4.0062 Hypercard and ProIcon: A Comparison (103)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 16 May 90 17:40:16 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0062. Wednesday, 16 May 1990.

Date: Wed, 16 May 90 10:17:16 -0500
From: Alan D Corre <corre@csd4.csd.uwm.edu>
Subject: Hypercard and ProIcon

I am currently engaged on two educational projects for the Macintosh
computer. One employs Hypercard and one ProIcon. Since both these
packages have interest for Humanists, I should like to offer some
comments on the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each.

1. The Hypertext Concept. This concept, which arranges knowledge in a
tree structure, has great potentiality for changing the way we learn.
Hypercard is specifically designed to exploit this concept, and can be
used to great effect. ProIcon is not so designed.

2. Graphics. Hypercard has remarkable graphics capacities, while ProIcon
has none. A caution is needed. It is all too easy to produce badly
designed software with Hypercard, and alarms are sounding that this is
already occurring. In my Hypercard project I am cooperating with an
artist, and our areas are clearly delineated. It seems to me hazardous
to get involved with Hypercard unless you have graphic design
capabilities, or can work with someone who has them.

3. Sound. There is an excellent separate package, HyperSound, for adding
custom sound to Hypercard. This can be speech or music. Be warned that
sound takes up a great deal of space, and must be used judiciously.
HyperSound is part of the MacRecorder, which is useful for learning basic
concepts in acoustics, if that topic is of interest. ProIcon does not
have sound.

4. Windows. Hypercard has text fields which can be made visible and
artistically customized. ProIcon has an excellent windowing system. It is
easy to use, and very powerful. Here too some graphic design is
desirable, although it is not so serious a problem as in Hypercard.

5. Speed. Hypercard is not compiled, and saving is automatic, so time is
saved in programming. But with complex programs Hypercard can be
impossibly slow in execution. This can be remedied by using external
functions and commands which have to be "glued" to Hypercard--at which
point Hypercard ceases to be the "erector set" it is claimed to be.
ProIcon is an integrated development program which works swiftly and
neatly. I have never found any problem at all with the execution speed
of ProIcon. It's fast.

6. System. You need a hard disk for Hypercard. ProIcon will work on any
except a first generation Mac.

7. Programming. Hypercard has its own programming language called
Hypertalk, which is designed to be "English-like." For example the

Put cherry into cocktail

is Hypercard's English-like way of assigning the string "cherry" to the
variable "cocktail," i.e.

cocktail := "cherry"

In my view, the experience with COBOL demonstrated that such attempts are
liable to fail. Executive types are not interested in reading programs,
however English-like they may be, while programmers like shortcuts which
render English-like programs cryptic anyway. Moreover, Hypercard would
not understand the (for me) more natural

Put cherry in cocktail

Icon, the programming language underlying ProIcon, has, in my view, an
excellent blend of brevity and explicitness which avoids this whole

Hypertalk is object-oriented. You program separately items such as
fields, cards and buttons, so the programming is fragmented. This
offers interesting new possibilities, but makes it difficult to design
an overall program.

ProIcon is structured, has procedures of equal status (unlike the nesting
you have in Pascal) and offers the possibility of linking to frequently
used libraries of procedures.

Hypercard has a number of string procedures which are quite useful. It
cannot generally process single characters entered without a carriage
return, although buttons may compensate for this. ProIcon has a highly
sophisticated way of handling strings which is as ingenious as it is

8. Conclusion. Hypercard and ProIcon are not in competition, rather they
supplement each other. With the help of the two, or by using programers
familiar with them, humanists can become latter day alchemists,
marshalling their knowledge for inspiration, education and
entertainment. Hypercard comes free with the Macintosh. ProIcon is
published by Catspaw, Inc. of Salida, CO (719-539-3884). MacRecorder is
published by Farallon Computing, Inc. of Berkeley CA (415-849-2331). I
have no connexion with any of these developers, and offer these comments
only to aid colleagues. I would be glad of any comments on these
packages, or tips to further enhance their usefulness.