The Library of Congress and HyperCard #VintageComputing #DigitalPreservation @librarycongress

Jacob Kowall and Hilary Szu Yin Shiue have been working at the US Library of Congress updating and expanding the Sustainability of Digital Formats website, which provides information and analysis on over 500 digital file formats and offers guidance on the long-term preservation of digital content at the Library.

Our preliminary research on HyperCard revealed that the software was a widely popular application in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, HyperCard is an important piece of Library of Congress history. The American Memory project, an early collection of digitized LC materials, was first built with HyperCard in the pre-Internet era…

Despite its widespread usage in the 1980s and 1990s, HyperCard remains largely absent from the leading file format registries. For example, PRONOM, the UK National Archives’ comprehensive registry of digital file formats, has no entries for HyperCard formats, nor are any included in the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) media type list.

The Siegfried file format identification tool also fails to identify HyperCard files, indicating that none of the major format registries include entries for HyperCard. Although Wikidata has a record for the HyperCard file format (Q27996244), it provides little information useful for format analysis. For all the above reasons, we determined that both the Manuscript Division and the wider digital preservation community might especially benefit from further research and aggregated documentation on HyperCard files. Thus began our adventure into exploring the history and resurgence of HyperCard.

When developing HyperCard in the 1980s, its designer, Bill Atkinson, wanted to create a tool that both programmers and non-programmers could use to write their own computer applications. After its release in 1987, Atkinson likened the new program to an “erector set” for software, alluding to the popular toy construction set. Users of HyperCard created documents called “stacks,” which were made up of a series of related “cards.” Each card in a stack could contain text, images, interactive elements, and sound. HyperCard featured a classic, black-and-white user-interface. Despite its relatively humble appearance, the potential uses of HyperCard were extensive.

Read more how the collection’s HyperCard files were analyzed in the LC Blog post here.

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