[Edu-sig] Squeak or HyperCard

Ian Bicking ianb at colorstudy.com
Sat Apr 22 02:38:09 CEST 2006

kirby urner wrote:
>>And then there's the question: why exactly is HyperCard worthy of
>>reimplementation, and what are the essential features?
>>Ian Bicking  /  ianb at colorstudy.com  /  http://blog.ianbicking.org
> I think the general idea is to give kids a fairly easy way to organize
> material and share it, either peer to peer or from a more central
> repository.
> The web is how we do that now, but the amalgam of skills (HTML, Flash,
> Shockwave, applets, cgi...) is not young kid accessible.  For one
> thing, you need a lot of typing.
> If I could drag a picture of myself to a top card, then put some icons
> on a next card, then wire those icons to yet other cards, containing
> more pictures and video clips, maybe some working code snippets (my
> little Logo flower), then hey, the typing might even be worth the
> effort -- especially if I can now easily ship this to my friends.

What strikes me about this is that the technical hurdles seem really 
low.  This doesn't seem hard at all.  Lots of squishy questions... but 
then, getting to the squishy part is where it gets interesting, right?

The ease almost makes it seem more intimidating.  If it isn't hard, why 
haven't people done it?  Or have people done it, and this will just be a 
pale immitation of what other's have done?  Or have people done it, and 
it turned out to be a bad idea?  Is this just another site builder?  Are 
we just going to give people a pile of rainbow horizontal rules and 
animated kittens and have them make their own personal homepages?  I 
like animated kittens as much as the next guy, but clearly that was not 
a revolution.

But heck, blogs were technically pretty basic and "obvious" when they 
were starting too, and are still on the low end of technology.  So 
technical difficulty and importance don't need to be bound together. 
Maybe no one has done it just because it can't be monitized.  Oh no, I 
said the M-word.  Saying it feels like swearing; it's debasing.

But back to positive stuff... is wiki revisited and made richer really 
enough?  Client-side programming in Javascript can be very powerful, and 
it seems like nearly anything that doesn't actually involve 
synchronizing or communicating via a central hub (aka the web server) 
can be done quite well on the client side.  We're even seeing client 
side programming drive the server side, with the potential of making the 
server hub into a fairly neutral technology.  Javascript is annoying at 
times, but it's not a hopeless language, and you can build good 
abstractions on top of it.

This is where my cynical self reminds me that, if it was so easy, why 
don't I go home right now and do it?  Sigh... because there's actually 
hard problems underneath, and while I can imagine a the result I know 
the concept will slip away as I reach for it, and I'll be unsure even if 
I have reached some goal because I won't know how to recognize it.  Oh, 
and I don't actually see how Python fits into this (blasted lack of 
restricted execution!)

Still, that's better than worrying about bitblt ;)

Ian Bicking  /  ianb at colorstudy.com  /  http://blog.ianbicking.org

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