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The AppleScript project was a natural extension of the HyperCard project before it. HyperCard was a stack-of-cards-based language that had an English language-based scripting language called HyperTalk. Apple recognized that a similar scripting language could be designed to provide the means of communicating with the system and application software, and the AppleScript project was born.
To integrate AppleScript with the Mac OS required major changes to the OS, and most of these appeared in the huge System 7 release, where the key Apple events concept first appeared. As such, Apple events were vying for developer attention along with many other new technologies introduced at the same time (balloon help, publish and subscribe, etc.). Apple events were among the most difficult of the System 7 technologies to implement, requiring a re-write of major portions of the "low level" code in an application. Apple's own application framework called MacApp did not immediately support Apple Events either.
AppleScript was released as part of System 7.1.1 in October 1993. QuarkXpress (ver. 3.2) was one of the first major software applications that supported AppleScript, and as a result AppleScript was widely adopted within the desktop publishing segment of the Apple market. Perhaps the main reason that the Mac remained a powerhouse in the publishing market after Quark (and other applications) were ported to Microsoft Windows, was that Mac users could automate complex workflows and this is still true to some extent.
The move to Mac OS X and its Cocoa frameworks matured AppleScript substantially by offering basic scriptability as part of the application frameworks with no added effort on the part of the developer. Cocoa application can be made easily scriptable for the cost of writing a few text files to support their dictionary. AppleScript Studio, released with Mac OS X v10.2, allows users to build entire full-fledged applications using only AppleScript and Cocoa objects as outlined in AppleScript on it own.
HyperCard was created by Bill Atkinson and initially released in August 1987, with the understanding that Atkinson would give HyperCard to Apple only if they promised to release it for free on all Macs. Apple timed its release to coincide with the MacWorld Conference & Expo in Boston, Massachusetts to guarantee maximum publicity. HyperCard was a huge hit almost instantly. No one had seen anything like it on any machine prior to its release, and its power and ease of use is mostly unmatched even today. A huge number of people who thought they would never be able to program a computer started using HyperCard for all sorts of automation, file keeping, and prototyping tasks, a surprise even to its creator.
System 7 (codenamed "Big Bang") was a major revision of the Mac OS. Successive versions of System 7 were used from the early '90s until 1997. System 7's new features included cooperative multitasking (Andy Hertzfeld's Switcher no longer required), virtual memory, personal file sharing, an improved user interface look, QuickTime, and QuickDraw 3D. It is still used by a dwindling number of Macintosh users who own Apple hardware of similar vintage. Apple released System 7.0 early in 1991 and two years later, AppleScript was born.