Stylized line drawing of mark playing the flute

20 Years Later, I Still Can't Read Ramona the Pest

Anyone out there remember HyperCard?

It was an early programming/database tool for the Mac (and, apparently, the Apple IIGS). At the time I started playing with it, it came preinstalled on all Macs.

Basically, you created stacks of β€œcards". These cards could contain all manner of data (pictures, videos, text) and could be linked together. Considering this was all pre-Web, it was a pretty neat thing.

There was also a programming language called HyperTalk that could be used behind the scenes with each card.

My family has a Christmas tradition that I’ve been participating in for almost 25 years. It’s basically a Secret Santa gift exchange. We draw names and nobody knows who has who.

What makes the whole thing special is that you have to make the gift for your person!

Back in 1994, I was a freshman in college and had gotten my young cousin Katie’s name for the homemade gift exchange. I put off working on (or even thinking about) her gift until well into the fall.

Finally, after much deliberation, I decided that I was going to make her a digital book. I settled on Ramona the Pest by Beverly Clearly since I knew my cousin was a fan of the Ramona books.

I spent about a week getting the basic form of a book working in HyperCard. I found some clipart that looked like an open book with blank pages and even got a simple page flip animation working.

The next step was actually digitizing the book.

I didn’t have access to any sort of OCR technology to scan the thing. If a digital copy of Ramona the Pest existed online somewhere, I certainly couldn’t find it.

So I typed the whole damn thing in.

I can’t even begin to stress how long this took. Weeks and weeks of typing. But, just in time for Christmas, I finished typing the book into HyperCard.

I put the finished HyperCard stack on a 3.5" floppy, wrapped it and shipped it off.

My cousin loved the book but, to this day almost 20 years later, I still can’t bring myself to read Ramona the Pest.