Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 8 / MARCH 1990

Mac and PC On The ST



There's news of still another PC emulator, this time marketed by MichTron. PC Speed, designed and built in Holland, uses a NEC V30 (like the Supercharger mentioned last month) and has a Norton SI of 4.0. It's somewhat faster than pc ditto II, which has an SI of 3.0. Like PC ditto II, PC Speed mounts inside the ST and thus requires opening the machine to gain access to the 68000. While START has yet to see one, installation is purportedly solder-free. The list price is around $400 and we'll give you more information as we receive it. (Editor's Note: Watch for a review of PC Speed in the April issue of START.)

I continue to have problems with Talon's Supercharger PC emulator featured in last month's review (START, January 1990). I've been unable to make it work reliably with a hard drive attached, using both an Astra drive and a Berkeley Microsystems (BMS) drive. But, I'm still experimenting and will let you know how it turns out.

Apple's Hypercard is a powerful relational database that's
also relatively easy to use.

Hyping Hypercard
One of the more remarkable pieces of software available today is packaged with every Macintosh and has gained widespread acceptance and use. The software I'm talking about is, of course, Hypercard, written by Bill Atkinson of MacPaint fame. With the release of Spectre 1.7, Hypercard now runs on your ST. Since Hypercard requires 128K ROMs, however, you can't use the Magic Sac, and you must have 128K ROMs in Spectre. (I suspect the reason Dave Small gets Hypercard working so fast - it had problems with early versions of Spectre - is that he keeps his own database in the product.) But just what is Hypercard?

I've seen quite a few attempts at an explanation. It isn't easy to describe because it's really more than a single product. It's designed with (at least) three distinct levels and each is different - and more powerful - than the last.

Hypercard is the first commercial product to utilize a powerful new concept called Hypermedia. In broad terms, Hypermedia is a "disorganized" method of storing and retrieving information. Instead of following a long, linear path, you can branch instantly over to any related piece of information, even if it's in another database. All the information is cross-linked. You can start out investigating the automobile, then decide to check on the life history of Henry Ford or the workings of the internal combustion engine. Hypercard is the relational database.

Hypercard Applications
The applications of Hypercard (called stacks) present you with cards on which you can create or change information. Buttons on each card let you jump to other cards or even other stacks to explore the database. These buttons can look like anything. For example, one card displays a picture of a fish, and the fin is the button. Click on the fin and a description of that part of the fish comes up. Hypercard stacks can include text, graphics and even digitized sound, making for some pretty fancy applications. But, as mentioned earlier, your access to information is not limited to relations within the given database (or stack). You can go anywhere as long as the programmer has provided a link. Hypercard stacks are related through a Home card. A well-designed stack always has a button that takes you immediately Home, providing a consistent exit method.

Hypertalk has been
characterized as
"programming for
the rest of us."

The next level of Hypercard, called authoring, lets you build or modify applications by using various tools. A full set of paint tools are available and you can set up buttons and text fields on a card at this level. These tools encourage you to customize your form. You can even create computerized versions of real-life objects. Finally, the most complex level uses a full programming (English-like) language called Hypertalk that lets you program your own applications, using the entire Mac environment. Since programming the Mac using windows, menus, icons and the like is a difficult job requiring a lot of knowledge and experience, Hypertalk is a revolutionary product because it makes the task relatively straightforward. This lets you concentrate on applying your ideas rather than on technical issues. It is, as author Bill Atkinson says, "programming for the rest of us."

Whatever it is, Hypercard is fun and useful. You can use it at whatever level you feel comfortable with, tailoring it to your own needs. In the coming months, we'll spend some time with Hypercard and look at it from all three levels. We'll also look at some of the good books about Hypercard, which provide far more information than the manual. One weakness of Hypercard is that it really is designed for browsing, for gathering information, rather than for writing reports. Other products are available for writing reports in Hypercard, and we'll look at some of these as well.

How to Get It
Where can you get Hypercard? There are a number of ways; the cheapest is to get it from a local Mac users' group. Apple lets users' groups distribute it and some will sell you all three disks for $10; make sure you get the latest version 1.2. Some books on the subject also include the program, but they don't typically come with all three disks. Hypercard is inexpensive and exciting, so if you're interested, get your copy and follow me in coming issues through the hyper world.

Contributing Editor David Plotkin is a chemical engineer for Chevron USA.