Hypercard teaches autosave

30 Oct 2022

Tags: hypercard, ux

I was reading through the original Hypercard 2.4 manual, and hit across this charming explanation of how Hypercard is autosaving, and that there is no manual save feature. To get this point home they walk you through opening the file menu to show you that the feature isn’t there:

A grab of the section from the Hypercard 2.4 manual.

Step one, open the file menu, step two close the file menu again having done nothing. If you listen carefully you can just hear Jeff Goldblum laughing to himself about how there’s no step three.

We take a lot of things for granted in the vocabulary of how software works, that autosave is something we don’t need to think much about, other than to say if it’s there or not, yet back in the early 90s it was clearly quite a novel concept. To some degree, it’s amazing that it isn’t the other way around, as in the real world saving isn’t so much a thing, but I guess by this point in the early 90s we’d built up enough expectation around how computers work that we needed to do this. And there is perhaps why I find this so interesting - we’d developed this new way of thinking about document state that was just for computers, and in ten short years we’d made it seem so alien that you’d not need to manually save changes you need to be convinced that it isn’t the case (particularly, I guess, when no other contemporary software did the same).

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