In the late '80s Larry Belling fell in love with his Macintosh computer. He especially fell for a new Apple software program called HyperCard, a simple elegant tool that turned non-technically oriented klutzes into almost instant programmers. As an advertising copywriter and former publicist for movies and theater, Larry had books filled with his collections of data and lists of things that came in handy when writing. An old Ryman Stationer's date book, for instance, was filled with events in history and famous people born and died. He kept it up to date daily and found it useful when writing speeches for his PR clients. Another huge file was filled with clichés and anti-clichés for his advertising copywriting jobs.
When he discovered HyperCard, Larry was in heaven. HyperCard was organized like a stack of cards - an endlessly spinning Rolodex - into which one could add fields for data, buttons to link with other cards, and static information. One could have a huge number of cards, or a stack could be as small as one lone card. It was easy, but could become extremely sophisticated. The giant-selling puzzle game Myst was developed in HyperCard.
HyperCard, invented by Bill Atkinson at Apple, made excellent use of the theories of legendary computer guru and pioneer Ted Nelson. In his landmark electronic essay, "Literary Machines," part of his mammoth Xanadu Project, Nelson talked about ideas linked to other ideas and greater works in an endless series of thoughts with no linear boundaries. One could read a novel from back to front, middle to end, or every which way. He coined the word hypertext to describe the interaction. It is doubtful that there would be an Internet at all without Nelson's mind expanding concept, but he would later claim the web had made minimal use of hypertext . He described recent efforts to add meta data to web documents as "like trying to graft arms and legs onto a hamburger."
HyperCard was the perfect place for a Mac user to store thoughts and ideas. Larry immediately entered his recording studio's (Slippery Studios) sound effects collection - 5,500 entries - which cut his recording engineer Jerry Vincent's time in finding sound effects by 95%. He set up stacks for To Do Lists, serial numbers of studio gear and other possessions, personal diary, plot ideas, titles, random ideas, music libraries, sampled musical sounds and others. He also started entering all his writing materials, notes, lists and historical data into it.
Events Day-by-Day, Larry's daily calendar of historical events, was developed first, and led to the writing of Stack of Decades - fads, fashions and history organized by decades going back to the 1650's. After dumping his clichés and catch phrases collection into HyperCard he added his collection of lists of things and developed a slang thesaurus. After a few years of almost compulsive work, five HyperCard stacks were completed and Larry set up a publishing company called Slippery Disks.
He found a distributor in Heizer Software of Pleasant Hill, CA, and their lead programmer, Brian Molyneaux, was tremendously helpful in adding more sophisticated programming to Larry's patchy work.
The programs, under the name Writer's Dreamtools, were launched in the summer of 1991. MacUser Magazine gave them four and a half mice (out of five), calling them "…useful, well-organized, easily accessible collections of data."
The New York Times published a positive review in November under the headline, 'Tapping a Pipeline of Factoid and Fact,' by L.R. Shannon. "Anybody who cranks out copy on a Macintosh, either professionally or as a student, should find the set a source of inspiration and amusement. It is also a treasure of factoids, those gems of information that make a piece of writing seem more authoritative and better researched than it really is," he wrote. "When the chips are down (1940's slang), Writer's Dreamtools may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread (50's), but it is pretty far out (70's)."
Since HyperCard is no longer supported by Apple, and requires booting up the Mac Classic OS, rather a bore when one is not using any other Classic applications, a port to the web seemed a good idea. To the original five stacks, Larry has added his collection of humorous quotations and some of his favorite Internet humor pieces.
The original HyperCard stacks may be downloaded free for any current users of that program (but no technical support will be available).
Writer’s Dreamtools is a collection of tools to enhance writers’ creativity, spark ideas and fight writer’s block.
About Larry Belling
Larry Belling is an American writer, editor and marketing and communications consultant based in London. More...
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Links & Tidbits
Useful and related information for writers and links to other helpful sites. More...
Download the orginal Hypercard version of Events and Decades programs. More...