Issue 208 – January 16, 2017

Hi programmers,

I first seriously got into Alan Kay’s ideas about ten years ago, when YouTube became a thing. I watched The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet (YouTube). My eyes were opened. The typical story of personal computing is one of innovation, revolution, exploding possibilities, exponential curves of processing power per dollar. However, Alan Kay has a much bleaker view of the current timeline because he dreamed a bigger dream before it all started.

Since then, I’ve read and watched a lot of his material. He dreams big. I’ve made a small selection of his works here.

I’d like to announce two things related to the New Year. We often make resolutions in the New Year to learn a new language or to achieve some other goal we’ve always wanted to.

1. New Year’s Resolution Giveaway

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs is such a great book. But many of us who want to have not read it. So I’m doing a giveaway of one copy of the book. If you’ve always wanted to read this book, why not enter to win a free copy? Enter here.

2. New Year’s Resolution Promotion

If you’re interested in learning Clojure, I’d really like to help. There is so much content on PurelyFunctional.tv right now that it’s kind of hard for people to figure out what they should start with. For the next two weeks, anyone who buys a membership will get a personal consult via Skype. I’ll ask you about your goals and develop a personalized training plan for you. So buy a membership today and I’ll contact you to schedule the call.

Please enjoy the issue.

Rock on!
Eric Normand <eric@lispcast.com>

PS Want to get this in your email? Subscribe!


The computer revolution hasn’t happened yet YouTube

Presented in 1997 at the OOPSLA conference, Alan Kay’s keynote was a harbinger of the ideas he would present in the twenty years hence. This is a must-watch talk.

The Computer Revolution tickled those feelings inside me that were not satisfied with how software is made, with the things we can do with our computers, and how little the computers help us. The talk was already ten years old when I first saw it, but the message is still relevant and probably will be for a long time.


Alan Kay at University of Utah YouTube

In this talk, Alan Kay explains the who, how, and why of the research done at Xerox PARC, and why that kind of research doesn’t happen nowadays.


The Future Doesn’t Have to Be Incremental YouTube

When you go into universities or into companies, what are they using? They’re using laptops. These are machines from the past. You’re not going to get anything but incremental improvements with that.

Alan Kay is encouraging large companies to spend more money on research that generates new inventions that change the context. For instance, Apple is still busy reproducing the computing environment they had at PARC, which included OOP, networked computing, and GUIs.


A Dynamic Medium for Creative Thought YouTube

Alan Kay, back in 1972, presenting bitmapped fonts, images inline with text, and other crazy stuff from his research.


Doing with Images Makes Symbols YouTube

Alan Kay talks about the educational ideas behind Smalltalk. This is an amazing lesson in theories of how we learn, especially learning by doing. If you don’t know, much of Alan Kay’s work has centered around how to make computing into a medium for kids to learn in.


The Early History of Smalltalk

This paper documents the influences that led up to Smalltalk, how it happened (it was a bet!), and the lessons they learned about it.


A Conversation with Alan Kay

Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

Statements like this make me sad. I want to help but what can I do?


The Reactive Engine

Alan Kay’s PhD Thesis, which describes the machine he called “The FLEX Machine”.


Alan Kay’s Programmer Profile

I’m collecting as much of Alan Kay’s online material in one place. Please let me know if there’s something missing.