Computers are amazing technology. Very few people understand how they actually work and even when you do…it’s still amazing. Futurist and writer Arthur C Clarke said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s true even though we often take that magic for granted today as everyone carries a supercomputer around with them in the form of a smartphone in their pocket.

When it comes to magical illusions or tricks…things that are difficult or impossible for our mind to understand…there is a special wonder and feeling for a moment that we had often as a child when we realize that we don’t know how something is accomplished. Magicians today continue to amaze us even in a world filled with movie special effects and wizardry.

The type of magic a computer can perform is very limited. Although it could simulate many card tricks, there would be no skill involved and the computer could always cheat by “looking at your card”. That limits the type of “pick a card” trick to those where you choose the card (or number) in your head and the computer determines the card you chose by “magic…a kind of computer telepathy. ” So mostly the computer can do tricks where it “reads your mind” through clever programming.

The First Apple II Computer Magic Tricks

The idea of a computer performing magic started on the Apple II by Tim Cimbura around 1982. Included here are screen shots showing the original version of the 21 card trick which was the first magic trick to be programmed into a computer. It was included as a demo application for “ApexText” the Apple II Extended Text system. It was written in AppleSoft BASIC with calls to 6502 assembly language to make the graphics work.

ApexText was one of the first applications that allowed upper and lower case letters, graphics, multiple fonts, and characters in italic, bold, colors, large, tall, wide, etc. to be used on a personal computer. The graphics at that time were a bit crude but not that bad. Then it was leading edge technology and now it’s a basic capability of every operating system.
FileMaker-A Custom App that Performs Magic Tricks

Updated for HyperCard

In November 1992, these tricks were re-written in HyperCard and several more were added. They were available as a free download from America Online called “Computer Magician”.

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Enter FileMaker

FileMaker is the #1 rapid application development platform in the world. It’s been around for 30 years and provided the tools required to make the next iteration of this app in 2007 that runs on Windows, macOS or iOS. It took quite a lot of programming trickery to get a database to do magic.

fmMagic requires FileMaker to run. If you don’t have FileMaker Pro already, you can download a free trial for your workstation. On the iPad, download the free FileMaker Go app.

Download the FREE fmMagic app:

Download the FREE fmMagic app for your entertainment fun and let it do a few tricks for you. I hope you enjoyed the magic.

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The principles involved in these tricks have existed for years in one form or another. However, the computer code, graphics, and several additional principals that make the illusions more unique are original. Credit where it’s due:

  • Trick #1, #5, #7, and #8 are old magic standards.
  • Trick #2, was inspired by a 7 up ad available on the internet.
  • Trick #3, the symbol mind reader, was inspired by Andy Naughton’s creation also available on the internet.
  • Trick #4, the destinations trick was inspired by David Copperfield in his 1992 TV special.
  • Trick #6, with the train cars was inspired by an illusion performed by David Copperfield in his 1991 TV special.

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