Before the web there was Hypercard.

It begins with a title card. Dark grey colour over a white background. The title card could have been anything. A game, a story, a contact list, a journal of someones travels, history, geography, and so on. A card had (has) images, text and clickable areas or text which will navigate to another card. This sums up the functionality of Hypercard.


So many creative things were born out of that Application. Hypercard was just that, a collection of interactive hypercards. It was a Mac only application. It lived from 1987 up until… well, until Mac Os 9 was phased out, honestly. It had a programming language called Hyptertalk. The content you could add here was mainly images and Hypertext, which could be tagged for styling and to create hyperlinks that linked cards together.

A web browser can navigate through web pages (cards) using hyperlinks (yes, I’m not kidding, they’re called the same). The text on these pages can be tagged to define many different styles and contexts and structures. That’s called HTML: Hypertext Markup Language.

I’m not only implying that Hypercard influenced the web, its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, proudly comments on this fact. He absolutely made the web based on many things Hypercard. But of course, the web has come a long way and is way more complex these days. Yet Tim Berners-Lee’s idea was, essentially, to make Hypercard swim in the nets so people, mainly engineers, could share information across the globe.

Hypercard is a fantastic and kind of forgotten piece of retro software. I would always be super excited to delve into some new Hypercard doc. It was constantly changing and people were always innovating in the way they presented information.

To give another example in which it has pioneered things, the creators of Myst started creating games on Hypercard. It was through these text based games with clickable areas that told a story, that the Miller brothers came up with Myst. Myst is, according to some people, the first Open World game.

Another thing Hypercard inspired were Interactive CD Roms. Lots of them were created in Hypercard themselves. And yes, this started on the Mac. CD Roms first started on Macs, they weren’t available for PCs for a while.

I know it’s a silly thing, but the thing I love and miss the most about Hypercard are the bitmap dithered images. I’m not going to bore anyone trying to explain this, just look at the images I’ve attached here. It’s fantastic the type of beautiful abstraction pixel artists would get using these basic tools.

So to wrap this up, here’s some homework. Download a MacOs 9 Emulator and play with Hypercard. Or you can use web versions of it below. Find Hypercard in there, it will be either in the Applications folder or the Utilities one. You can also search.

Mac Os 9 for Macs

Mac Os 9 and 10 Emulators

Mac Os 9 for Windows

See you soon!