Justin Falcone: The Origin of HyperCard in the Breakdown of the Bicycle for the Mind - Deepstash
Computers, bicycles or cars for the mind?

Steve Jobs said the computer is a bicycle for the mind. A bicycle is democratic: they are affordable, sustainable, anyone can use them, fix them etc. 

But our computers are more like cars, not bicycles: expensive, complex, regulated, hard to fix, enhance etc. 

Early software like HyperCard showed us a path where any enthusiasts can make something without the blessing of an elite class vampire billionaires and without having to move to Silicon Valley. 

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Steve Jobs

I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a km. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list... But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me.... the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, a bicycle for our minds

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Hypercards ➜ Cards as abstraction

HyperCard was an early very successful Mac no-code app. A glorified filed-based database where every entry was represented as a card. It had a few characteristics:

  • The presentation of cards could be customized visually and functionally: add/remove buttons or change visuals. 
  • Any rendered card could also be edited on the spot. 

It was used as address books, recipes or annotating ideas from documents. It got discontinued in 2004, but to this day it still has a massive following & the program achieved cult status.  

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Most rapid development applications (HyperCard or Excel) blend input and presentation so a user can play with them without interaction with code or a developer. 

The program, the utility for the user, emerges from exploration. It is not something a developer hardcoded but rather a set of rules one can experiment with. Excel or Hypercard are designed more like a game than traditional software. 

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