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Tom Pittman on xCards

Current occupation: Programmer

How did you get into this job?

I always wanted to be a computer programmer. In high school I started collecting electronic parts to build my own computer (I had no clue about the complexity of a working computer).

Did you have a HyperCard (clone) related job before you started working on your HyperCard clone?

Not sure how to answer this... The "clone" work was a natural outgrowth from CompileIt. CompileIt was a natural outgrowth from the fact that my specialty is compilers -- plus Atkinson was quoted saying HyperTalk couldn't be compiled.

Strictly speaking, Atkinson was right. Some parts of HyperTalk can't be compiled, so CompileIt sends those lines back to the host (HyperCard) to be interpreted at runtime. Of course in Double-XX there is no HyperCard up there, just the Double-XX shell, so I had to clone all the HyperTalk interpreter for the commands that CompileIt can't compile so that those callbacks would work properly.

How is/was working on your HyperCard clone?

Fun. Is that the kind of answer you want? I like helping people do things they couldn't otherwise do.

Who was your hero/idol at the time?

I don't do idols.

What is the most important thing in life for you?

Loving God and helping people.

What clone were you working on?

CompileIt, Double-XX, etc.

When, how and by whom did you get introduced to your clone?

I invented it.

What impressed you most about CompileIt/Double-XX?

Huh? I don't usually get impressed by my own work.

What do you consider your main contribution to CompileIt/Double-XX?

Uh, writing it?

Please describe CompileIt/Double-XX in one sentence

HyperCard code, compiled into a stand-alone native code application.

Is there any particularly clever solution you applied that you want to explain in excruciating detail?

I can't think of anything at the moment, but if there was such a thing, I probably described it in the user manual.

If you could add one more feature to CompileIt or Double-XX, what would it be?

Most of the features were there to support what HyperCard did. Now that HC is dead, there's not much motivation for more.

When, how and by whom did you get introduced to HyperCard?

I loved Atkinson's previous work (MacPaint and Mac toolbox), so I bought it when it first came out.

What impressed you most about HyperCard?

Rapid application development. Free.

What do you consider your main contribution to HyperCard?

CompileIt!

Please describe HyperCard in one sentence

Rapid application development environment.

If you could have added one feature (besides Color) to HyperCard, what would it have been?

It pretty much already did everything I wanted.

Do you think there is a new HyperCard today?

Dunno. For a while it was VisualBasic, but Microsoft Steved (killed) it and replaced it with something incompatible. Nothing else has the pervasive reach HyperCard did.

Do you think there is still a need for a new HyperCard?

Yup. See below.

What do you think the competing products did better than you?

Dunno, I'm not familiar with them (if they exist).

What single thing do you think your application did better than all its competitors?

Native code.

Did you ever get to meet any of the competing HyperCard (clone) developers?

Probably, but I can't say for sure.

Do you think HyperCard clones are/were a good thing?

HyperCard's biggest benefit was that it provided an easy, non-threatening programming environment for all Mac users. The clones can't do that, but I guess they carry on the momentum HC started. Now that the Mac is as dead as HyperCard (all we have left is Windows and a few flavors of Unix, but Unix -- including OSX -- is a system for geeks, not real people), only Microsoft could resurrect the vision. It ain't gonna happen.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?

I'd like to see a new MacOS (or something like it), a system for real people who have real work to do and don't want to become geeks in the process. OSX and Linux (both being unix variations) are going the wrong direction. Windows is moving in the right direction, but ever more slowly and probably will never become as robust and easy to use as the Mac was. HyperCard was part of the original Mac vision; a new Mac-like system would need a (bundled) HyperCard-like rapid application programming environment to be completely successful. I wish I could persuade somebody to make it happen. I would like to be a part of the team, if that would help make it happen. I wish.

For more info, see Blueprint for a 21st Century Operating System.

Thank you, Tom, for writing the tools that brought me and many other people into programming, and for this enlightening interview.

 
A day of acquaintance, And then the longer span of custom. But first -- The hour of astonishment.