go next cardMarch 29, 2010
Somewhere around age 7, I’m still trying to nail down exactly when, I started programming. Not because I’m super smart, but because I was so lucky as to have a Mac Plus in the house. By watching my brother Joe make little games in BASIC, and examining his code, I learned enough to make something of my own. (I still remember realizing that it made more sense to name variables according to what they represented, rather than just choosing random words — in my first game ever, the variable that recorded whether you picked up the knife in your bedroom was called “mustache”.)
When I was 9, my cousins Tim and Steve and I discovered HyperCard. It opened the floodgates of our imaginations. Cybermission, Cave Quest, Tim’s World, Star Quest, Lymbo, Syquell, Johnny Boy’s Really Fun Adventure Parts I-III — we could make any game we could imagine, just as easily as drawing up proto-RPGs in our trusty spiral notebooks. They were a big enough deal that we mailed floppy disks to each other between summer visits. I truly believe our successes as adults are thanks to the logical thinking, storytelling, design sense, and ethic of meticulousness we built up in creating those games.
At the last Apple shareholders meeting, someone asked about a simple iPad programming language. Steve said, “Something like HyperCard on the iPad? Yes, but someone would have to create it.” I’ve been thinking about that almost every day since I read it. iPad, in its single-taskingness, its administrative-debrislessness, its necessarily simplified interface, could be just the thing that introduces today’s kids to how to make computers do fantastic things.