HyperTIES Discussions from Hacker News

Don Hopkins
74 min readJan 13, 2022

I’m putting this lightly edited archive of a bunch of different discussions and email about HyperTIES, all together in one place here on Medium. Please forgive the rough wall of text and redundancy, but I haven’t yet had time to distill it all down into one sentence. I will just include the email I sent to Ben Shneiderman summarizing the interesting posts and links, for now. Here goes:


Ben Shneiderman wrote:

HI Don,

You seem to have triggered renewed interest in our early work on the hyperlink. Thanks. Elise Blanchard was very eager to find out why links are light blue, which she wrote about:


If you still have any documentation of what we did, it may yet prove valuable in proving our claims to have been influential in how the web works.

Don Hopkins wrote:

Oh cool! Yes, I regularly discuss and link to information about HyperTIES on Hacker News, when the topic comes up (or when I can get away with bending the conversation around to it ;) ).

I love writing about the stuff we did, and I try to put my the time into writing in ways that save other people their own time reading it (respecting the reader’s time is of the utmost importance, but is at odds with getting all the information out that I want to). So I still end up writing huge walls of text that I worry people don’t have the time to plow through (like this message — I hope you can find the time to skim through it all! ;) ).

It’s gratifying to hear from you that Elise Blanchard read what I wrote, grokked it as well as I hoped she would, got in touch with you for more information, and wrote more about HyperTIES herself! I also received some kind comments on Hacker News who read and appreciated what I wrote.

Here’s a discussion of Forth vs Lisp, in which I described some of the stuff I did with Forth, and somebody kindly complemented and asked me about how I write articles like that with quotes and links. I replied and described the concept and history of Transclusion, and how I manually apply that to my writing, and how I like to make illustrated transcripts of videos for people who prefer reading and looking at screen shots to watching long videos (and the information shows up in google much better — it’s simply good search engine optimization).

I linked to a brilliant video by Ted Nelson about his life’s work, and transcribed his most important points (it took him a lifetime to know what to say on the video, so it was well worth my time transcribing what he had to say, to save other people their own time), and then I went onto writing about how HyperTIES applied those ideas, and added concepts like pie menus, definition previews (sorely missing from the web: a way to read the definition of a link destination without actually following the link and losing your context), applets, emacs based authoring, etc.

It’s ironic that the web is still so primitive that I had to perform a lot of transclusion myself by hand in order to explain the idea of Transclusion that has been around so long, which Ted Nelson has always thought should be built in and automatic, not something you have to do laboriously by hand.

I’ve posted a bunch of other stuff on Medium, including old papers and articles I’ve written, illustrated transcripts of video demos, and new stuff. I would like to take some of me best posts of Hacker News and clean them up and publish them on Medium too, but just haven’t had the time yet. Below are a few, but there are a lot more I’d like to publish.

Could you please recommend some better places to publish some of this stuff than Medium? Could you also suggest some other topics I could write about? And would you like to work on writing something together, combining and refining some of the stuff we’ve already written, and writing new stuff about our current ideas and perspectives?


For what it’s worth, I would really like to finally and publicly make the case that all web browsers and desktop user interfaces should natively support user definable pie menus, just like HyperTIES did, and just like Blender does. I’ve joined and attend the zoom meetings of the WebExtensions Community Group, where I’ve raised the topic. But most of the people there are so busy with simply standardizing things that already exist, that it’s hard to get their attention or excite them about supporting pie menus (although there are a few people the ideas resonated with, they just don’t have time to help me push all the boulders up the mountains required to change the browser’s user interface). It would probably help if I wrote a nice implementation of pie menus as a modern web browser extension myself. But another important thing to do is to write an article describing what and why I want to do, and what we’ve already done in the past, and what we should do in the future. And that’s something I’d really appreciate your help writing and publishing and promoting to the right people, please!


Here’s another earlier discussion about Elise Blanchard’s original article about “Why are hyperlinks blue”? I replied to several posts on different subjects, and I followed up by sending Elise Blanchard a message on linkedin, too.

LinkedIn message to Elise Blanchard:

Don Hopkins sent the following message at 10:07 AM, AUG 28, 2021

Why are hyperlinks blue?

Hello Elise. Here is some information about why hyperlinks are blue, from Ben Shneiderman’s answer to a question I asked him about the origin of the term “hyperlink”. I think your belief that HyperTIES was not the first instance of blue hyperlinks because it used cyan links is splitting hairs, and a “No Blue Scotsman” argument, especially since Tim Berners-Lee told Ben Sheniderman at the time that he was influenced by Ben’s design as he saw it in the HyperTIES-based “Hypertext on Hypertext” that ACM distributed with the articles from the July 1987 Hypertext conference at the University of North Carolina. Ben describes the color as “light blue”, which he chose from the limited palette available on PCs at the time, based on controlled experiments he and his students performed comparing user comprehension and recollection.


Reply to Elise Blanchard’s LinkedIn post about “Why are hyperlinks blue?”:


Don Hopkins, Software Engineer at Leela AI

Here is some information about why hyperlinks are blue, from Ben Shneiderman’s answer to a question I recently asked him about the origin of the term “hyperlink”. I think the belief that HyperTIES was not the first instance of blue hyperlinks because it used cyan links is splitting hairs, and a “No Blue Scotsman” argument, especially since Tim Berners-Lee told Ben Sheniderman at the time that he was influenced by Ben’s design as he saw it in the HyperTIES-based “Hypertext on Hypertext” that ACM distributed with the articles from the July 1987 Hypertext conference at the University of North Carolina. Ben describes the color as “light blue” (which is easier to read than dark blue against a black background), which he chose from the limited palette available on PCs at the time, based on controlled experiments he and his students performed comparing user comprehension and recollection.


That particular shade of blue is known as “Wax Crayon Blue” in the RAL color scheme.



Elise Hotard Blanchard, Senior User Experience Designer at Mozilla

Don Hopkins Hi, I agree that hyperties was an ancestor of our hyperlink blue, but there is no direct evidence that Eric Bina was inspired by cyan when coding Mosaic. Infact, there were other hyperlink styles in earlier beta versions of mosaic more inline with then contemporary hyperlink styles (specifically underlines used to denote hyperlinks) that were not blue.

Color cubes:

recursive 4 months ago | parent | prev | next [–]

It was actually only 216 web safe colors.
You could use names, or you could use colors whose RGB components were each multiples of 0x33. (00, 33, 66, 99, cc, ff)

DonHopkins 4 months ago | root | parent | next [–]

216 = 6 * 6 * 6 — That’s a “Color Cube”: a 6x6x6 3D cube of 216 equally spaced colors. Not necessarily the colors you’d actually want, though, just mathematically convenient. Figuring out the closest color in the cube to any color is quick and easy (so you can do a quick 24=>8 error diffusion dither, for example, which needs to do that every pixel), but lots of the colors suck.

Web-Safe Colors (a Color Cube)

Not to be confused with a Time Cube.

Special places in hell:

blibble 4 months ago | parent | prev | next [–]

there’s a special place in hell for people that remove the underline from hyperlinks

DonHopkins 4 months ago | root | parent | next [–]

There is also a level of hell where reified retired 3D company logos swoop around booming out thumping techno trade show floor music, spinning, bowing, and pirouetting around with each other. Somewhere the old SUN and SGI and DIGITAL are still dancing.

No Blue Scotsman:

pdw 4 months ago | parent | prev | next [–]

For all their talking about early Windows versions, they missed that Windows 3 introduced a hypertext help system. It used green links.
This is what it looked like: http://toastytech.com/guis/win30help.png

DonHopkins 4 months ago | root | parent | next [–]

I guffawed at “I do not believe that this is the first instance of the blue hyperlink since this color is cyan, and not dark blue.”

No Blue Scotsman!

Tim Berners-Lee told Ben Shneiderman at the time that he was influenced by the design of the HyperTIES-based “Hypertext on Hypertext” project from the 1987 HyperText conference that the ACM published, which had light blue links.


>My students conducted more than a dozen experiments (unpublished) on different ways of highlighting and selection using current screens, e.g. green screens only permitted, bold, underscore, blinking, and I think italic(???). When we had a color screen we tried different color highlighted links. While red made the links easier to spot, user comprehension and recollection of the content declined. We chose the light blue, which Tim adopted.

>His systems with embedded menus (or hot spots), where a significant user interface improvement over early systems such as Gopher. But Tim told me at the time that he was influenced by our design as he saw it in the Hypertext on Hypertext project that we used Hyperties to build for the July 1988 CACM that held the articles from the July 1987 Hypertext conference at the University of North Carolina. The ACM sold 4000 copies of our Hypertext on Hypertext disks.

No red links:

reaperducer 4 months ago | root | parent | prev | next [–]

For the same reason they didn’t use red. Red and green have meaning in many cultures, especially the one that invented the web. As stated by the parent commenter, blue is more neutral.

DonHopkins 4 months ago | root | parent | next [–]

“While red made the links easier to spot, user comprehension and recollection of the content declined.” -Ben Shneiderman

Ben likes to actually run controlled experiments and measure things like that, instead of just speculating! ;)

See the email quoted here:

About HyperTIES, quoting your email to John Gilmore:

DonHopkins 4 months ago | prev | next [–]

Ben Shneiderman developed “TIES” aka “HyperTIES” at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab, and here’s what he recently wrote in response to a question about hyperlinks, in which he mentioned the origin of blue as a highlighting color.

Also here’s a link to an article about the NeWS version of HyperTIES that we developed at HCIL, and some demos of HyperTIES and its Emacs based authoring tool, which had pie menus and embedded interactive PostScript “applets” in 1988.


HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Browsing


HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Authoring with UniPress Emacs on NeWS


Don Hopkins and pie menus in ~ Spring 1989 on a Sun Workstation, running the NEWS operating system.


John Gilmore via Internet-history Date: Mon, Apr 13, 2020, 11:56 PM To: Brian, internet-history, Jeff

I forwarded this question to my friend Don Hopkins, who was a student of Ben Shneiderman back in the day. Ben ultimately responded:

From: Ben Shneiderman To: Don Hopkins CC: John Gilmore , Ben Shneiderman Subject: RE: [ih] origins of the term “hyperlink” Date: Mon, 13 Apr 2020 15:15:52 +0000

HI Don (and Jack Gilmore),

Thanks for including me in this conversation.

I do not have a claim for the term “hyperlinks” and don’t know when it came into use. My claim is for the visual interface for showing highlighted selectable links embedded in paragraphs. This is what we called embedded menu items in that I think is an influential paper on the topic, which was peer-reviewed and published in the CACM in April 1986.



While Engelbart had shown a list that could be selected by pointing and clicking in 1968, I claim the idea of embedded highlighted selectable text in paragraphs. This was implemented by grad student Daniel Ostroff and described in:

Ewing J, Mehrabanzad S, Sheck S, Ostroff D and Shneiderman B (1986), “An experimental comparison of a mouse and arrow-jump keys for an interactive encyclopedia”, International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, Jan., 1986, Vol 24, pp. 29–45.

Ostroff D and Shneiderman B (1988), “Selection devices for users of an electronic encyclopedia: an empirical comparison of four possibilities”, Information Processing and Management, Nov., 1988, Vol 24(6), pp. 665–680.

I think the 1988 paper was the earlier study, but the publication took a while.

My students conducted more than a dozen experiments (unpublished) on different ways of highlighting and selection using current screens, e.g. green screens only permitted, bold, underscore, blinking, and I think italic(???). When we had a color screen we tried different color highlighted links. While red made the links easier to spot, user comprehension and recollection of the content declined. We chose the light blue, which Tim adopted.

His systems with embedded menus (or hot spots), where a significant user interface improvement over early systems such as Gopher. But Tim told me at the time that he was influenced by our design as he saw it in the Hypertext on Hypertext project that we used Hyperties to build for the July 1988 CACM that held the articles from the July 1987 Hypertext conference at the University of North Carolina. The ACM sold 4000 copies of our Hypertext on Hypertext disks.

Our history is here:


and the video is very helpful in showing the design we used, which is what I think Tim built on for his WWW prototypes.


So in summary, I don’t know who coined hypertext, but I do think our work visual and interaction design was influential.

Our Hyperties system was picked up by Cognetics Corporation (around 1987) who made a modestly successful commercial run with it, doing dozens of corporate projects, most notably the Hewlett-Packard user manual for their Laserjet 4 was distributed as a Hyperties disk.

Hyperties was the name we shifted to after we got a stop and desist order from a lawyer because our TIES (The Interactive Encyclopedia System) conflicted with an existing product. By then “hyper” was a growing term.

Let me know if this helps, and what other questions you have…. Ben

58x14 4 months ago | parent | next [–]

More relevant details here than the entire Mozilla article.

dredmorbius 4 months ago | parent | prev | next [–]

Here’s your answers, people.

ChrisArchitect 4 months ago | parent | prev | next [–]

amazing digging, thank you!


DonHopkins 39 minutes ago | parent | context | edit | delete | favorite | on: Revisiting why hyperlinks are blue

Ben Shneiderman recalled that “Tim told me at the time that he was influenced by our design as he saw it in the Hypertext on Hypertext project”.
Ben Shneiderman wrote the following email to John Gilmore and I, in response to a question John asked me about the origin of the term “hyperlink” raised in a discussion on the Internet History mailing list. John then forwarded Ben’s email to the Internet History mailing list, here:


>My students conducted more than a dozen experiments (unpublished) on different ways of highlighting and selection using current screens, e.g. green screens only permitted, bold, underscore, blinking, and I think italic(???). When we had a color screen we tried different color highlighted links. While red made the links easier to spot, user comprehension and recollection of the content declined. We chose the light blue, which Tim adopted.

>His systems with embedded menus (or hot spots), where a significant user interface improvement over early systems such as Gopher. But Tim told me at the time that he was influenced by our design as he saw it in the Hypertext on Hypertext project that we used Hyperties to build for the July 1988 CACM that held the articles from the July 1987 Hypertext conference at the University of North Carolina. The ACM sold 4000 copies of our Hypertext on Hypertext disks.

Here’s some more information about High-Precision Touchscreens, 1988–1991 HCIL Research, which may be what whoever mis-quoted Ben about inventing the iPhone keyboard was actually referring to. Specifically, Ben and his students developed the “Lift-Off Strategy” and other visual feedback techniques that made it possible to precisely select small targets on touch screens. Below, he simply and truthfully stated that “the iPhone uses a lift-off strategy”, not that he invented the iPhone keyboard.

At the time, touchscreens were notorious for being hard to use, and they usually triggered on the location you initially touched the screen, instead of giving preview feedback when you touched, and letting you change the selection while providing visual feedback before lifting off and selecting something like a key or text or pixel.

Also, the precision touch screen work at HCIL was cited as prior art in legal cases contesting the Apple patents related to the “Slide to Unlock” touchscreen slider that unlocks the iPhone.



During 1989–1991, we worked on a home automation system and explored several direct manipulation designs (e.g. clocks and calendars to schedule devices to go on and off, ON-OFF switches with buttons or sliders) . A playful fingerpainting exploration tool and toy called Playpen was developed. Finally we worked with National Cash Register (NCR) to explore how touchscreens might be used to replace keyboards when store cashiers needed to enter a little bit of data about shopppers (such as phone numbers or addresses). We stopped doing research on touchscreens as successful applications found their ways in museums or cash registers. Pen interfaces, made popular by the Palm Pilots, continued the work as they afforded a similar sense of “real” direct manipulation. Eventually touchcreens came back as the input device of choice of mobile devices, especially after the launch of the iPhone is 2007.

For a quick summary of our work refer to:

Shneiderman, B. (March 1991), Touch screens now offer compelling uses, IEEE Software 8, 2, (March 1991) 93–94, 107. Also in Sparks of Innovation in Human-Computer Interaction, Shneiderman, B., Ed., Ablex (June 1993) 187–193.


For a longer review of the state of the art of touchscreen use at that time see:

Sears, A., Plaisant, C., Shneiderman, B., A new era for high-precision touchscreens (1990 tech report), CS-TR-2487, CAR-TR-506 Later published in Advances in Human-Computer Interaction, vol. 3, Hartson, R. & Hix, D. Eds., Ablex (1992) 1–33.


We produced the first HCIL Video Report in 1991 by recording the demonstrations from 1988–1991 (most are now on YouTube and embedded below). Those videos were given along with copies of our papers to all the sponsors of the lab, and attendees of the annual HCIL symposium. The videos were available for sale, and have been used extensively in HCI classes. Many were also published as part of the ACM CHI videos.


Between 1988 and 1993 Apple was a sponsor of the HCIL lab, Steve Jobs visited in person in 1988, and Ben Shneiderman was a consultant for Apple at several occasions. Demos were also shown to our lab’s visitors, and videos shown during invited lectures at conferences or during industry visits (see Ben Shneiderman’s resume for a partial list)

From bad reputation to high precision touchscreen

In 1987 (and still long afterwards) touchscreens had the bad reputation of being imprecise. Most user interface books would state that touchscreens selections were “of course limited to targets larger than the average finger”. To use touchscreens for browsing information systems such as Hyperties, we had to be able to select small targets (e.g. the letters of the alphabets of the index table of content). At the time, all touchscreens selections were done in such a way that a target was selected as soon as the finger came over it, and the corresponding action was performed immediately (we called it “first touch” or “land-on” strategy). Errors were common, due to parallax or calibration problems, and users were frustrated when the wrong target was repeatedly selected by mistake.

Lift-Off strategy

A first breakthrough was to propose an alternative technique for selection: the lift-off strategy. As users touch the screen, feedback is provided as to what will be selected and the action takes place when the finger is lifted off the screen. In our implementation a cursor was drawn on the screen slightly above the finger. When the cursor was over a target, the target was highlighted. Users could then either lift-off their finger to select the highlighted target, or adjust their position by sliding their finger to a neighboring target. This was a major breakthrough: only the cursor position mattered for the selection, not the finger itself. Selecting a single character was now possible.

The touchscreen technology has greatly improved but overall the lift-off strategy is still useful (e.g. the iPhone uses a lift-off strategy.)

88–04 Potter, R.L., Weldon, L.J., Shneiderman, B. (May 1988). Improving the accuracy of touch screens: an experimental evaluation of three strategies, Proc. of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI `88 (Washington, DC) 27–32. Also Sparks of Innovation in Human-Computer Interaction, Shneiderman, B., Ed., Ablex (June 1993) 161–169.

High-Precision touchscreen: the next step was to try to stabilize the touchscreen so that the cursor would stay put when the finger didn’t move. This was accomplished with a clever time-dependant averaging of the positions returned by the device. Now, individual pixels could be selected (in the 480x350 high resolution screen of the time). An experiment showed that there was significant difference in selection times and error rates between mouse and touchscreen for targets down to about 1mm2, when using a lift-off strategy with a stabilized touchcreen. Companies such as Elographics and Microtouch, with whom we had good relations, integrated stabilization techniques into the drivers of their touchscreens. From then on, high-precision was possible, and designers could do everything with the touchscreen that they could do with the mouse.

89–17 — Sears, A., Shneiderman, B. (June 1989) High precision touchscreens: design strategies and comparisons with a mouse, International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, (1991) 34, 4, 593–613. Also Sparks of Innovation in Human-Computer Interaction, Shneiderman, B., Ed., Ablex (June 1993) 171–185.


Toggles (buttons, sliders, rockers etc.),

In 1990 we designed and compared a series of touchscreen toggle switches allowing devices to be switched ON or OFF. The designs included button type toggles and sliding toggles.

This video was distributed to the attendees of the 1991 Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory Open House on June 7, and later on published in the SIGGRAPH Video Review, Issue 77 corresponding to the CHI ’92 Technical video program.(see the accompanying CHI’92 Proceeding short paper). The video and its short paper are now being cited as prior art in legal cases contesting the Apple patents related to the “Slide to Unlock” touchscreen slider that unlocks the iPhone.



Designed originally for home automation, those toggles were also later used in a NASA design toolkit. Now slider designs can be found everywhere in touchscreen-based smartphones (such as the first iPhone in 2007). As we mentionned in our paper and video a slider design is more secure so that the phone cannot be turned on by mistake. A click confirms the action. Any design that enforces a sliding gesture would achieve a similar goal.

90–08 Plaisant, C., Wallace, D. (Nov. 1990) Touchscreen toggle switches: push or slide? Design issues and usability study, CS-TR-2557, CAR-TR-521



1991 Video Reports


Here’s another discussion about double clicking, in which I posted some stuff about how HyperTIES supported single clicking to show a definition, and double clicking to follow a link.


userbinator on April 18, 2015 | parent | context | favorite | on: Double-clicking on the Web

Or Macs… the “single click to select, double-click to apply default action” occurs both in Windows and MacOS.

nailer on April 18, 2015 [–]

OK I’m wrong. I use a Mac every day and thought they didn’t do double click. Apparently it’s a somewhat subconscious action.

DonHopkins on April 18, 2015 | parent [–]

Wasn’t that the whole point of the article? How many times did he point that out? More than two:

Everywhere in the Operating System, whether it’s Windows or Mac OSX, the default behaviour to navigate between directories is by double-clicking them. We’re trained to double-click anything.

Want to open an application? Double-click the icon. Want to open an e-mail in your mail client? Double-click the subject. Double-clicks everywhere.

We know we should only single-click a link. We know we should only click a form submit once. But sometimes, we double-click. Not because we do so intentionally, but because our brains are just hardwired to double-click everything.

For techies like us, a double-click happens by accident. It’s an automated double-click, one we don’t really think about. One we didn’t mean to do.

nailer on April 18, 2015 | root | parent | next [–]

Yep, I read that and thought it was wrong. Double clicks require two clicks in a matter of milliseconds and they’re e really hard for novice users, I’d read somewhere that Macs didn’t use them — evidently that’s now wrong, and I’m double clicking constantly but not realising.


Retra on April 18, 2015 | parent | context | favorite | on: Double-clicking on the Web

Following a link and opening a directory are distinct enough in most people’s minds to not confuse the two. That’s why hyperlinks are normally underlined, colored, and give you a different mouse cursor.

DonHopkins on April 19, 2015 [–]

I disagree that you can make such a sweeping statement without evidence, having worked on HyperTIES [1] [2], an early hypermedia browser and authoring system with Ben Shneiderman, who invented and published the idea of underlining links, and who has performed and published empirical studies evaluating browsing strategies, single and double clicking, touch screen tracking, and other user interaction techniques.

Hyperlinks do not necessarily have to be triggered by single clicks. In HyperTIES, single clicking on a hyperlink (either inline text or embedded graphical menus) would display a description of the link destination at the bottom of the screen, and double clicking would follow the link. That gave users an easy way to get more information on a link without losing their context and navigating away from the page they were reading. Clicking on the background would highlight all links on the page (which was convenient for discovering embedded graphical links in pictures). [3] [4]

The most recent anecdotal evidence close at hand (in the sibling and grandparent comments to yours) that it’s confusing is that nailer did indeed confuse double clicking with single clicking in his memory, not remembering that he subconsciously double clicks on Macs all the time.

I would argue that much in the same way the Windows desktop gives users an option to enable single-click navigation like web browsers, web browsers should also give users an option to enable double-click link navigation like HyperTIES, so a single click can display more information and actions related to the link without taking you away from your current context, and a double click navigates the link. (Of course in the real world, scripted pages and AJAX apps probably wouldn’t seamlessly support both styles of interface, but double click navigation could be built into higher level toolkits, and dynamically applied to normal links by a browser extension.)

In order to make a sweeping statement like “Following a link and opening a directory are distinct enough in most people’s minds to not confuse the two” you would have to perform user testing — you can’t just make up statements like that without any supporting evidence. Can you at least refer me to some empirical studies that support your claim, please?

[1] http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/hyperties/

Starting in 1982, HCIL developed an early hypertext system on the IBM PC computers. Ben Shneiderman invented the idea of having the text itself be the link marker, a concept that came to be called embedded menus or illuminated links. Earlier systems used typed-in codes, numbered menus or link icons. Embedded menus were first implemented by Dan Ostroff in 1983 and then applied and tested by Larry Koved (Koved and Shneiderman, 1986). In 1984–85 the work was supported by a contract from the US Department of Interior in connection with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Education Center. Originally called The Interactive Encyclopedia Systems (TIES), we ran into trademark conflicts and in 1986 changed the name to HyperTIES as we moved toward commercial licensing with Cognetics Corporation. We conducted approximately 20 empirical studies of many design variables which were reported at the Hypertext 1987 conference and in array of journals and books. Issues such as the use of light blue highlighting as the default color for links, the inclusion of a history stack, easy access to a BACK button, article length, and global string search were all studied empirically. We used Hyperties in the widely circulated ACM-published disk Hypertext on Hypertext which contained the full text of the 8 papers in the July 1988 Communications of the ACM.


Today, the World Wide Web uses hypertext to link tens of millions of documents together. The basic highlighted text link can be traced back to a key innovation, developed in 1983, as part of TIES (The Interactive Encyclopedia System, the research predecessor to Hyperties). The original concept was to eliminate menus by embedding highlighted link phrases directly in the text (Koved and Shneiderman, 1986). Earlier designs required typing codes, selecting from menu lists, or clicking on visually distracting markers in the text. The embedded text link idea was adopted by others and became a user interface component of the World Wide Web (Berners-Lee, 1994).

[2] http://www.donhopkins.com/home/ties/LookBackAtHyperTIES.html

Designing to facilitate browsing: A look back at the Hyperties workstation browser
Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant, Rodrigo Botafogo, Don Hopkins, William Weiland
Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory, A.V. Williams Bldg., University of Maryland, College Park MD 20742, U.S.A.

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZi4gUjaGAM

University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab HyperTIES Demo. Research performed under the direction of Ben Shneiderman. HyperTIES hypermedia browser developed by Ben Shneiderman, Bill Weiland, Catherine Plaisant and Don Hopkins. Demonstrated by Don Hopkins.

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhmU2B79EDU

Demo of UniPress Emacs based HyperTIES authoring tool, by Don Hopkins, at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab.

Retra on April 20, 2015 | parent [–]

You can’t just request informed studies without providing funding.

DonHopkins on April 21, 2015 | root | parent [–]

Of course I can. I said “Can you at least refer me to some empirical studies that support your claim, please?”, and I provided links to informed studies that I and other people published.

But I’ll humor you: How much funding would you suggest that I should offer him to look up some proof of what he said on google or wikipedia? And how much money should I have asked him to pay me for the information I gave him for free?

I didn’t realize it was customary to pay people for supporting their statements with evidence on Hacker News. Can you please refer me to the section of the FAQ about that? Or do you have Hacker News confused with Kickstarter or experiment.com?

From the discussion of “Bill Atkinson: Reflections on the 40th anniversary of my joining Apple” and HyperCard:

A veiled reference to Bill Atkinson’s description of how he invented HyperCard while tripping on LSD:


DonHopkins on Dec 13, 2019 | parent | prev | next [–]

HyperCard is just as mind expanding as LSD, and you can make it stop whenever you want, and come back to it in the exact same state when you’re ready for more.

A more explicit discussion of that interesting fact, with some links to back it up:

DonHopkins on Dec 13, 2019 | prev | next [–]

I recently posted these thoughts about Bill Atkinson, and links to articles and a recent interview he gave to Brad Myers’ user interface class at CMU:


Bill Atkinson is the humblest, sweetest, most astronomically talented guy — practically the opposite of Rony Abovitz! I think they’re on very different drugs. The Psychedelic Inspiration For Hypercard, by Bill Atkinson, as told to Leo Laporte.

“In 1985 I swallowed a tiny fleck of gelatin containing a medium dose of LSD, and I spent most of the night sitting on a concrete park bench outside my home in Los Gatos, California.” …


Full interview with lots more details about the development of HyperCard:


Bill Atkinson’s guest lecture in Brad Meyer’s CMU 05–640 Interaction Techniques class, Spring 2019, Feb 4, 2019:


Including polaroids of early Lisa development.

About PhotoCard:


PhotoCard by Bill Atkinson is a free app available from the iTunes App store, that allows you to create custom postcards using Bill’s nature photos or your own personal photos, then send them by email or postal mail from your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

Bill Atkinson, Mac software legend and world renowned nature photographer, has created an innovative application that redefines how people create and send postcards.

With PhotoCard you can make dazzling, high resolution postcards on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, and send them on-the-spot, through email or the US Postal Service. The app is amazingly easy to use. To create a PhotoCard, select one of Bill’s nature photos or one of your own personal photos. Then, flip the card over to type your message. For a fun touch, jazz up your PhotoCard with decorative stickers and stamps. If you’re emailing your card, it can even include an audible greeting. When you’ve finished your creation, send it off to any email or postal address in the world!

erikpukinskis on Dec 13, 2019 | parent | next [–]

Someone else needs to do a small dose of LSD and figure out why HyperCard didn’t become the next pencil.

fastbeef on Dec 13, 2019 | root | parent | next [–]

_Medium_ dose

pvg on Dec 13, 2019 | parent | prev | next [–]

Was this bit about LSD and Hypercard covered before what seems like a 2016 interview and some later articles? So much has been written about HyperCard (and MacPaint and QuickDraw) I’m wondering if I somehow managed to miss it in all that material.

DonHopkins on Dec 13, 2019 | root | parent | next [–]

As far as I know, the first time Bill Atkinson publically mentioned that LSD inspired HyperCard was in an interview with Leo Laporte on Apr 25th 2016, which claims to be “Part 2”. I have searched all over for part 1 but have not been able to find it.

Then Mondo 2000 published a transcript of that part of the interview on June 18 2018, and I think a few other publications repeated it around that time.

And later on Feb 4, 2019 he gave a live talk to Brad Myers’ “05–640: Interaction Techniques” user interface design class at CMU, during which he read the transcript.


It’s well worth watching that interview. He went over and explained all of his amazing Polaroids of Lisa development, which I don’t think have ever been published anywhere else.

See Bill Atkinson’s Lisa development polaroids:


Then at 1:03:15 a student asked him the million dollar question: what was the impetus and motivation behind HyperCard? He chuckled, reached for the transcript he had off-camera, and then out of the blue he asked the entire class “How many of you guys have done … a psychedelic?” (Brad reported “No hands”, but I think some may have been embarrassed to admit it in front of their professor). So then Bill launched into reading the transcript of the LSD HyperCard story, and blew all the students’ minds.

See video of Bill’s talk:


The next week I gave a talk to the same class that Bill had just traumatized by asking if they’d done illegal drugs, and (at 37:11) I trolled them by conspiratorially asking: “One thing I wanted to ask the class: Have any of you ever used … (pregnant pause) … HyperCard? Basically, because in 1987 I saw HyperCard, and it fucking blew my mind.” Then I launched into my description of how important and amazing HyperCard was.

See video of Don’s talk:


Here is an index of all of the videos from Brad Myers’ interaction techniques class, including Rob Haitani (Palm Pilot), Shumin Zhai (text input and swipe method), Dan Bricklin (spreadsheets, Demo prototyping tool), Don Hopkins (pie menus), and Bill Atkinson (Mac, HyperCard):


gdubs on Dec 13, 2019 | root | parent | prev | next [–]

Same — first time I’ve read that story and I’ve been following Atkinson’s work for years.
His trip description really resonated with me, just having finished Rovelli’s “Reality is Not What it Seems.”

Some stuff about how HyperCard inspired GoodNeWS/HyperNeWS/HyperLook:


DonHopkins on Dec 13, 2019 | root | parent | prev | next [–]

HyperCard inspired Arthur van Hoff to develop a network aware version of HyperCard in PostScript for James Gosling’s networked-PostScript-based NeWS Window System. It was originally called “GoodNeWS”, then called “HyperNeWS”, then finally released as a product called “HyperLook”, which I worked on with Arthur and used to port SimCity to X11/NeWS on SunOS/Solaris.


Arthur later went on to Sun, wrote the Java compiler in Java, developed the AWT user interface toolkit, then formed Marimba with Kim Polesi and Jonathan Payne and others from the original Java team, where they developed Castanet and Bongo.


>1996–11–01: Tuning in to Marimba. Kim Polese wants you to upgrade your HTML-based browser to a more interactive, more TV-like, Java-based “tuner” by the name of Castanet.

>Marimba’s first product, scheduled to be announced in early October, is the punnily named Castanet, which aims to push Java toward its full potential. Java was created to deliver interactive content over distributed networks, and its much-hyped arrival last year promised to completely change the way information and entertainment are delivered electronically. The first popular Java programs have been based on HTML — for example, the Java applets that lend some animation to boring Web pages. But Java doesn’t need the Web to fly. It was designed to communicate over any kind of decentralized system. […]

Marimba developed Bongo, a Java-based gui toolkit / user interface editor / graphical environment, inspired by HyperCard (and HyperLook), which they used to develop and distribute interactive user interfaces over Castanet.


>Feel the Beat with Marimba’s Bongo, By Chris Baron

>In 1996, four programmers from the original Java-development team left Sun to form Marimba and produce industrial-strength Java-development tools for user interface and application administration. Bongo, one of Marimba’s two shipping products, allows developers to create either a Java-application interface or a standalone Java-based application called a “presentation.” A Bongo presentation resembles a HyperCard stack — it allows developers to quickly create an application with a sophisticated user interface, but without the tedious programming of directly coding in Java or C/C++. Bongo’s nonprogramming, visual approach makes it ideal for producing simple applications that don’t involve a lot of processing, such as product demonstrations, user-interface prototypes, and training applications. Bongo is fully integrated with Castanet, Marimba’s other product, a technology for remotely installing and updating Java applications.

Bongo was unique at the time in that it actually let you edit and dynamically compile scripts for event handlers and “live code” at run-time (in contrast with other tools that required you to recompile and re-run the application to make changes to the user interface), which was made possible by calling back to the Java compiler (which Arthur had written before at Sun, so he knew how to integrate the compiler at runtime like a modern IDE would do). Without the ability to dynamically edit scripts at runtime (easy with an interpreted language like HyperTalk or PostScript or JavaScript, but trickier for a compiled language like Java), you can’t hold a candle to HyperCard, because interactive scripting is an essential feature.

Danny Goodman, who wrote the book on HyperCard, also wrote a book about Bongo. Arthur later founded Flipboard and JauntVR, and now works at Apple.


I’ve written lots more about HyperLook, NeWS and SimCity:






Somebody mentioned “WAP” — which stood for “Washington Apple Pi” long before it stood for what it now stands for, thanks to that catchy song. ;) I wanted to capture and share the excitement that people were feeling about HyperCard when it was first released, so I excerpted some interesting stuff from the Washington Apple Pi newsletter:


DonHopkins on Dec 13, 2019 | root | parent | prev | next [–]

OMG WAP! I was a member of Washington Apple Pi from the Apple ][ days. I just loved the meetings and journals (a bunch of which are online). Are you the Paul who worked at Computerland?


To give you an idea of just how exciting and groundbreaking and disruptive HyperCard was, and how many people were going totally and justifiably ape-shit about it when it was released, here are the first mentions of it I could find in just the October 1987 WAP journal, talking about how it was the hit of several Mac trade shows:

There was a WAP HyperCARD SIG, and Bill Atkinson even gave a demo of HyperCard at a special WAP meetings!


Washington Apple Pi Journal, October 1987
HyperCard SIG, Robert C. Platt, page 76:
President’s Corner by Tom Warrick

[…] HyperCard (about which more later) requires a minimum of about 700K of RAM in which to run. If you actually want to run two powerful applications at the same time, you will need the next step up-2.5 megabytes of RAM. […]

[…] Bernie reported that Bill Baldridge has done some interesting work on a HyperCard application which would describe WAP. Tom’s picture is already on the HyperCard stack. Bernie hopes to see a complete package at dealers when we have it completed. […]

[…] We ended on a happier note with a demonstration of Bill Atkinson’s amazing HyperCard, the hit of the Boston Expo and a program which will no doubt be fully discussed elsewhere in the Journal. […]

With Mac fever, all kinds of people clamored around the Expo floor with Mac tote bags, filling them up with complimentary copies of MacWeek, MacUser, MacWorld, MACazine, The Macintosh Business Letter (premiere edition) and hundreds of flyers being handed out by hawkers dressed in medieval costumes or business suits or T-shirts. Terms like Connectivity, MultiFinder, HyperCard and “stackware developer” were tossed about even more freely.
As everyone knows now, HyperCard was the main feature at the Expo; a new programming environment had been introduced. It was programming for “real people”, as Jean-Louis Gassée explained it. Super star Bill Atkinson had created a combination operating system shell, database manager and programming environment with this “real person” user interface. No one could seem to clearly describe all that HyperCard could do; but everyone in the know alluded to its potential. John Sculley called it a “personal information tool kit” in Apple’s press release. It is an organizer of words, numbers, sounds and pictures into programs coined “stackware”. You will see “stackware” everywhere soon (already there are “stackware” downloads on WAP’s BBS). You won’t fully appreciate HyperCard until you have tried it. Let me warn you, HyperCard screams for memory, so it is a great lead-in for adding 1 meg chips or better yet, CD-ROM. Now, we need some import utilities so we can easily load existing databases into stacks regardless of the delimiters.

Jean-Louis Gassée was the Wednesday afternoon speaker. Sporting a three piece suit and diamond earring, he told his audience, “PCs are the wings of the mind” and that they would eventually enrich the quality of human life. He added, that HyperCard would also change the world and the way computers deal with information-in a more human like way. It really did sound like “hype card” might have been a more descriptive name for the software. I think I was supposed to leave that session on a kind of religious high, a Macintosh religious high. However, I was more intent on finding a rest room with less than 25 people in line.

The second-strongest impression I came away with was the number of companies that will not be around in two years’ time, or that will be back in 10-foot by 10-foot booths instead of large, open displays on the show floor. In databases; for example, 4th Dimension was there solidifying its toehold on the high-end database market. With HyperCard — being distributed free with Macintoshes bought beginning August 11 — capturing much of the low-end database market, it is easy to see those two products (along with, perhaps, dBase Mac, which may gain a niche in those businesses where dBase III is king) dividing the Mac database world amongst themselves. I would not want to be a stockholder in Blyth Software (Omnis) or Odesta (Helix). […]

A few other MacWorld impressions: HyperCard was, to most, the hit of the show. It is hard to describe but easy to understand when you see it, which I urge everyone to do. It combines some aspects of a regular low-end database application, FileVision (a graphics database), and hypertext (such as Owl’s Guide program). Bill Atkinson and others have put an enormous amount of work into making it very fast. But one of the most impressive capabilities is its “authoring” capability, that will let non-programmers set up programmable database applications without too much difficulty. For those a little more adventurous, HyperTalk is a relatively simple programming language that allows HyperCard to do some pretty sophisticated things. In many respects these “authoring” and programming capabilities represent something of the case of use and power that Applesoft BASIC represented for the Apple II: the return of the weekend programmer. Apple is, as noted above, bundling it free with Macs sold on or after August II, and the list price for us pioneers is $49.95.

Special Meeting
Saturday November 7, USUHS
9:00 AM until ?
Bill Atkinson and friends on HyperCard
Definite Maybe!

The “Smell” of Mac Expo, by Martin Milrod

The Boston MacExpo, August 11–13, ’87, had four major themes: big screens, color, accelerator cards and HyperCard. Those have been commented upon elsewhere, and I’ll not repeat the technical descriptions in depth. My purpose is to give you the “smell” or personality of the Expo. […]

The last major announced product is HyperCard developed by Bill Atkinson of MacPaint fame. He has been working on HyperCard for three years and it has been described by Bill as the greatest microcomputer announcement since the Macintosh. If you spent three years of your life working on one project. I guess you would like it to be called the greatest product since sliced bread.

Acceptance of HyperCard may be hindered by a lack of true understanding of just what it is. It is an innovative product that will eventually integrate graphics, text, music, voice and animation into a programmable interactive environment. It is supposed to allow users to organize data the way humans think and not the way computers impose on the user. It is also described as the first of a new kind of software applications called “stackware.” Rolodex style index cards are used to store data and a group of cards is called a “stack.” It is based on the idea of a card file, with each card equal to a screen full of information that can be searched and linked together. Searching stacks of millions of cards is reported to be very fast. Since I’m getting confused myself, I will quote from Apple’s literature on this product. “You make notes, type, or draw on them just as you might on paper index cards. You can sort cards, browse among them, or quickly find specific information by pointing and clicking on “buttons.” “Buttons do specific tasks, such as linking or connecting one card to another. Buttons can also do many other things, such as dialing a phone, printing a report, and even launching other applications.” HyperCard also comes with “HyperTalk” which is a powerful English scripting language which permits users to write script directions to buttons. Professional developers can use HyperTalk to control external devices such as videodisc players, on-line information services and CD-ROM drives.

HyperCard requires a Macintosh Plus, SE or II with at least 1 meg of RAM, and 2 megs is required if you want to use HyperCard with other applications under MultiFinder. If your still confused you have lots of company. Only time will tell just how useful or great HyperCard really is. Apple will begin bundling it free with all new Macintoshes but it will be available with documentation for $49 to current Macintosh users.

Book Reviews, by Robert C. Platt.

“The Complete HyperCard Handbook” by Danny Goodman (1987 Bantam Computer Books, 720 pp., $29.95)

This book is such a hot seller that copies at each of the B. Dalton’s sold out within three days of the book hitting the shelves!

HyperCard is a hypertext manager for the Macintosh which Apple will now bundle with each new Macintosh as system software. “Hypertext” in turn is a data base-like concept pioneered by Ted Nelson in a book Literary Machines, which I reviewed in the August 1983 WAP Journal. Hypertext links individual frames of information into a complex web of cross-references, unlike a normal book which is linear from the first page to the last HyperCard implements this concept through a me card metaphor. Each frame is a card that is the shape of an original Mac screen. The user can navigate between frames according to cross-references developed by the author. Cross-references can be symbolized by icons (called buttons.) In addition, cards can be retrieved using a “find” command in the message window in a manner similar to that of a classic data base.

Goodman was brought into Apple’s HyperCard project at an early stage, and it is no accident that his book is out simultaneously with the product’s release. In fact, his book is available before the beta version of a promised Inside HyperCard reference book for programmers. The downside is that Goodman is a bit of a gushing HyperCard evangelist. Along this line, the book includes a gushing forward by John Sculley and a 12 page interview with HyperCard’s creator Bill Atkinson.

The book devotes most of its pages to the introductory levels of HyperCard — the browsing and authoring levels. In my opinion, Goodman’s treatment of HyperTalk, the HyperCard programming language could have used more complete examples. Certainly Goodman does a much better job of presenting authoring than does the Apple manual that is bundled with the HyperCard product. In fairness, I note that Apple promises to distribute a HyperCard Technical Reference through APDA. However, Goodman should have expanded Part 4, “Applying HyperCard and HyperTalk.” That section gives the complete listing for a Corporate Directory (a locator map system with “hard links”); a Telephone Logbook (a rolodex which also records individual calls); an Attorney Time Sheet; a “To do” list; a metric/English measurement converter; and a project planner. Although these examples are impressive, I fear that a number of programming subtleties are not covered.

On the whole, I recommend the book, despite its hefty price. But be aware that the serious HyperTalk programmer will need more documentation than just this book. (Ed. Note: Rich Wasserstrom has arranged a group purchase on this book and it is available at the office for $17.95 plus tax, while the supply lasts.)

Data Bases

Bill Amon on 09/03

At 4:30 pm today (Thursday, Sept. 3), Ashton-Tate issued a news release indicating that dBASE Mac is now shipping. The last beta version was 1.0x1l4. I understand that they already have an order backlog of 10,000 copies! I asked about what the final version’s performance situation was — according to product development, there are substantial improvements. I’ll be getting my copy within a week or two and I’ll let you all know! For David Gursky — yes — NOW we can start our testing. I have already received HyperCard and 4th Dimension — I really think they should be included. Most data base applications I firmly believe could be done easily in HyperCard — I love it! Well, let’s get on with it.

Bill Baldridge on 08/28

Received the Course Builder demo disk today — pretty fast! The interesting thing is it was written by William C. Appleton, of World Builder fame, if memory serves… Anyway, I haven’t really played around with it yet (too busy with HyperCard right now), but so far my main criticism is they use Macintalk to voice text and dialogs; […]


Bill Baldridge on 08/30

Describing HyperCard in one sentence is as easy as writing the Gettysburg Address on a 22 cent stamp with a dull pencil. A simple description would be an application with which a user may build a stack of cards — each card storing information in any computer retrievable format (i.e., graphic, alphanumeric, digital, etc.). Any part of any card may be tied to any part of any other card by a relation — the relation to be defined by the creator or user (at lower levels) using “scripts.” Scripts allow specific tasks to be performed by a button, field, card, or stack (here presented in inverted hierarchy). Lastly, any STACK may be tied to any other stack by these relations… The mind boggles.

Jeffrey Barnes on 08/30

I have pretty well finished reading the HyperCard manual and have “fooled around” with the application a bit. I bought it because I didn’t know any way to find out what it was other than to get the thing. It is my opinion that HyperCard can be referred to, among other things, as:

1 — A high level language specifically designed for the Mac. I have programmed the Mac in BASIC and C and I would liken such programming as similar to programming graphic workstations hooked to mainframes — TEDIOUS! It’s sort of like playing the banjo — something I would like to know how to do and then not do it.

2 — A very rich job control language for the Mac. I would liken it to DCL on a VAX in the sense that the lexical functions in VAX DCL are equivalent to the graphics “hooks” in hypercard.

3 — A sort of “graphics database language”. The capability to “link” cards to other stacks/cards really opens up many possibilities.

4 — Has the promise of being a really useful and efficient macro generator for the Mac. I have TEMPO and TOUCH-NGO and consider them very crude. I am hoping for better things with Hypercard. In short, I think that all of the packages for the Mac that I am familiar with, such as MS WORD, are merely a standard computer application written for the Mac. Admittedly, such packages follow the Macintosh interface and that is a great leap forward but any standard interface puts the burden on development programmers.

The real test will be — how complex an application will Hypercard allow a programmer to construct.

Rick Stickle on 08/30

Bill, I don’t believe this — I got HyperCard at Clinton yesterday and signed on tonight to suggest that a Hypercard section be set up! I now see there are just some people that you can’t get the jump on.

[… and much more discussion about HyperCard from the WAP BBS …]

HyperCard SIG by Robert C Platt

WAP is organizing a HyperCard SIG for persons interested in exploring Apple’s new hypertext driver. The group will focus upon available stackware and the HyperTalk programming language. In order to identify potential members and what they want in a SIG, two organizational meetings will be held at the end of the regular WAP meetings on Saturday, September 26 and October 24. A permanent meeting location and time will be selected at the October session. See the review of Danny Goodman’s HyperCard Handbook elsewhere in this issue for more information on HyperCard.

I wrote some more stuff about the history and relevance of HyperCard, and about HyperTIES too:


DonHopkins on Dec 13, 2019 | parent | prev | next [–]

While there was a debate at the time about whether HyperCard was truly “Hypertext” or a “User Interface Design Tool” or a “Personal Database” or just how to classify it, the much more important thing was that it was not just a browser, but also an authoring tool, that enabled regular users to switch back and forth between browse mode and edit mode WHILE they were using it, and empowered users as authors.

This is in stark contrast with the other hypertext browsers, authoring tools, and user interface design tools of the time (the cutting edge of which was the NeXT Interface Builder), that made a distinction between “run time” and “design time”, and did not enable ordinary users to switch into design or edit mode while the normal application was running, which was absolutely essential to HyperCard.

At the beginning of the web, browsers did not have the ability to author hypertext (and server-side authoring tools like Medium or even AJAX-y client-side authoring tools did not exist yet). So authoring tools (and user interface editing tools) were big and expensive and complex and not user friendly, and there was often a compilation step between editing and browsing in a different program, so you couldn’t just pop into edit mode and tweak the actual specification then pop back into browsing like you could do with HyperCard.

Eventually Netscape and Internet Explorer got some shitty half-assed WYSIWYG editing abilities that were sub-par, and produced terrible HTML, and couldn’t be applied to any web page, and required a lot of other user interface support to be usable even for the most trivial kinds of editing, but that was a far cry from the comprehensive fully integrated high fidelity WYSIWYG browsing/editing tool that HyperCard was from day one.

In fact, one of the earliest tools that enabled anyone, even children, to author and publish their own interactive dynamic web applications with graphics, text, and even forms and persistent databases, was actually based on HyperCard and the MacHTTP/WebStar web browser on the Mac:


>One of the coolest early applications of server side scripting was integrating HyperCard with MacHTTP/WebStar, such that you could publish live interactive HyperCard stacks on the web! Since it was based on good old HyperCard, it was one of the first scriptable web authoring tools that normal people and even children could actually use! [8]

>[8] MacHTTP / WebStar from StarNine by Chuck Shotton, and LiveCard HyperCard stack publisher:

CGI and AppleScript:


>Cal discusses the Macintosh as an Internet platform, then describes how you can use the AppleScript language for writing CGI applications that run on Macintosh servers.


MacHTTP / WebStar from StarNine by Chuck Shotton! He was also VP of Engineering at Quarterdeck, another pioneering company.




It had an AppleScript / OSA API that let you write handlers for responding to web hits in other languages that supported AppleScript.

I used it to integrate ScriptX with the web:


The coolest thing somebody did with WebStar was to integrate it with HyperCard so you could actually publish live INTERACTIVE HyperCard stacks on the web, that you could see as images you could click on to follow links, and followed by html form elements corresponding to the text fields, radio buttons, checkboxes, drop down menus, scrolling lists, etc in the HyperCard stack that you could use in the browser to interactive with live HyperCard pages!
That was the earliest easiest way that non-programmers and even kids could both not just create graphical web pages, but publish live interactive apps on the web!

Using HyperCard as a CGI application





>Livecard has exceeded all expectations and allows me to serve a stack 8 years in the making and previously confined to individual hospitals running Apples. A whole Childrens Hospital and University Department of Child Health should now swing in behind me and this product will become core curriculum for our medical course. Your product will save lives starting early 1997. Well done.

- Director, Emergency Medicine, Mater Childrens Hospital

The following is taken from the LiveCard web site

“LiveCard is a HyperCard add-on that enables remote users to browse
and interact with HyperCard files, called “stacks”, on your web
server. Once installed, you’ll be able to serve any HyperCard stack
without extensive preparation — often with no preparation at all.
This means you have all the advantages of HyperCard as part of your
server solution, plus you can now serve those stacks to anyone on
the Web, regardless of whether they’re using a text- or
graphics-based browser and regardless of their platform: Macintosh,
Windows, UNIX, whatever.”

“LiveCard implements a CGI (Common Gateway Interface) between
Macintosh servers, such as WebStar, and HyperCard. It makes the
HyperCard interface available as high-resolution, compressed
image-maps and HTML form elements, and transforms user gestures in a
web browser to a format HyperCard can understand. LiveCard
translates between HTML, HTTP, and HyperCard “on the fly,” requiring
little or no preparation of the HyperCard stack. LiveCard generates
HTML dynamically — as stack content and functionality changes, these
changes are reflected live in the remote users browser.”

What does this mean for you? Well, if you have access to a Macintosh
web server running WebStar, MacHTTP, or similar server software that
is cgi-aware, you can serve your stacks using LiveCard. LiveCard can
generate an HTML forms page using the text fields on the card, an
image map with stack graphics and buttons that responds to user
clicks (although the buttons can’t highlight), or a combination of
the two. In addition, each generated page has a header and footer
that can be set by scripting…and is HTML aware. This gives an
incredible amount of flexibility.

Note that LiveCard requires a Macintosh web server (not really a
criticism… I love Mac servers…but you do have to have access to
the server, and it *has* to be a Mac, since LiveCard is
HyperCard-based). And to fully realize the potential of LiveCard,
you need to learn some new commands…but there aren’t too many, and
they make sense. Plus, the examples provided are very helpful. At
this point in time LiveCard has a limited ability to work with
QuickTime…you can kludge your way around the limitations, but if
your stack relies on a lot of QuickTime, you have to do some serious
modifications. Rumor has it that future versions will have more
QuickTime functionality. But for static graphics (color spoken
here!), there are no modifications.

Where LiveCard really shines is in the area of forms and databases.
I created a stack to be used for a course I was teaching…very
simple, with about 5 text fields for the students name, college,
major, and a topic they were interested in. I then just dragged this
stack into my server folder where LiveCard resides. That was it. I
called up my page on a browser (remember, any browser, any
platform), went to the LiveCard page, clicked on the link to my
stack (automatically created by LiveCard), and there was a
forms-based page with all of the fields…including their labels. I
filled the page out and hit submit. Voila…the data appeared on the
stack residing on my server. Now that is cool.

Pros: Can serve your stack mostly without modification. Can use
externals in the stack. Browser is *completely* platform independent
since a plug-in is not required. Data can be easily transferred
between web page and stack. Leverages existing HyperCard stacks,
especially databases and order processing.

Cons: Requires a Macintosh web server. Limited ability to work with
QuickTime. Can be a tad slow. Lose button highlights and card

3. Convert your stack to a SuperCard project. Allegiant (makers of
SuperCard — http://www.allegiant.com) has recently released
Roadster, which is a plug-in for Netscape navigator. Roadster is in
public beta at this time (December ‘96), and is available for both
Mac *AND* Windows 95. Can anyone say cross-platform? Before you get
too excited, remember that you first have to convert your HyperCard
stack into a SuperCard project. This is fairly painless
however…unless you use externals. Externals present two problems
for the SuperCard/Roadster approach…they don’t always convert, and
more importantly, at this time Roadster does not support *any*
XCMD’s. This is due to security concerns (you could do some nasty
damage to a client computer…kinda like a java applet gone bad). A
future intranet version of Roadster may show up that supports
externals. Another potential problem is that Roadster only supports
a single window. Now this might not be a problem for HyperCarders,
since one window is the norm. But for dedicated SuperCard people
that have grown used to multiple windows in projects, some tinkering
has to be done.

Since Roadster is a plug-in, you get some more good news and bad
news. The bad news is that people have to download the plug-in and
install it into their Netscape Plug-ins folder before they can view
your project. The good news is the plug-in is free, and your project
runs in the browser exactly as it does on the desktop…buttons
highlight, transitions work, etc… And perhaps even more
importantly, Roadster is available for Windows, so you can finally
get your stack into the hands of the unfortunate Intel-laden masses.

Pros: Project looks and runs just like on the desktop.
Cross-platform. Ability to transfer information via forms commands.
Ability to cache and preload graphics. Very good with external media
such as QuickTime, audio, etc.

Cons: Have to convert your stack. Browser requires plug-in. Lose all
functionality of externals.

blacksmith_tb on Dec 13, 2019 | root | parent | next [–]

Yes, lots of good HyperCard memories for me. One convention that didn’t make it to the web browser was having a key (option?) you could press to highlight which elements were clickable. Lots of modern webapps could use that…

DonHopkins on Dec 13, 2019 | root | parent | next [–]

Yes definitely there should be a way to highlight all possible links! And also instead of “disabling” links and buttons and other elements so they are inexplicably useless, they should be dimmed but still enabled, so hovering or clicking on them immediately tells you WHY they’re disabled, and WHAT you can do to enable them.

HyperTIES was an early hypermedia browser and authoring tool developed at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab under the direction of Ben Sheniderman. (I helped develop the NeWS version of HyperTIES in PostScript, FORTH, and Emacs MockLisp on the Sun.)

It had both text and graphical “embedded menus” as links, that highlighted text and popped up magnified arbitrarily-shaped cookie-cutter targets with drop-shadows when you pointed at pictures with embedded links, and it highlighted all of the text and graphical links at once when you clicked on the background.

We had a cool demo of the The Hubble Space Telescope with a diagram that popped up all the different parts of the telescope. And also a photo with pop-up targets on the three heads of the Sun founders!

HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Browsing:


HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Authoring with UniPress Emacs on NeWS:


User Interface Strategies (UIS) 90 — Ben Shneiderman — Applications sections and demos. HyperTIES Space Telescope Demo.


Ben also showed a fun NeWS / PostScript / PSIBER / PseudoScientific Visualizer / ARPAnet map demo later in that talk, which also shows clicking in the background of the PSV to highlight everything at once (the X-ray view of the ARPAnet map, at 28:10):


Designing to Facilitate Browsing: A Look Back at the Hyperties Workstation Browser:

By Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant, Rodrigo Botafogo, Don Hopkins, William Weiland. Published in Hypermedia, vol. 3, 2 (1991)101–117.


>Implications of Graphics in Hypertext

>Hyperties incorporates graphics while preserving the embedded menu approach used for text only documents. A displayed page can mix text and graphics while allowing arbitrarily-shaped regions to be designated as targets, which provide links to other articles. The addition of graphics provides significant advantages (14). Information that is structured in the form of charts, graphs, maps, and images may be explored with the same facility as text. But the use of graphics in hypertext requires more work on the part of the author to produce comprehensible documents. There is no simple technique for emphasizing the targets that is acceptable in all cases, and the author must laboriously link targets to their references (they are not “self-naming”, as in the text case). In the Sun version of Hyperties rudimentary tools have been developed to simplify the author’s job of establishing graphical links between entries. These consist of editors for designating arbitrary regions of an image using rectangles or polygons, associating names with these regions (which are used by the system to locate references), designating their appearance when highlighted, as well as overall management facilities for keeping track of graphics that have been produced.

>Identifying Selectable Items

>Several existing hypertext systems permit the browsing of mixed graphics and text, but none has carefully addressed the problems inherent in this more complex realm. Apple Computer’s HyperCard (15) makes minimal distinction between textual and graphical elements of a database entry; anything can be selectable (linked to a reference) if the author so chooses, but it is left to the author to provide hints to the user about what is selectable. (However, it is possible to obtain a temporary display of selectable regions, highlighted by bounding rectangles, via a modifier-key combination.) Brown University, in its Intermedia system (16), has, in a sense, eliminated selection of graphical and textual elements entirely; instead, all links are indicated by special icons, which the author may place at will. This scheme has the advantages of simplicity and clarity, but risks obscuring pertinent information in a welter of special symbols, and may introduce ambiguities of reference: for example, in a map of the United States, does a particular icon refer only to New York City, or to the entire state of New York? A slightly different approach is taken by Guide (17), which provides four different types of linkages; the presence of a link and its type are indicated by changes in the appearance of the screen cursor as it is moved about the display and encounters selectable objects.

>An important problem is how to indicate to a user the selectable elements of a graphic. It is clear that some scheme is needed to do this — expecting a user to hunt after the targets in an image by trial and error is apt to cause frustration with the system and limit its use. Any scheme chosen must satisfy certain requirements: it must unambiguously identify the location and scope of the target, it must not itself interfere with comprehension of the image, and it must require little effort on the part of the user. Possible solutions include highlighting the targets by dynamic indicators, outlines, inverse video, fixed symbols, color, shading, and image manipulation (13,14).

>The approach taken in Hyperties has been to allow arbitrarily-shaped regions of an image to define these link targets. Normally, these regions are not distinguished in any way (other than visual cues that an author may choose to provide); however, when the mouse cursor passes over a target region, it becomes highlighted. The highlighting scheme developed is novel, and has met with favorable comments from users: it is referred to as pop-out, and consists of offsetting the highlighted object vertically and horizontally by a small amount, and placing a drop-shadow beneath. This gives the appearance of having the object pop out of the screen (Figure 5a); in addition, the slight movement of the object makes it readily detectable to the eye. Because of the use of arbitrary regions, there is no ambiguity of reference; because highlighting only occurs in response to user demand, the image itself is not cluttered; and because the targets highlight automatically in response to mouse movements, the interface requires minimal effort.

>One remaining problem is that it is not possible to identify the links in an image at a glance. However, certain user behaviors were noticed: when confronted with an image with hidden targets, they tend to sweep across the image until a target is highlighted (becomes designated), or try to select what they think might be a target until one is found. This suggested that the system could highlight all of the targets automatically (for a short time) whenever it appears that the user is searching for targets, as when sweeping the display, or clicking in non-target areas. This latter strategy has been implemented in the NeWS version of Hyperties. Whenever a user attempts to select in a non-selectable region (like the background), all targets are revealed (Figure 5b). This technique was found effective and generally very well received by users.

>Figure 5: (5a: left) The main view of the telescope. The cursor is now resting on the Faint Object Spectrograph which “popped out” to show the existence of a link (compare with Figure 1). Of course the dynamic effect cannot be rendered in this figure. (5b right) A click on the background shows all targets available on the picture.


Here’s some stuff I wrote about your review of Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib:


DonHopkins on Jan 29, 2020 | parent | prev | next [–]
I recently read Ben Shneiderman’s review of Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib (1974) in his list of books that were key influences on his professional and personal life, and his criticism of Ted rings true.

His criticisms are fair and well thought out, and I definitely agree with him in this case, both his high praise of Ted and his books and other work, and his criticism of him for not joining the party the rest of the wide world is having on the real web, as deeply flawed as it is:


>Ted Nelson’s clever and innovative Computer Lib (1974) book and other writings demonstrated what truly innovative thinking was like. I’ve had the chance to meet Ted occasionally and am constantly impressed by his innovative thinking, but I am among those who wish he would link himself more closely to practical realities. Maybe that is too pedestrian of me, but it reflects my desire to be innovative while also having an impact.


>Computer Lib/Dream Machines is a 1974 book by Ted Nelson, printed as a two-front-cover paperback to indicate its “intertwingled” nature. Originally self-published by Nelson, it was republished with a foreword by Stewart Brand in 1987 by Microsoft Press.

Ben Shneiderman is quite positive and excellent at explaining and sharing and selling his impactful ideas, which are based on empirical research and user testing. (For example, Berners-Lee used his recommended light blue colors for links, which user studies demonstrated had the best balance of visibility without disrupting reading.)


>The direct manipulation concepts led Ben Shneiderman and his students to develop the interface for the hyperlink. Originally called “embedded menus” empirical evaluations appeared in the International Journal of Man-Machine Studies in January 1986 and in the Communications of the ACM in April 1986. These projects led to the commercially successful Hyperties hypermedia system, which was produced by Cognetics Corp., Princeton Junction, NJ. Hyperties was used to produce the world’s first electronic journal, the July 1988 issue of the Communications of the ACM. The ACM sold 4000+ copies under the title Hypertext on Hypertext.

>Hypertext on Hypertext: World’s first electronic journal for CACM, July 1988

>This electronic journal was cited in Tim Berners-Lee’s Spring 1989 manifesto http://www.w3.org/History/1989/proposal.html for the web as the source of the “hot spots” or links idea. Berners-Lee even used our recommended light blue colors for links, which our user studies demonstrated had the best balance of visibility without disrupting reading.


>In a series of books and articles published from 1964 through 1980, Nelson transposed Bush’s concept of automated cross-referencing into the computer context, made it applicable to specific text strings rather than whole pages, generalized it from a local desk-sized machine to a theoretical proprietary worldwide computer network, and advocated the creation of such a network. Though Nelson’s Xanadu Corporation was eventually funded by Autodesk in the 1980s, it never created this proprietary public-access network. Meanwhile, working independently, a team led by Douglas Engelbart (with Jeff Rulifson as chief programmer) was the first to implement the hyperlink concept for scrolling within a single document (1966), and soon after for connecting between paragraphs within separate documents (1968), with NLS. Ben Shneiderman working with graduate student Dan Ostroff designed and implemented the highlighted link in the HyperTIES system in 1983. HyperTIES was used to produce the world’s first electronic journal, the July 1988 Communications of ACM, which was cited as the source for the link concept in Tim Berners-Lee’s Spring 1989 manifesto for the Web. In 1988, Ben Shneiderman and Greg Kearsley used HyperTIES to publish “Hypertext Hands-On!”, the world’s first electronic book.

Here’s more I wrote about Xanadu a long time ago, after reviewing the open source code (Smalltalk machine translated to C++!) that they released in 1999:


>I think his biggest problem is that he refuses to collaborate with other people, or build on top of current technology. He’s had a lot of great important inspirational ideas, but his implementation of those ideas didn’t go anywhere, he’s angry and bitter, and he hasn’t bothered re-implementing them with any of the “inferior technologies” that he rejects.

>Back in 1999, project Xanadu released their source code as open source. It was a classic example of “open sourcing” something that was never going to ship otherwise, and that nobody could actually use or improve, just to get some attention (“open source” was a huge fad at the time).


>Register believe it or not factoid: Nelson’s book Computer Lib was at one point published by Microsoft Press. Oh yes. ®

>They originally wrote Xanadu in Smalltalk, then implemented a Smalltalk to C++ compiler, and finally they released the machine generated output of that compiler, which was unreadable and practically useless. It completely missed the point and purpose of “open source software”.

>I looked at the code when it was released in 1999 and wrote up some initial reactions that Dave Winer asked me to post to his UserLand Frontier discussion group:


>A few excerpts (remember I wrote this in 1999 so some of the examples are dated):

[continued in old hn thread here:]


And this discusses Ted’s mention of “self revealing” interfaces, and how pie menus are self revealing, of course. I sent Ted email asking for more details, to which he replied.


DonHopkins on Jan 29, 2020 | prev | next [–]

Ted mentioned “self revealing” interfaces and attributed the term to Klaus Landsberg. Who is that? Did I hear the name wrong, or misspell it? Is this him?


I agree 100% with Ted’s take on self revealing user interfaces:

>Now, I happen to be in the school of Jeff Raskin, you know. As I said, my interface slogan was “Making things look right, feel good, and come across clearly.” And if I hadn’t snubbed Jobs and Woz and, uh, what’s his name at PC ’76, I might have been the Jeff Raskin of Apple, instead of Jeff Raskin. Because essentially, Jeff Raskin and I have the same point: making things look clean, and simple, and self revealing. That’s a term I got from Klaus Landsberg (sp?) by the way. The term “self revealing”. The term “intuitive” is stupid. Because, is a mouse “intuitive”? You look at it, and oooh, oooh, oooh. But the moment you see it work, it has revealed itself. So it’s “self revealing”, is the term. Pac-Man is another very nice example of a “self revealing” piece of software. I’ve often used it as an example of how software ought to work. Because you learn the rules within three quarters, putting three quarters into the machine. That was then. And could, after then, gradually pick up on other aspects. Whereas, it is in the interest of companies like Microsoft, and alas now Apple, to make things entangling and unclear, because that way you become committed to them. Like Microsoft Word. There has to be a Microsoft Word expert in your office in order to do all the dingy little things that people want to do: formatting text.

That’s the perfect term to describe how self revealing pie menus support rehearsal: by popping up to lead the way when you click without moving, and then follow you when you mouse ahead after clicking, and finally get out of your way when you gesture quickly without pausing.


>The Design and Implementation of Pie Menus

>They’re Fast, Easy, and Self-Revealing.

>Originally published in Dr. Dobb’s Journal, Dec. 1991.

>For the novice, pie menus are easy because they are a self-revealing gestural interface: They show what you can do and direct you how to do it. By clicking and popping up a pie menu, looking at the labels, moving the cursor in the desired direction, then clicking to make a selection, you learn the menu and practice the gesture to “mark ahead” (“mouse ahead” in the case of a mouse, “wave ahead” in the case of a dataglove). With a little practice, it becomes quite easy to mark ahead even through nested pie menus.

>For the expert, they’re efficient because — without even looking — you can move in any direction, and mark ahead so fast that the menu doesn’t even pop up. Only when used more slowly like a traditional menu, does a pie menu pop up on the screen, to reveal the available selections.

>Most importantly, novices soon become experts, because every time you select from a pie menu, you practice the motion to mark ahead, so you naturally learn to do it by feel! As Jaron Lanier of VPL Research has remarked, “The mind may forget, but the body remembers.” Pie menus take advantage of the body’s ability to remember muscle motion and direction, even when the mind has forgotten the corresponding symbolic labels.


>Pie Menus: A 30 Year Retrospective

>By Don Hopkins, Ground Up Software, May 15, 2018.

>Pie menus should support an important technique called “Mouse Ahead Display Preemption”. Pie menus either lead, follow, or get out of the way. When you don’t know them, they lead you. When you are familiar with them, they follow. And when you’re really familiar with them, they get out of the way, you don’t see them. Unless you stop. And in which case, it then pops up the whole tree.

From: Don Hopkins
Subject: Who is Klaus Landsberg, who used the term “self revealing”?
Date: January 28, 2020 at 17:36:53 GMT+1
To: Ted Nelson

Hi Ted!

I just watched your fascinating talk about the Media Lab, and you hit the nail on the head!

You mentioned self revealing interfaces and Klaus Landsberg in your recent youtube about the Media Lab. (Is that how his name is spelled?) Is this him, or did I hear the name wrong? What more can you tell me about him and his original thoughts about self revealing interfaces that inspired you?


That’s the perfect term to describe how self revealing pie menus support rehearsal by popping up to lead the way when you click without moving, and then follow you when you mouse ahead after clicking, and finally get out of your way when you gesture quickly without pausing.


From: Ted Nelson
Subject: Don Hopkins Re: Who is Klaus Landsberg, who used the term “self revealing”?
Date: January 29, 2020 at 02:54:08 GMT+1
To: Don Hopkins

Thank you.

(I rarely reply to strangers, wanting not to expand
email obligations, but this seemed worth answering.)

Unfortunately the Klaus Landberg mentioned in Wikipedia
was not my supervisor at Datapoint in 1981.
My guy was spelled “Klavs Landberg” and he had,
in Denmark, written an operating system
for the Datapoint 2200 before they would acknowledge
that it was a computer.

He and Harry Pyle worked on an operating system for it
that would “Outdo Unix”, which was a bad idea,
but I documented that system till Datapoint folded.

Don’t know how to put this in Wikipedia.


Oh hey, it looks like there’s a new discussion on Hacker News about the recent article revisiting blue links!


Revisiting why hyperlinks are blue (blog.mozilla.org)

Here’s the recent discussion from a couple weeks ago of Hypertext ’87 that I was actually looking for, but first I came across all that other stuff!

Hypertext ’87 (1988) [pdf] (unc.edu)


HN discussion:


Here’s what I posted about our work on HyperTIES:


DonHopkins 15 days ago | parent | context | favorite | on: Hypertext ’87 (1988) [pdf]

Ben Shneiderman’s paper “User interface design for the Hyperties electronic encyclopedia” describes both the PC and Unix SunView window system version of HyperTIES, which we subsequently reimplemented for the Sun NeWS window system as a multimedia browser written in C, using PostScript to render and implement the user interface, and FORTH for scripting, as well as an authoring tool written in UniPress Emacs MockLisp, which we described in this paper published in Hypermedia, vol. 3, 2 (1991)101–117:

Designing to Facilitate Browsing: A Look Back at the Hyperties Workstation Browser


Building User Interfaces in NeWS (screen snapshots of developing user interfaces, HyperTIES, Emacs, and PostScript programming in NeWS):


Emacs Authoring Tools for HyperTIES:



HyperTIES Markup Language:


New HyperTies Database Format:


HyperTIES Notebook:


Early NeWS HyperTIES Prototype with Pie Menus:


What is Emacs? (UniPress Emacs 2.20 NeWS version and “SoftWire” protocol proposal):


UNIX and X-Windows Implementations for the Hyperties Hypertext System (research proposal that led to the NeWS version):


User interface design for the Hyperties electronic encyclopedia (published in Hypertext ‘87):


Research Directions for HyperTIES


Early PC HyperTIES brochure:


Early HyperTIES leaflets:


More HyperTIES stuff:


Ben Shneiderman discusses and demos different versions of HyperTIES:


Ben Shneiderman introduces Pie Menu, Emacs, and HyperTIES demos:


Deep dive through the layers of HyperTIES:

Some HyperTIES Markup Language (Hubble Space Telescope, demo, and NeWS Talk databases):




Some MockLisp code implementing the authoring tool: Yet Another HyperTIES Implementation, This Time In Emacs (YAHTITTIE):


Some PostScript Code implementing the user interface: NeWS Forth HyperTIES Target Class Definitions


Some PostScript Data and Code implementing a Font Pull-Out Pie Menu “applet”:



Some C code implementing the formatter: NeWS HyperTIES formatter


Some FORTH code implementing the browser: NeWS Forth HyperTIES storyboard interpreter stuff (HyperTIES Markup Language interpreter, storyboard compiler, formatter control, browser scripting, authoring tool support, and C/Forth integration)


More machine generated FORTH code: the Space Telescope database, with each HyperTIES Markup Language storyboard compiled into a FORTH word, which are compiled into threaded code and dumped into a restartable binary FORTH image, which calls into C code to send PostScript code to NeWS, creating PostScript display lists to draw the screen and interactive objects to manage links, menus, and extensible PostScript plug-in “applets” like the font menu above):


taubek 15 days ago | next [–]

I’ve taken a look at some of the examples of HyperTIES Markup Language from your links. It seems so logical and easy to follow. It was interesting for me to see that it even had a conditional display of content.

DonHopkins 15 days ago | parent | next [–]

We considered using SGML, but decided not to, because we wanted to focus on ease of use and writability and maintainability for hypermedia authors.

Yes, it had macros and conditionals. I wrote the initial markup language interpreter in FORTH, so I could drop into Forth and do all kinds of crazy things, and it could even compile storyboards into FORTH words (one word per each storyboard) that it compiled and dumped out to a binary image, so it could start up and display pre-formatted compiled pages quickly (kind of like partial evaluation, and Smalltalk VM images).

That was probably a premature optimization (or maybe not, since a 4 meg Sun 3/50 was pretty slow), but that was just the kind of stuff FORTH is great for, and it was fun to write FORTH code that wrote FORTH code that called C code that wrote PostScript code that wrote PostScript code! ;)

I used Mitch Bradley’s awesome 68k Sun FORTH system, which could dynamically link and call back and forth to C code (by running the Unix linker to dynamically relocate a library to run inside a chunk of FORTH’s memory — SunOS didn’t have actual support dynamically linked shared libraries yet), and he later developed it into OpenFirmware:


Later we replaced FORTH with a custom HyperTIES Markup Language interpreter that was written in C, and supported macros and conditionals and shared definitions, kind of like style sheets (but using the same markup language, not one language for markup and another for style).

The coolest part was that you could script and configure reusable embedded NeWS “applets” in PostScript, like custom pie menus for font selection and other commands, text editors, user interface widgets, PostScript driven animations, interactive popup targets, buttons that sent commands to NeWS, Emacs, FORTH, the Unix shell, etc, not unlike Java applets or web components that web browsers eventually supported.

It was no coincidence that the same guy who wrote Java (James Gosling) also wrote those two other languages we used to implement HyperLook, long before he wrote Java: NeWS PostScript and UniPress Emacs MockLisp!

chj 15 days ago | prev [–]

Thank you for sharing all these wonderful stuff.

Is there a specification of the Forth dialect used in NeWS? Why not use postscript for scripting too?

DonHopkins 12 days ago | parent [–]

NeWS didn’t use FORTH. But HyperTIES used both FORTH and NeWS because there were a lot of things that FORTH could do that NeWS couldn’t, like link and call C code directly.

The FORTH I used was Mitch Bradley’s “Sun Forth”, aka “Forthmacs” (with the Jove ersatz Emacs editor by Jonathan Payne built in), which eventually evolved into OpenFirmware, and which was once defined by an IEEE standard, “IEEE 1275–1994”, but it was withdrawn because the standard was not reaffirmed:


>Open Firmware is described by IEEE standard IEEE 1275–1994, which was not reaffirmed by the Open Firmware Working Group (OFWG) since 1998 and has therefore been officially withdrawn by IEEE.
It’s still alive and maintained and used for many things. Here’s the source code, called OpenBIOS, as well as some other implementations and versions:


Also there’s also Mitch’s very portable “cforth”:


There’s even an Open Firmware Song:



DonHopkins 56 days ago | parent | context | favorite | on: Forth vs Lisp

That also gave programmers good incentives to write decent text editors and file systems that could deal with any number of lines, to get around that historic annoying limitation of FORTH. ;)

Granted it was nice to have a dead simple file system for embedded devices, but forcing you to keep your word definitions short always seemed like a lazy excuse for not having a real text editor and file system.

Sometimes you don’t, but don’t blame that on trying to incentivize programmer behavior. FORTH hardly ever “forces” programmers to do anything, so that excuse never rang true to me.

The “block” approach also forced you to not write comprehensive stack comments and documentation too, which is more important than keeping your word definitions short.

Otherwise you get dense sparsely documented code like this (which came from my Apple ][ Forth 40x24 screens):


Instead of documented code with stack comments like this (in spite of the fact that the attribution in the documentation is wrong ;) ):



Here’s some IBM-PC Forth for the CAM-6 cellular automata machine that was block based — check out the unique idiosyncratic right-justified reverse-indentation style (starting with KGET), which is not standard Forth style, but sure looks cool and poetic, like E E CUMMINGS ON CAPS LOCK:



Tommaso Toffoli and Norman Margolus use that style of formatting in the CAM-6 book code samples too (i.e. page 20, Game of Life):


Also the code in this paper by Rudy Rucker:


I wrote lots more about FORTH and the CAM-6 before:


DonHopkins on May 3, 2020 | parent | context | favorite | on: History of Logo

FORTH is the ultimate macro-assembler! The assembler is just written in and integrated with FORTH, so you have the full power of the FORTH language to write macros and procedural code generators!

And it makes it really easy to call back and forth ;) between FORTH and machine code, with convenient word definitions for accessing the FORTH interpreter state.

Here’s part of my SUPDUP terminal emulator for the Apple ][ with some 6502 code for saving and restoring lines of text in a bank-switched memory expansion card:


Here is a great example of FORTH and 8086 assembly code for hardware control (written by Toffoli and Margolus for controlling their CAM-6 cellular automata machine hardware), starting with “CAM driver routines” and also “creates fast code words for picking out bits of variable X”:



Rudy Rucker wrote about learning FORTH just to play with that hardware:


>Starting to write programs for the CAM-6 took a little bit of time because the language it uses is Forth. This is an offbeat computer language that uses reverse Polish notation. Once you get used to it, Forth is very clean and nice, but it makes you worry about things you shouldn’t really have to worry about. But, hey, if I needed to know Forth to see cellular automata, then by God I’d know Forth. I picked it up fast and spent the next four or five months hacking the CAM-6.

>The big turning point came in October, when I was invited to Hackers 3.0, the 1987 edition of the great annual Hackers’ conference held at a camp near Saratoga, CA. I got invited thanks to James Blinn, a graphics wizard who also happens to be a fan of my science fiction books. As a relative novice to computing, I felt a little diffident showing up at Hackers, but everyone there was really nice. It was like, “Come on in! The more the merrier! We’re having fun, yeeeeee-haw!”

>I brought my AT along with the CAM-6 in it, and did demos all night long. People were blown away by the images, though not too many of them sounded like they were ready to a) cough up $1500, b) beg Systems Concepts for delivery, and c) learn Forth in order to use a CAM-6 themselves. A bunch of the hackers made me take the board out of my computer and let them look at it. Not knowing too much about hardware, I’d imagined all along that the CAM-6 had some special processors on it. But the hackers informed me that all it really had was a few latches and a lot of fast RAM memory chips.

gglitch 55 days ago [–]

Don, I don’t know anything about you that I haven’t seen on Wikipedia, but you’re evidently extraordinarily intelligent, erudite, and experienced, and bring a phenomenal amount of knowledge to conversation.

I’m in general skeptical of inquiries into people’s personal methods, but in your case I just have to ask: do you use some kind of system for keeping your quotes, excerpts, and data to hand for these kinds of threads?

DonHopkins 55 days ago | parent [–]

Thank you for your kind words, and for asking a great question!

My secret system that has gotten me through the coronavirus pandemic is simply an investment in an automatic coffee machine that grind beans and foams milk for me. ;)

I use HN search and google site search, copy and paste and clean up old postings, and then check through all the links (since HN abbreviates long links with “…” so I have to copy and paste the full links manually), and I update the broken and walled links with Internet Archive links.

I realize some of my posts get pretty long, and I apologize if that overwhelms some people, but it’s a double edged sword. One important goal is to save other people’s time and effort, since there are many more readers than writers, and I have to balance how long it takes for somebody who’s interested to read, versus how long it takes for somebody who’s not interested to skip.

The new HN “prev” and “next” buttons that were recently added to help make HN posts more accessible to people with screen readers are helpful to everyone else too. (Accessibility helps everybody, not just blind people!)
And as the internet has gotten faster and storage cheaper, while the user interface quality, usability, and smooth flow and interactivity of browsers has stagnated (especially on mobile), the cost of skipping over long post gets lower, while the cost of jumping back and forth between many different links and contexts stays ridiculously and unjustifiably expensive (just ask Ted Nelson). Especially with pay sites, slow sites, and links that have decayed and need to be looked up on archive.com (which itself is quite slow and requires waiting between several clicks).

Another consideration is to make it easier for people to find all the information in one place in the distant future, and for search engines and robots and evil overlord AIs to scan and summarize the entire text.
I think of what I try to do as manually implementing Ted Nelson’s, Ivan Sutherland’s, Douglas Engelbart’s, and Ben Shneiderman’s important ideas about “transclusion”.


[Oh the irony of this “Transclusion on Transclusion”:]

>This article includes a list of general references, but it remains largely unverified because it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations.

>In computer science, transclusion is the inclusion of part or all of an electronic document into one or more other documents by hypertext reference. Transclusion is usually performed when the referencing document is displayed, and is normally automatic and transparent to the end user. The result of transclusion is a single integrated document made of parts assembled dynamically from separate sources, possibly stored on different computers in disparate places.

>Transclusion facilitates modular design: a resource is stored once and distributed for reuse in multiple documents. Updates or corrections to a resource are then reflected in any referencing documents. Ted Nelson coined the term for his 1980 nonlinear book Literary Machines, but the idea of master copy and occurrences was applied 17 years before, in Sketchpad.

I err on the side of transcluding relevant text that I and other people have posted before, instead of just linking to it, because often the links need to be updated or get lost over time, it’s clumsy to link into the middle of a page, there’s no way to indicate the end of the relevant excerpt, and I can leave out the redundant stuff.

Following links is distracting and costly, so most people aren’t going to click on a bunch of inline links, read something, then come back, re-establish their context, and keep on reading from where they left off, since it loses your context and takes a lot of time to flip-flop back and forth (especially on mobile). Today’s web browsers make that extremely clumsy and inefficient, and force you wait a long time and lose the flow and context of the text.
So I aspire to simulate Ted Nelson’s and other people’s ideals with the crude stone knives and bearskins that we’re stuck with today:

S1E28 ~ The City On The Edge Of Forever / stone knives and bearskins


>”Captain, I must have some platinum. A small block would be sufficient. Five or six pounds.” -Spock

See what I did there? Most people have seen that a million times before, instantly recognize the quote, and don’t need to actually click the link to watch the video, but there it is if you haven’t, or just like to watch it again. If it’s a long video, then I’ll use a timecode in the youtube link. And I also take the time to quote and transcribe the most important speech in videos, so you don’t have to watch it to get the important points. The most interesting videos deserve their own articles with transcripts and screen snapshots, which I’ve done on my medium pages.


For example, this is an illustrated transcript of a video of a talk I gave at the 1995 WWDC, including animated gifs showing the interactivity, so you don’t have to wade through the whole video to get the important points of the talk, and can quickly scroll through and see the best parts of the video all playing out in parallel, telling most of the story:

1995 Apple World Wide Developers Conference Kaleida Labs ScriptX DreamScape Demo; Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Don Hopkins, Kaleida Labs


ScriptX and the World Wide Web: “Link Globally, Interact Locally” (1995)


And I made animated gifs of the interesting parts of this video transcript, to show how the pie menus and continuous direct gestural navigation worked:

MediaGraph Demo: MediaGraph Music Navigation with Pie Menus. A prototype developed for Will Wright’s Stupid Fun Club.


Here is another video demo transcript with animated gifs of some related work, another approach to the same general problem of continuous navigation and editing with pie menus and gestures:

iPhone iLoci Memory Palace App, by Don Hopkins @ Mobile Dev Camp


>A talk about iLoci, an iPhone app and server based on the Method of Loci for constructing a Memory Palace, by Don Hopkins, presented at Mobile Dev Camp in Amsterdam, on November 28, 2008.

Dang posted this great link to a video by Ted Nelson explaining the most important ideas of his life’s work: document structure, transclusion, and the idea of visible connection in text on screen:


>dang on June 11, 2020 | parent | context | favorite | on: Xanaflight: Three Pages

>This is software implementing one version of Ted Nelson’s idea of visible connection in text.

>For more on that idea, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMKy52Intac, which contains beautiful examples.

>Xanadu Basics 1a — VISIBLE CONNECTION

>The original hypertext concept of the 1960s got lost on the way to the Web — and all current document standards oppose it.

>This is an important fight.

>Ted Nelson: “Here we have a Xanadoc. Right now it’s disguised as plain text. But if we want to see connections, here they are. The ones outlined in blue are Xanalinks. They aren’t just jumplinks, what other people call hyperlinks. I’ve called them jumplinks since before the web. You’re jumping to you know not where: it’s a diving board into the darkness. Whereas Xanalinks visibly connect to other content, with a visible bridge. The other documents open and I can scroll around in them! When I client, I can close them again by clicking. This is of course only one possible interface.”

In the 90’s, I worked with Ben Shneiderman and Catherine Plaisant at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab on a NeWS PostScript-based hypermedia browser and emacs-based authoring tool called “HyperTIES”.

HyperTIES had pie menus for navigation and link selection, a multimedia formatted text and graphics browser with multiple coordinated article windows and definition panes, and a multi window Emacs authoring tool with tabs and pie menus for editing the intertwingled databases of documents, graphics, and interactive user interfaces.

Each article had a short required “definition” so you could click on a link to show its definition in a pane and read it before deciding if you wanted to double click to follow the link or not, so you didn’t have to lose your context to see where each link leads.

HyperTIES even had embedded interactive graphical PostScript scriptable “applets”, like JavaScript+SVG+Canvas, long before Java applets, but implemented using James Gosling’s own Emacs and NeWS, instead of his later language Java.

Designing to Facilitate Browsing: A Look Back at the Hyperties Workstation Browser: By Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant, Rodrigo Botafogo, Don Hopkins, William Weiland. Published in Hypermedia, vol. 3, 2 (1991)101–117.


>Hyperties allows users to traverse textual, graphic or video information resources in an easy way (6,7). The system adopts the ‘embedded menu’ approach (8), in which links are represented by words or parts of images that appear in the document itself. Users merely select highlighted words or objects that interest them, and a brief definition appears at the bottom of the screen. Users may continue reading or ask for the full article (a node in the hypertext network) about the selected topic. An article can be one or several pages long. As users traverse articles Hyperties retains the path history and allows easy and complete reversal. The user’s attention should be focused on the document contents and not on the interface and navigation. Hyperties was designed for use by novices, giving them a sense of confidence and control, but we also sought to make it equally attractive to expert users.

Don Hopkins and pie menus in ~ Spring 1989 on a Sun Workstation, running the NEWS operating system.


>After an 1991 intro by Ben Shneiderman we see the older 1989 demo by Don Hopkins showing many examples of pie menus on a Sun Workstation, running the NEWS operating system. This is work done at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland.

>A pie menu is a menu technique where the items are placed along the circumference of a circle at equal radial distance from the center. Several examples are demonstrated on a Sun running NeWS window system, including the use of pie menus and gestures for window management, the simultaneous entry of 2 arguments (by using angle and distance from the center), scrollable pie menus, precision pie menus, etc. We can see that gestures were possible (with what Don call “mouse ahead” ) so you could make menu selections without even displaying the menu. Don uses an artifact he calls “mousee” so we can see what he is doing but that extra display was only used for the video, i.e. as a user you could make selections with gestures without the menu ever appearing, but the description of those more advanced features was never published.

>Pretty advance for 1989… i.e. life before the Web, when mice were just starting to spread, and you could graduate from the CS department without ever even using one.

>This video was published in the 1991 HCIL video but the demo itself — and recording of the video — dates back to 1989 at least, as pictures appear in the handout of the May 1989 HCIL annual Open House.

>The original Pie Menu paper is Callahan, J., Hopkins, D., Weiser, M., Shneiderman, B., An empirical comparison of pie vs. linear menus, Proc. ACM CHI ’88 (Washington, DC) 95–100. Also Sparks of Innovation in Human-Computer Interaction, Shneiderman, B., Ed., Ablex (June 1993) 79–88. A later paper mentions some of the more advanced features in an history of the HyperTies system: Shneiderman, B., Plaisant, C., Botafogo, R., Hopkins, D., Weiland, W., Designing to facilitate browsing: a look back at the Hyperties work station browser Hypermedia, vol. 3, 2 (1991)101–117.

>PS: For another fun historic video showing very early embedded graphical links (may be the 1st such link) + revealing all the links/menu items + gestures for page navigation:

HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Browsing


>Demo of NeWS based HyperTIES authoring tool, by Don Hopkins, at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab.

HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Authoring with UniPress Emacs on NeWS


>Demo of UniPress Emacs based HyperTIES authoring tool, by Don Hopkins, at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab.

HyperTies Browser (1989)


>This is the HyperTies-based hypertext version of Schneiderman & Kearsley’s 1989 book “Hypertext Hands-On!” included in the book (on 2 x5.25” disks). Running in DOS on Win XP 32-bit VM.

Hypertext on Hypertext CACM1988


>A demo by Ben Shneiderman of the widely circulated ACM-published disk “Hypertext on Hypertext”. It contained the full text of the eight papers in the July 1988 Communications of the ACM. The Hyperties software developed at the University of Maryland HCIL was used to author and browse the hypertext data.

>See http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/hyperties/ for more information.

I hope this addresses your questions! Thanks for giving me an excuse to rant and rave about topics I love.

ngcc_hk 53 days ago | root | parent [–]

Not the question guy. But … Holy smoke. Great article and the in fact jumping in and out is hard. I think the one used by iOS books for check out a word or even a link worked as book is a different software than safari. But safari to another link and back … good analysis and good work !


DonHopkins 52 days ago | parent | context | favorite | on: Only 90s web developers remember this (2014)

I gave crazy demos of embedded graphical links with cut-out pop-up targets and pie menus to Bill Joy and Steve Jobs in October 1988. They each had very different reactions!


DonHopkins on May 19, 2018 | parent | context | favorite | on: Pie Menus: A 30-Year Retrospective: Take a Look an…

>Here’s a demo of HyperTIES with pop-out embedded menus:

>HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Browsing: Demo of NeWS based HyperTIES authoring tool, by Don Hopkins, at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab.


>A funny story about the demo that has the photo of the three Sun founders whose heads puff up when you point at them:

>When you point at a head, it would swell up, and you pressed the button, it would shrink back down again until you released the button again.

>HyperTIES had a feature that you could click or press and hold on the page background, and it would blink or highlight ALL of the links on the page, either by inverting the brightness of text buttons, or by popping up all the cookie-cut-out picture targets (we called them “embedded menus”) at the same time, which could be quite dramatic with the three Sun founders!

>Kind of like what they call “Big Head Mode” these days!


>I had a Sun workstation set up on the show floor at Educom in October 1988, and I was giving a rotating demo of NeWS, pie menus, Emacs, and HyperTIES to anyone who happened to walk by. (That was when Steve Jobs came by, saw the demo, and jumped up and down shouting “That sucks! That sucks! Wow, that’s neat. That sucks!”)

>The best part of the demo was when I demonstrated popping up all the heads of the Sun founders at once, by holding the optical mouse up to my mouth, and blowing and sucking into the mouse while secretly pressing and releasing the button, so it looked like I was inflating their heads!

>One other weird guy hung around through a couple demos, and by the time I got back around to the Emacs demo, he finally said “Hey, I used to use Emacs on ITS!” I said “Wow cool! So did I! What’s was your user name?” and he said “WNJ”.

>It turns out that I had been giving an Emacs demo to Bill Joy all that time, then popping his head up and down by blowing and sucking into a Sun optical mouse, without even recognizing him, because he had shaved his beard!

>He really blindsided me with that comment about using Emacs, because I always thought he was more if a vi guy. ;)

Here’s a paper about HyperTIES and its embedded text and graphical menus, pie menus, and emacs authoring tool, that we made in the late 80’s at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab:


Don Hopkins and pie menus in ~ Spring 1989 on a Sun Workstation, running the NEWS operating system.


HCIL Demo — HyperTIES Authoring with UniPress Emacs on NeWS




Don Hopkins

User interface flower child. Pie menus, PizzaTool, SimCity, The Sims, Visual Programming, VR, AR, Unity3D / JavaScript bridge.