Valuable lessons from the past!

Hi! My name is Martin - @martinz

I’m new here in these Obsidian-surroundings, and feeling a bit lost. This newbie-feeling fills me all over again…

I have been using / testing Obsidian, and I really like it. In fact I feel the same kind of enthusiasm, when I started discovering what Hypercard could do. That’s way back 1984 - 1994 …

I see many valuable lessons that could still be used today, which I would love to share with you…

Anyone interested?

Have a nice day!



Definitely! Sounds very interesting already.

Thanks for offering to share this connection. Looking forward to it.

I think if you look around you will probably see evidence that there is really no need to ask if anyone is interested. That being said, I think it is cool that you did.

I say there is no harm in just putting it out there in here, but then again I am new to these types of forums myself.

I would love to hear them as well.

I will be pleased to share my observations with you!

ARIA model

Hans van Driel in his research project “New media from a historical point of view” distinguishes four phases in developing “new media”:

  • Amazement
  • Resistance
  • Imitation
  • Authenticity

He called it the ARIA model.


Hypercard was developed in the early stages of personal computing, and with it’s “Stack and Cards / Rolodex metaphor” an imitation of the “paper world” we were used to for many, many years. Yet there were some features already, that are authentic to a (personal) computer, for example: hypertext-links to jump from one card to the other.


As far as I know Hypercard is the only application that combines an “Integrated User Environment” and an “Integrated Developer Environment” into a seamless whole. Not just a seperate IDE and IUE. I would call Hypercard a prototype of an IUMDE.

The “user levels”, combined with dynamic menu items provided an increasing powerful environment from novice to expert, from information consumer to information producer to app-developer.

In the article on Hypercard at The Whole Code Catalog it says: “HyperCard users can move fluidly between browsing, typing, painting, authoring, and scripting a program. Hypercard saves all changes automatically, so lower-power levels are useful for when you don’t want to mess up a friend’s stack.”

An interesting way to make “on-boarding” very easy. Or to put it in other words: Hypercard had a gentle learning curve.

To me Hypercard is an excellent example of KISS = Keep it Smart and Simple. Things will get complicated soon enough anyway …


Many years later the developers of Obsidian draw lessons from the past to start creating a new kind of application for “Personal Knowledge Management”.

And may I just voice my appreciation for making it available free for personal use!

I see it as a small next step toward the authentic use of the power of current networked computers, which are able to show graphics like the dynamic graphs in Obsidian.

In my view we are only starting to use a fraction more power, that lies dormant in the hardware we have at our disposal. Many times the tools I use run almost idle on my desktop, or in the palm of my hands.

So I regard both Hypercard and Obsidian as prototypes pointing to a direction of what applications of the future might look like, and do. In my opinion the “Information Age” hasn’t even started yet…

Just imagine

I have been experimenting with Obsidian for a few weeks now, and I feel the same enthusiasm I had when discovering Hypercard.

Both are meant to empower the individual in seemingly very different ways.

Yet underneath the surface I see similarities too. Things like

  • core application, and plugins
  • easy learning curve,
  • automatic save,
  • my way, not the application getting in the way.

Just imagine combining features from Hypercard and Obsidian, staying true to the underlying basic design principles of both: what an exciting user experience we could create!

In my imagination I already see new prototypes appearing on the horizon …

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” - Alan Kay

Thanks for reading my thoughts! Maybe it helps spark brilliant ideas. Have a nice day!


That screenshot looks… crisp.

Be honest with us. Do you have an Apple SE running Hypercard right now? :smile:

Interesting question @leonid.smidt!

In my small “private museum” these “very old macs” might just run well… and if I get some time to spare, I’ll insert the diskettes and see if they still fire up!

To study Hypercard, once in a while, on my modern Mac - I use Running a Hypercard stack on a modern Mac | James Friend. Thank you, James: your effort is much appreciated!!!

This worked well until Mojave (MacOS 10.14). But today - I just tried it - Catalina (MacOS 10.15) lets me down…

The point for me is, that I can still analyse the “conceptual model” of Hypercard in detail to keep my focus as a “trendwatcher”…

What might be useful for the “Obsidian folks”?! In my opinion this is a “reference project” worth studying, to ignite creative ideas about the direction Obsidian could take…

As always: have a nice day!

1 Like

That’s really clever. It worked for me on Big Sur.

I enjoyed your summary of HyperCard, and yes, the connections with Obsidian are obvious. Not to compare them, but it also makes me think of Project Xanadu.

There’s something endearing about these experiments. The dreamers dreamed bigger. Now we have 30 different note-taking applications that all do one or two things you want them to do, but lack key features. (Just to be clear, I don’t count Obsidian in this group).

1 Like

Glad you enjoyed my story on Hypercard,! And nice the emulator works for you on Big Sur. What’s you’re hands-on experience with Hypercard, and what connections do you see?

Maybe I’m just one of those dreamers… that are still dreaming! :wink: How about you?!

Night time here!