Wired HC Article - rev too complicated?

Jim Witte jswitte at bloomington.in.us
Thu Aug 15 00:15:01 EDT 2002

> It mentions Rev in passing and lumps it in with products that are 
> viewed by some   "HyperCard advocates" as being "too expensive or 
> complex for casual users."

   I was thinking about this morning.  This may have already been hashed 
out before, but it seems that it would be useful if RunRev had some kind 
of "home license".  this would be aimed at the home user who say wants 
to introduce his 10 year-old to programming or make a user database for 
the local Cub Scout den (When my dad was a Cub leader, we actually did 
this with HC!), make a personal checkbook application, etc.  It either 
wouldn't have a script limit, have no database access (home users 
generally don't need external DB access I would think), have limited 
built-in network communication ability (or none at all), be limited only 
having a mainstack, and have limited standalone creation ability (or 
none at all), and be priced at $100-$129.

   One of the beauties of HC was that it let "ordinary" computer users 
"dabble" with programming.  If you're going to put down $300 for a 
small-business license, you want to have a pretty good idea what you're 
going to do with it - which isn't a problem for a small-business, but 
probably is for a "casual" user.  I don't know if Apple ever did any 
surveys about the "uses" of HC, but it would be interesting to know.  
I'm sort of in that position myself - I'm running a very small business 
reselling items and considering plastic fabrication of Newton parts (a 
small market indeed) and thinking of using Rev to do a customer 
database, but since I don't make all that much profit, it might make 
more since just to learn Excel VB.  I'll probably end up getting a small 
business license, mainly because I already know quite a bit about HC 
scripting and like to mess with computers (geek factor).

   From the economic viewpoint, I don't know how much sense this makes 
though.  You have a certain number of "casual" users who would buy such 
a limited version at $100 but wouldn't at $300, which is good.  But you 
might also have some small-business people who can get with the $100 
license instead of the $300 version, which isn't.  To entice 
"micro-business" people, I'd make the license upgradable to either the 
SB license or the professional license for the difference in cost.  
There would also be the cost for RunRev to produce such a limited 
version - I don't know if it could be as simple as turning off compiler 
flags in the code, or would be more difficult than that - and the 
logistics of distributing such a version - the same argument against 
having a version with no ugrades.

   As for the complication factor, for an HC user - I think Rev simply 
*looks* a bit intimidating.  I see this a lot with programs - MacDraw 
vs. ClarisDraw is one example I can think.  If a program has a lot of 
menus, a lot of options in the dialogs, large palettes, etc, I think it 
seems more complicated than it may actually be.  I don't know if there 
have been any HCI studies specifically about this, but any that there 
are would be interesting to look at.

   As I look at the Revolution interface, a few things that I notice that 
might be seen as "more complicated than HC are (don't take this as a 
negative criticism of Rev, just observations of comparison with HC 2.0):

   The distinction between the pointer tool (the hand) and the selection 
tool (arrow).  HC didn't make a distinction, and while it makes sense if 
you're thinking in terms of a develop-then-test cycle, it is less 
conducive to "spontaneous programming" than an integrated tool.

   The lack of the "recent cards" command that put up the window with the 
miniature views of all the cards in the stack.  This helps the novice 
user get a sense of the organization of the stack, and reinforces the 
idea of being "in" a stack rather than "working with it" - as you would 
application code in a traditional programming environment.

   The object property window is a lot more complicated looking.  A lot 
of this is because there's the same window functioning as an editor for 
all types of objects, and because of the tab interface for basic 
properties, item specific properties, script, etc.  The basic properties 
tab has a lot of options, which are of use for someone making a 
professional app who wants complete control over how the interface 
looks, but which simply add "clutter" for a novice user.  The other tabs 
except for script don't look like they have analogues in HC, but they 
are nice and hidden from a novice user.

   As far as the "home user" license issue goes, a lot of that has to do 
with the fact that Apple made Hypercard, as well as the Mac, so 
Hypercard could almost be seen as an freebie of sorts  that came with 
the Mac - like the iApps are now.  Whether this was a good choice or not 
is debatable, but I think it certainly did push up adoption of HC among 
users, and is something that RunRev can't do (they don't have a main 
business making and selling computers)  I suppose it one - an educator 
perhaps - might cast it also as a sort of public good argument - "do you 
want to push up the general knowledge of computer programming among Mac 
users?"  Apple apparently though so, at least when HC was still a 
standard part of the OS - economically though it's hard to justify that 
kind of argument.

Jim Witte
jswitte at bloomington.in.us
"Ex-Hypercard user"

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