Jacqueline Landman Gay on xCards
Occupation: Owner and software engineer, HyperActive Software
How did you get into your (HyperCard-related) job?
I had just had my son and was a stay-at-home mom. My husband wanted a computer, and though I was against it ("what do we need a computer for?") he bought a Mac SE. We knew nothing about it, but it came with HyperCard and I began tinkering. After a couple of days I was hooked, he never got another chance at the computer, and eventually we had to buy a second one for him to use. Since I wasn't working at the time, I spent all my free time working on the Mac in between diapering and burping the baby. I rapidly learned HyperCard, joined a local BBS where I could discuss it, and after a while started taking small jobs. The business grew itself from there.
Did you have a HyperCard-related job before that?
The only computer-related job I have ever had is HyperActive Software. Though I began with HyperCard, I eventually moved to SuperCard briefly and then to MetaCard, which eventually became Runtime Revolution. I've been working with xtalk now for about 20 years, and any other jobs I had in the past are now just a distant memory.
What was your first job, ever?
When I was 16 I sold handbags and hosiery at a department store. I hated it. My mother found the job and made me take it to get me out of the house one summer. Or do you mean, my first programming job? I did a lot of free stacks for friends, but the first paid project was a cue tone scheduler for a local TV station.
How was working with HyperCard?
HyperCard was a portal to a new existence for me; both a creative outlet as well as a way to fine-tune my logical skills. Until I began working with it, I had no idea my personality was compatible with being a programmer. Now I can't see myself as anything else. And after all these years, I still love doing it.
Who was your hero at the time?
Don't think I had one. I was too busy with the baby.
Who is your hero/Idol now?
I still don't really have one. But if I had to pick someone, I'd pick my husband for putting up with me and my crazy programming fixation all these years.
What is the most important thing in life for you?
I'm old enough now to believe that the most important thing in life is to live fully and appreciate the world and the people around you. Take chances, don't be afraid of the hard stuff, and don't waste too much energy on things that won't matter later on. If you are asking a less philosophical question, then the most important things in life for me would have to be my husband and family, and secondarily, the several loudmouth parrots we keep.
When, how and by whom were you introduced to MetaCard?
Revolution, which used to be MetaCard, was forced upon me. I was an unwilling participant. I did not want to leave HyperCard, but Apple had abandoned it and my business was in danger of folding without it. Someone offered me a job contract with the condition that the stacks had to be written in MetaCard. I accepted the job and spent two or three months making the transition. It was very painful, not because MetaCard was so much different from HyperCard (the differences are minor) but because I was so resentful that it wasn't HyperCard. I was very critical of it privately, even though it performed very well and the learning curve wasn't too bad.
What impressed you most about MetaCard?
Eventually I realized that MetaCard, and Revolution after it, were what HyperCard would have become if Apple had not dropped it. The feature set in Revolution is huge, with four or five times more capabilities than HyperCard, and many things that were painful to write in HyperCard are one-liners in Revolution. After a few months of transition I began finding it difficult to move back to HyperCard. I started missing the things that Revolution had and HyperCard didn't. The cross-platform capabilities are amazing, and are maybe it's most impressive feature. You really can write a stack once and run it on any modern operating system without any changes.
What do you consider your main contribution to Revolution?
Well, I didn't write Revolution, but I do help a lot of people learn it. I often get hired to guide ex-HyperCarders through the transition. I maintain a high profile on their mailing list, have organized and moderated a series of beginner's tutorials and online conferences, have written several online tutorials that appear at my web site, and have done quite a bit of other work behind the scenes to help the product grow. When it was still MetaCard, I worked with the company as a consultant on the then-new debugger. I also wrote a sample game stack that shipped with MetaCard for a while.
Please describe Revolution in one sentence
Runtime Revolution is a HyperCard superset that enables rapid, easy development of professional-quality applications on all major platforms in use today.
If you could add one more feature to Revolution, what would it be?
I wish they'd add support for hand-held devices like Palm or WinCE. That would easily make it the best RAD tool anywhere, not to mention increasing the demand for my business services.
When, how, and by whom were you introduced to HyperCard?
As per above, it was a lucky accident.
What impressed you the most about HyperCard?
Ease of use, of course, but mostly that it was able to open a portal into a part of my brain that I had never explored before. Before HyperCard, I didn't know I had a pizza and all-nighter personality.
What do you consider your main contribution to HyperCard?
Enthusiasm, I suppose. Sharing of knowledge. AOL HC Forum participation helped too back in the early days, and eventually I became the HC Forum leader until its demise.
Please describe HyperCard in one sentence
I don't have an original description, but someone once called it "tinkertoys for Mac" and I think that is pretty accurate.
If you could have added one feature to HyperCard, what would it have been?
(Apart from color - we all wanted that)
Better internet access, especially in hindsight, now that we know how important the net is in today's world.
Do you think there's a new HyperCard today?
Yes, absolutely, and it's name is Revolution.
Do you think there's still a need for a new HyperCard?
Not really, unless Apple got back into the act and gave it away for free. I think that any new clone would have a very long way to go to achieve the results that Revolution (and SuperCard to a degree) have today. They are mature and capable xtalk programs, and I doubt that any new clone would be able to catch up at this point. It would have to be a very exceptional clone that offered more than these programs already do.
What single thing do you think Revolution did better than all its competitors?
Revolution has kept up with modern computing standards, something HyperCard didn't do even when it was being supported. HC's lack of color, appearance manager support, internet capabilites, and other features were always difficult to work around. Revolution has all this and more, and regularly adds new features as they are needed; for example, they have just released support for U3 applications on Windows, something no other xtalk has. As operating systems change, so does Revolution. Vista support will be automatic, as was the switch to OS X, and more recently, universal binaries for Mac/Intel machines.
Did you ever get to meet any of the HC clone developers?
I've met many of the Runtime team several times. They are based in Scotland, but they come to the U.S. for conferences. I've had frequent talks with the CEO, Kevin Miller, and their chief engineer, Mark Waddingham. I've also sat down with other members of their team on many occasions.
Do you think HyperCard clones are/were a good thing? Why?
Sure, the more the better. I'm a little skeptical that single-person efforts can succeed though, and since my business relies on xtalk, I can't depend on clones that aren't well supported or funded. I need to know that the product I use daily, and which I recommend to my customers, will be around many years from now. Of course, nothing is ever for certain. But single-person clone developers are less likely to be producing a viable product in five years than a commercial company who has already established a customer base in the marketplace.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
I should probably mention that I subcontract to Runtime to help with their technical support queue. I answer the tech questions that come in from the customer base. However, I don't want people to think I am endorsing Runtime simply because I work with them; it is rather the other way around. I am enthusiastic about Revolution, and as a consequence, I asked to work with them. I believe that in today's programming world, their product is really the only option for professional xtalk developers. There is nothing else quite like it, and I hope that HyperCard users who are looking for other options will try it. To me, it seems the best way forward for us.
Thank you, Jacqueline, for answering these questions, and all my best wishes.