct Macintosh program called HyperCard
[previously]; it took more than a year to create and seven more years to perfect.
The site's author has collected all 33 volumes of Archipelago, and converted them to HTML.

The interface is slightly confusing, but in general each post (called a voice card) has a link to the item it's replying to. Each author has their own main posts for each month, and then subsequent sub-posts which serve as new topics or replies to topics in previous issues (often a personal story, announcement, or question). The "up" button in the top-left corner of the screen will always move to the next highest level of the site (a good way to get from a specific card back to the issue index, or the main index).

Cartania has been featured on Metafilter twice previously.
posted by codacorolla (13 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
That sounds more like a digital APA than a blog. Still neat!
posted by moonmilk at 1:16 PM on September 16, 2013

Back in my high school composition class in 1998, we each had to create a Hypercard presentation based on some topic. So long ago... I enjoy reading about what more creative people were doing with Hypercard before Things Changed.
posted by Fukiyama at 1:30 PM on September 16, 2013

What a fantastic find, thanks for sharing it. Hypercard really was an amazingly productive creative tool, it's weird how it sort of fizzled out.

There's something a bit a-historical in the presentation of Archipeligo though, the reference "Text-based "bulletin boards" like The Well had begun to cater to a few pioneers". While I agree that BBSes only catered to a few pioneers, they have a long and rich history going back to the early 80s (or before?) Some of that history is lovingly preserved at I'm not aware of anything from that world that you'd call a blog, though. I'd start by looking for church bulletins and community newsletters.
posted by Nelson at 1:48 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hypercard was one of the greatest things of all time.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:02 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I learned how to "program" (quotes so as not to offend actual programers) in Hypercard (Or Hyperscript). That made it pretty much imppossible for me to ever learn an actual programing language. Hypercard just made too much sense and was readable by mortals.

I really wish Applescript was more more like Hypercard, then I could actually use it.

But not to totally derail, this really an interesting glimpse of the past. The interfaces and even terms we use seem so natural now because they are so familiar. I know this interface is odd only because it's different, but it still feels odd.
posted by cccorlew at 4:27 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

It is really too bad that Hypercard cannot be run on current Macs. One category of Hypercard-based media that I would like to be able to run: titles from Voyager - including Maus and Poetry in Motion (volume 2 of which has an otherwise-unavailable Cookie Mueller reading video - noted in a 1995 EW review.) Preserving interactive media is a challenge.

Also, I used Hypercard as a database for preparing my zine reviews published in Queer Zine Explosion and Factsheet Five.
posted by larrybob at 5:48 PM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

For those who still want an interactive Maus experience, there is MetaMaus, which comes with a DVD-Rom.
posted by larrybob at 6:16 PM on September 16, 2013

Hypercard really was an amazingly productive creative tool, it's weird how it sort of fizzled out.

It didn't fizzle out. There was a big, well-organized user community that would have been happy to run with it IFF Apple had chosen to Open-Source it. But that was not the Apple way, and after a few *years* of waiting, the community fizzled out.

I like to think that, had Woz been in charge, it'd all have come out differently.
posted by Twang at 9:09 PM on September 16, 2013

I like to think that, had Woz been in charge, it'd all have come out differently.

If Woz had been in charge of Apple, there would never have been a Hypercard, because there never would have been a Macintosh, and it's doubtful that there would have been an Apple II. Woz is a great, goofy guy who has never shown any aptitude for or much interest in the business end of things. As for the open source option, well, the open source community had a couple of decades to come up with something on their own; if your "community" depends on a company that spent a lot of time and money developing a product to simply give it away in the end, then your community isn't much of a much. In the meantime, SuperCard is still a thing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:22 AM on September 17, 2013

I should also note that I loved HyperCard back in the day; in one of my library school classes in the early nineties, I wrote an annotated bibliography on hypertext and hypermedia as a HyperCard stack. At about the same time, a few blocks from where I lived, some other students were writing Mosaic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:24 AM on September 17, 2013

I meant the idea of Hypercard fizzled out. The product itself died because Apple killed it (it doesn't help that it was mired in Apple's own doldrums). The few knock-offs like Supercard didn't catch on and no open source version ever got any traction. In the meantime the WWW happened which while different, was applicable for many of the same purposes.

What we lost with Hypercard was the authoring environment, an accessible tool for visually building up complex and interesting multimedia presentations. We still don't really have that for the Web despite Adobe's best efforts. Instead Web designers are left writing textual programs describing what actions they want to happen.
posted by Nelson at 7:48 AM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

larrybob: "It is really too bad that Hypercard cannot be run on current Macs. One category of Hypercard-based media that I would like to be able to run...

We have some code in the Basilisk/SheepShaver emulators to handle CD-ROM images. It's not perfect, but at least one person has made it work on at least one Voyager title. Do you have an actual copy of one of these titles? Feel free to get in touch at the E-Maculation forums and/or the macemu bug tracker and we'll see if we can help.
posted by vasi at 12:11 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks. I will try to find my copy of Poetry In Motion II and see if I can get it to work.
posted by larrybob at 1:55 PM on September 20, 2013

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