Ahead of their time: Nine technologies that came early

Sometimes you build it, and they end up not coming.

By , ITworld |  Offbeat, computing history, Danger

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

1987: HyperCard

The "H" in HTTP stands for "Hyper", and that echo in the name of this program that came bundled with every Mac starting in the late '80s is meaningful. With HyperCard, you could easily build individual "cards", organized into "stacks", and linked together by clickable buttons; it's hard not to see these as the prototypes of pages and Web sites. The difference was that HyperCard stacks stayed firmly on the user's computer; there was no networking involved. Still, Robert Cailliau, who collaborated with Tim Berners-Lee to create the World Wide Web, had HyperCard experience and clearly knew what to do with it.

HyperCard still enjoyed something of a heyday, and even served as the foundation for a number of popular multimedia programs and games; the French automaker Renault even used HyperCard as the basis for their inventory system. But once the concept made the leap from one computer to the network, HyperCard quickly became outdated. Bill Atkinson, who developed the software, ended up ruefully contemplating what might have been: "I grew up in a box-centric culture at Apple. If I'd grown up in a network-centric culture, like Sun, HyperCard might have been the first Web browser."

Next page: Philips CD-I

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