Alan Kay: Programmer Profile

Alan Kay: Programmer Profile

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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.

He's currently the president of the Viewpoints Research Institute.







The Future Doesn’t Have to Be Incremental

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.



Keynote Presentation

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 computer revolution hasn’t happened yet

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.



















A Dynamic Medium for Creative Thought

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





Doing with Images Makes Symbols

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.





























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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 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.





Alan Kay Interview (1990)

As an Alan Kay fan, I was surprised to discover this gem of an interview. It's almost three hours long. He talks about the history of computing, education, and some of the research at Xerox PARC.







The Reactive Engine

Alan Kay's PhD Thesis, which describes the machine he called "The FLEX Machine".