Former Apple CEO John Sculley: We blew it with HyperCard

Dawn Kawamoto has conducted a Q&A with former Apple CEO john Sculley for CNET Among the many interesting answers, this one caught our attention, since we still get emails to day from HyperCrad users wondering why Apple abandoned them.

“Q: Any missed opportunities that you wish you could do over?”

“A: As I look back on things that I wished we would have done differently when I was at Apple, I think one of the biggest missed opportunities, and it was on my watch, so I feel responsible and disappointed that we didn’t do more with it, was Hypercard. It was created back in 1987 by Bill Atkinson, Apple’s first software programmer. We could never figure out exactly what it was. We thought it was a prototyping tool. We thought it was a database tool. It was actually used by people as a front-end communications device for TCP/IP to connect the Internet to large Cray computers.”

“We weren’t insightful enough to recognize that what we had inside of Hypercard, essentially, was everything that later was developed so successfully by Tim Berners-Lee with HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). We didn’t call it that. But essentially, we had all that hypertext, radio buttons and linking capability architected in the original Hypercard. In hindsight, I wish Apple had recognized that we had a huge opportunity to go take our user interface culture, and our know-how, and applied it to the Internet. I think we would have had a very different story for Apple during the 1990s. But that, of course, is hindsight.”

Full Q&A, where Sculley also likens Apple quality and design in the PC industry to BMW’s in the auto industry here.


  1. At least he admits he was wrong.

    And I agree that Hypercard Stacks, with their ‘card’ style of navigation, and the ability to ‘hyperlink’ (heard that term somewhere before?) was indeed very similar to our current internet.

    It wouldn’t have taken much work on Apple’s part to make Hypercard stacks internet accessible. And versions of Hypercard were already available for Windows.


  2. Ack! Why does Sculley get interviewed so often?! He is a complete business failure but, for some reason, is always at the Apple forefront.

    Please ignore him from now on!

  3. He did develop the Newton and that led to the huge PDA market. At the time Apple couldn’t focus on Newton and had to go back to its core competency. However, I didn’t realize that ARM was Apple’s technology. Is that true?

  4. John Sculley blows HyperCard, and uses ‘Apple’ as his scapegoat. Typical.

    I’m glad he’s making a living with Scud Bros. We can be thankful that he won’t re-apply for a position at Apple – EVER again!

  5. ARM is not Apple’s technology. It is a embeded chip company that makes among other things, StrongARM, a RISC chip used in Newton. Apple did (still do?) have shares in the company, but steadily sold them a long time ago when tech shares was still sky high.

  6. Apple has a history of blowing opportunites. Hypercard is just one of them. Lets hope Jobs and Apple do not lose the advantage they have with the iPod and iTMS and go the way of Xerox.

  7. Sigh. The best game of all time (IMHO) is based on HyperCard: Myst. I don’t play much games, but when I saw Myst, it blew my mind. And it was a Mac first because of HC.

  8. Nobody: That’s a good point. Myst was indeed created in Hypercard, and it was available for both Windows and Mac. All the music and moving video were embedded Quicktime elements. See, Apple had the cross platform advantage years ago and blew it! Argh!

  9. Apple is STILL blowing HyperCard. There are many users out there who created elaborate and useful stacks years ago (when the company did not have such a track record of backtracking, zigzagging and abandoning users and technologies); every time the operating system changes without an upgrade of HyperCard, those old stacks become harder to use or improve.

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