I’m not sure I quite buy the notion of HyperCard as proto-web-browser. But I totally buy Atkinson’s original goals with it:
“Simply put, HyperCard is a software erector set that lets non-programmers put together interactive information”
It was not the first thing I wrote software in – that honour goes to GW-BASIC, I think – but it was the first tool I made something useful and unprovoked in. I was eight or nine when I discovered it at school. It made it possible to realise what was in my head, not what was in a book.
And it was the first thing that made designing the visual interactions of software easy for me. Software isn’t just arithmetic and lines of code – it’s something people use. HyperCard made sure that the visual end of software was usually the first part of a stack you made, not the last. (I was always disappointed that Visual Basic looked like it did this, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations).
Look at XCode now, with its integrated Interface Builder; that’s one of the many legacies of HyperCard. It showed the average computer user (not the average programmer) that interaction and interface was important to great computing experiences, and gave them the tools to poke around.
It is a tiny percentage of the reason I do what I do now, but a memorable one.