Episode 126: A deep dive into HyperCard and Myst

How Apple's virtual rolodex for Mac evolved into the best-selling PC game of the 20th century.

Sometimes, Retronauts focuses on crowd-pleasing topics like Super Mario Bros. and Grand Theft Auto. And sometimes, we put together episodes like the one you see here today.

Ben Elgin and I have glanced past the topic of HyperCard before, back in our Mac gaming episode, and Myst got a mention in the CD-ROM episode over the summer. This week, we've circled back around to pay proper tribute to both of these matters in a two-hour deep-dive into both. Why both? Well, because in order to understand HyperCard's hidden potential as a game-making tool, you need to know about Myst… and to properly understand why Myst turned out the way it did (and why it was so remarkable), you need to understand the platform that served as its foundation.

Apple certainly never intended for HyperCard to become the basis of one of the best-selling video games of all time; heck, they practically abandoned the technology after a few years, and never even updated it to support color once black-and-white system support became obsolete. Myst, then, serves as a testament to just how flexible and forward-thinking HyperCard truly was — in a lot of ways, their "virtual rolodex" application resembled a prototype for the World Wide Web, and some of its features have only recently been matched within the web's fundamental underpinnings through HTML 5.

We try not to be too technical in this episode, despite our emphasis on what amounted to a programming language, and hopefully you'll find our discussion both interesting and informative. If nothing else, you'll learn how Ben taught a computer to play competitive Puyo Puyo

Thanks to everyone who wrote in for this episode, by the way! Lots of really great user anecdotes helped round out this two-man discussion.

MP3, 50 MB | 1:59:11
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Episode description: Jeremy Parish and Ben Elgin take a deep dive into the history and concept behind Apple's HyperCard technology and how it became a surprising platform for game development — including the best-selling PC game of the 20th century, Cyan's Myst.

This episode's incidental music was taken from several Myst sequels, most notably the Myst IV: Revelations soundtrack by Peter Gabriel and Jack Wall (of Mass Effect fame).