A Thousand Multimedia Tongues! Which Should I Speak?

November 1, 1996

Dear Squeak and Blat,

I ran across some notes on a presentation you two gave on HyperCard a few years ago. I've been thinking about writing some multimedia software for my music history classes. I'm especially interested in authoring some software that can reinforce notions about music style. I'd like to use HyperCard to do this. I have a Windows machine at home, but my school is all Mac. By the way, my son told me that I should use Powerplace and my sister says I ought to use Producer from MicroBrain.

Sally W.




Dear Sally. HyperCard? Are there really people still interested in HyperCard! I thought that software died along with the Mac LC and Squeak's HyperCard Etudes!

Actually, Sally, HyperCard is alive and well and is going through quite a few changes. I can't really recommend it for you right now as a place to start, however. Since you will be developing at home with your Windows PC, HyperCard is out anyway. In a year or so, the scripting power of HyperCard will be merged with newer technology centered on the Internet and all of us old HyperCarders can dust off the stacks we once wrote and render them on the net! Squeak's Etudes will soon be with us again!

For great Internet sources on HyperCard, be sure to check out:
HyperCard Heaven!
Your son and sister are on the right track, but they are a little off with the names of the products. Perhaps the quickest and most affordable way to get something started is to use a "slide-based" package like Microsoft's PowerPoint. You can develop PowerPoint files on your PC and then run them at school on your Macs. PowerPoint gives you "templates" to get started that contain the background colors and graphics you need. All you do is pour in the content, including your own graphics. The program will play back digital sound files, QuickTime movies, and MIDI files in the form of QuickTime movies that use instrument sounds inside your computer's system resources.

Visit Microsoft's web page featuring their Powerpoint product.

You can't do much animation with PowerPoint and there is no way to really do sophisticated interaction like with HyperCard. You also can't access a CD in the CD drive of your computer. But these things may not be too important for you.

You CAN do all this and more with the "time-based" program, Director from Macromedia. Director is a sophisticated multimedia authoring package that the pros use. It has a scripting language like HyperCard and it too is cross-platform so you can work at home and at school. Director is a little expensive, even for academics and will take you much longer to learn. I don't think you want to use this right away.

Check out Director on Macromedia's web site and also, a their scaled-down version of Director called Action! which is simplier and cheaper for starters.

Squeak will probably talk to you about using web tools for creating simple multimedia too, so I will leave that to him.



Sally. MicroBrain and PowerPlace? Sounds like a cross between a new Monopoly game and a science fiction novel! Advance four squares to PowerPlace and don't get sucked up by the MicroBrain when you pass the Waterworks.

Let me reinforce a point Blat started to make and didn't quite finish. He's such a HyperCard fan that he gets lost in the topic. There are many "multimedia tongues" that you can speak. You need to pick the right one to fit the task you want to accomplish. The Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (MCLI) at the Maricopa Community College has a wonderful web page that brings together all of the many authoring packages for multimedia:


In a nutshell, here are some of the types of multimedia development tools. Slide-based multimedia packages (like Powerpoint) are designed for talks and one-to-many presentations. There is no interaction; you just flip from slide to slide.

Card-based multimedia packages (like HyperCard, ToolBook, HyperStudio) are designed for one-on-one presentations where you move from one card to any other card with buttons, clickable hot words, pull-down menus, and the like. You get interactivity and you can remotely control compact audio discs as well as use Quicktime movies, MIDI files, digital sounds and the like. All your material is organized on cards that are linked together. Lots of schools are using HyperStudio; it runs under Windows as well as Macintosh

Check out the HyperStudio web site!

Time-based multimedia packages (like Macromedia Director that Blat mentioned) are designed for materials organized in sequence over time, frame-by-frame, like in a movie. You organize your graphics, sounds, text, movies, and MIDI files into these time frames.

Document-based multimedia organizes your materials like pages in a book. You can have links between pages. And you can place graphics, sounds, and movies on the pages. The best example of document-based multimedia is HTML pages used on the World Wide Web. If you want a cheap way to start doing some multimedia explore creating HTML pages and download a web browser like Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer to view the pages. Here are a many web pages you can check out for help getting started creating multimedia with HTML. There is a killer site on web page development with something for anyone or any need that you should checkout. And one of the classic web sites on designing web pages comes to you from Patrick Lynch. Hope this helps!

1727 Last modified on November 22, 2013
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