Kay at the 2008 40th anniversary of The Mother of All Demos
Alan Curtis Kay
May 17, 1940
|Alma mater|| University of Colorado at Boulder |
University of Utah
|Known for|| Dynabook |
graphical user interface windows
|Awards||ACM Turing Award (2003)|
Charles Stark Draper Prize
|Institutions|| Xerox PARC |
Apple Inc. ATG
Walt Disney Imagineering
Viewpoints Research Institute
Alan Curtis Kay (born May 17, 1940) is an American computer scientist. He has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society of Arts. He is best known for his pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface design.
He was the president of the Viewpoints Research Institute before its closure in 2018 and an adjunct professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also on the advisory board of TTI/Vanguard. Until mid-2005, he was a senior fellow at HP Labs, a visiting professor at Kyoto University, and an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Kay is also a former professional jazz guitarist, composer, and theatrical designer, and an amateur classical pipe organist.
In an interview on education in America with the Davis Group Ltd., Kay said:
I had the misfortune or the fortune to learn how to read fluently starting about the age of three, so I had read maybe 150 books by the time I hit first grade, and I already knew the teachers were lying to me.
Originally from Springfield, Massachusetts, Kay's family relocated several times due to his father's career in physiology before ultimately settling in the New York metropolitan area when he was nine.
He attended the prestigious Brooklyn Technical High School, where he was suspended due to insubordination in his senior year. Having already accumulated enough credits to graduate, Kay then attended Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia. He majored in biology and minored in mathematics before he was asked to leave by the administration for protesting the institution's Jewish quota.
Thereafter, Kay taught guitar in Denver, Colorado for a year and hastily enlisted in the United States Air Force when the local draft board inquired about his nonstudent status. Assigned as a computer programmer (a rare billet dominated by women due to the secretarial connotations of the field in the era) after passing an aptitude test, he devised an early cross-platform file transfer system.
Following his discharge, Kay enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder, earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics and molecular biology in 1966. Before and during this time, he worked as a professional jazz guitarist. During his studies at CU, he wrote the music for an adaptation of The Hobbit and other campus theatricals.[ citation needed ]
In the autumn of 1966, he began graduate school at the University of Utah College of Engineering. He earned an M.S. in electrical engineering in 1968 before taking his Ph.D. in computer science in 1969. His doctoral dissertation, FLEX: A Flexible Extendable Language, described the invention of a computer language known as FLEX.While there, he worked with "fathers of computer graphics" David C. Evans (who had been recently recruited from the University of California, Berkeley to start Utah's computer science department) and Ivan Sutherland (best known for writing such pioneering programs as Sketchpad). Their mentorship greatly inspired Kay's evolving views on objects and programming. As he grew busier with DARPA research, he ended his musical career.
In 1968, he met Seymour Papert and learned of the Logo programming language, a dialect of Lisp optimized for educational purposes. This led him to learn of the work of Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky, and of constructionist learning, further influencing his professional orientation.
Leaving Utah as an associate professor of computer science in 1969, Kay became a visiting researcher at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in anticipation of accepting a professorship at Carnegie Mellon University. Instead, in 1970, he joined the Xerox PARC research staff in Palo Alto, California. Throughout the decade, he developed prototypes of networked workstations using the programming language Smalltalk. These inventions were later commercialized by Apple in their Lisa and Macintosh computers.
Kay is one of the fathers of the idea of object-oriented programming, which he named, along with some colleagues at PARC. Some of the original object-oriented concepts, including the use of the words 'object' and 'class', had been developed for Simula 67 at the Norwegian Computing Center. Later he said:
I'm sorry that I long ago coined the term "objects" for this topic because it gets many people to focus on the lesser idea. The big idea is "messaging"
While at PARC, Kay conceived the Dynabook concept, a key progenitor of laptop and tablet computers and the e-book. He is also the architect of the modern overlapping windowing graphical user interface (GUI).Because the Dynabook was conceived as an educational platform, Kay is considered to be one of the first researchers into mobile learning; many features of the Dynabook concept have been adopted in the design of the One Laptop Per Child educational platform, with which Kay is actively involved.
The field of computing is awaiting new revolution to happen, according to Kay, in which educational communities, parents, and children will not see in it a set of tools invented by Douglas Engelbart, but a medium in the Marshall McLuhan sense. He wrote:
As with Simulas leading to OOP, this encounter finally hit me with what the destiny of personal computing really was going to be. Not a personal dynamic vehicle, as in Engelbart's metaphor opposed to the IBM "railroads", but something much more profound: a personal dynamic medium. With a vehicle one could wait until high school and give "drivers ed", but if it was a medium, it had to extend into the world of childhood.
From 1981 to 1984, Kay was Atari's Chief Scientist. He became an Apple Fellow in 1984. Following the closure of the company's Advanced Technology Group in 1997,he was recruited by his friend Bran Ferren, head of research and development at Disney, to join Walt Disney Imagineering as a Disney Fellow. He remained there until Ferren left to start Applied Minds Inc with Imagineer Danny Hillis, leading to the cessation of the Fellows program. In 2001, he founded Viewpoints Research Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to children, learning, and advanced software development. For its first ten years, Kay and his Viewpoints group were based at Applied Minds in Glendale, California, where he and Ferren continued to work together on various projects. Kay was also a Senior Fellow at Hewlett-Packard until HP disbanded the Advanced Software Research Team on July 20, 2005.
Kay taught a Fall 2011 class, "Powerful Ideas: Useful Tools to Understand the World", at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) along with full-time ITP faculty member Nancy Hechinger. The goal of the class was to devise new forms of teaching/learning based on fundamental, powerful concepts rather than traditional rote learning.
In December 1995, while still at Apple, Kay collaborated with many others to start the open source Squeak version of Smalltalk, and he continues [ when? ] to work on it. As part of this effort, in November 1996, his team began research on what became the Etoys system. More recently he started, along with David A. Smith, David P. Reed, Andreas Raab, Rick McGeer, Julian Lombardi and Mark McCahill, the Croquet Project, an open source networked 2D and 3D environment for collaborative work.
In 2001, it became clear that the Etoy architecture in Squeak had reached its limits in what the Morphic interface infrastructure could do. Andreas Raab was a researcher working in Kay's group, then at Hewlett-Packard. He proposed defining a "script process" and providing a default scheduling mechanism that avoids several more general problems.The result was a new user interface, proposed to replace the Squeak Morphic user interface in the future. Tweak added mechanisms of islands, asynchronous messaging, players and costumes, language extensions, projects, and tile scripting. Its underlying object system is class-based, but to users (during programming) it acts like it is prototype-based. Tweak objects are created and run in Tweak project windows.
In November 2005, at the World Summit on the Information Society, the MIT research laboratories unveiled a new laptop computer, for educational use around the world. It has many names: the $100 Laptop, the One Laptop per Child program, the Children's Machine, and the XO-1. The program was begun and is sustained by Kay's friend Nicholas Negroponte, and is based on Kay's Dynabook ideal. Kay is a prominent co-developer of the computer, focusing on its educational software using Squeak and Etoys.
Kay has lectured extensively on the idea that the computer revolution is very new, and all of the good ideas have not been universally implemented. Lectures at OOPSLA 1997 conference and his ACM Turing award talk, entitled "The Computer Revolution Hasn't Happened Yet" were informed by his experiences with Sketchpad, Simula, Smalltalk, and the bloated code of commercial software.
On August 31, 2006, Kay's proposal to the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) was granted, thus funding Viewpoints Research Institute for several years. The proposal title was: STEPS Toward the Reinvention of Programming: A compact and Practical Model of Personal Computing as a Self-exploratorium.A sense of what Kay is trying to do comes from this quote, from the abstract of a seminar on this given at Intel Research Labs, Berkeley: "The conglomeration of commercial and most open source software consumes in the neighborhood of several hundreds of millions of lines of code these days. We wonder: how small could be an understandable practical "Model T" design that covers this functionality? 1M lines of code? 200K LOC? 100K LOC? 20K LOC?"
Alan Kay has received many awards and honors. Among them:
His other honors include the J-D Warnier Prix d'Informatique, the ACM Systems Software Award, the NEC Computers & Communication Foundation Prize, the Funai Foundation Prize, the Lewis Branscomb Technology Award, and the ACM SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education.
Smalltalk is an object-oriented, dynamically typed reflective programming language. Smalltalk was created as the language underpinning the "new world" of computing exemplified by "human–computer symbiosis". It was designed and created in part for educational use, specifically for constructionist learning, at the Learning Research Group (LRG) of Xerox PARC by Alan Kay, Dan Ingalls, Adele Goldberg, Ted Kaehler, Diana Merry, Scott Wallace, and others during the 1970s.
PARC is a research and development company in Palo Alto, California. Formed in 1970, the company was originally a subsidiary of Xerox, and was tasked with creating computer technology-related products and hardware systems.
The Squeak programming language is a dialect of Smalltalk. It is object-oriented, class-based, and reflective.
Ivan Edward Sutherland is an American computer scientist and Internet pioneer, widely regarded as the "father of computer graphics". His early work in computer graphics as well as his teaching with David C. Evans in that subject at the University of Utah in the 1970s was pioneering in the field. Sutherland, Evans, and their students from that era invented several foundations of modern computer graphics. He received the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery in 1988 for the invention of Sketchpad, an early predecessor to the sort of graphical user interface that has become ubiquitous in personal computers. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, as well as the National Academy of Sciences among many other major awards. In 2012 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology for "pioneering achievements in the development of computer graphics and interactive interfaces".
Adele Goldberg is a computer scientist who participated in developing the programming language Smalltalk-80 and various concepts related to object-oriented programming while a researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), in the 1970s.
The KiddiComp concept, envisioned by Alan Kay in 1968 while a PhD candidate, and later developed and described as the Dynabook in his 1972 proposal "A personal computer for children of all ages", outlines the requirements for a conceptual portable educational device that would offer similar functionality to that now supplied via a laptop computer or a tablet or slate computer with the exception of the requirement for any Dynabook device offering near eternal battery life. Adults could also use a Dynabook, but the target audience was children.
Lawrence Gordon Tesler is a computer scientist who works in the field of human–computer interaction. Tesler has worked at Xerox PARC, Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo!.
Daniel Henry Holmes Ingalls Jr. is a pioneer of object-oriented computer programming and the principal architect, designer and implementer of five generations of Smalltalk environments. He designed the bytecoded virtual machine that made Smalltalk practical in 1976. He also invented bit blit, the general-purpose graphical operation that underlies most bitmap graphics systems today, and pop-up menus. He designed the generalizations of BitBlt to arbitrary color depth, with built-in scaling, rotation, and anti-aliasing. His major contributions to the Squeak system include the original concept of a Smalltalk written in itself and made portable and efficient by a Smalltalk-to-C translator.
Charles Patrick "Chuck" Thacker was an American pioneer computer designer. He worked on the Xerox Alto, which is the first computer that used a mouse-driven Graphical User Interface.
Ben Shneiderman is an American computer scientist, a Distinguished University Professor in the University of Maryland Department of Computer Science, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the founding director (1983-2000) of the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab. He conducted fundamental research in the field of human–computer interaction, developing new ideas, methods, and tools such as the direct manipulation interface, and his eight rules of design.
Viewpoints Research Institute (VPRI) was a nonprofit public benefit organization initiated by Alan Kay. Incorporated in 2001 and closed in 2018, it aimed to improve "powerful ideas education" for the world's children and to advance the state of systems research and personal computing. Many of the institute's themes co-evolved with the inventions of networked personal computers, graphical user interfaces and dynamic object-oriented programming.
Constructionist learning is when learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. Constructionism advocates student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge. Students learn through participation in project-based learning where they make connections between different ideas and areas of knowledge facilitated by the teacher through coaching rather than using lectures or step-by-step guidance. Further, constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people are active in making tangible objects in the real world. In this sense, constructionism is connected with experiential learning and builds on Jean Piaget's epistemological theory of constructivism.
Tweak is a graphical user interface (GUI) layer written by Andreas Raab for the Squeak development environment, which in turn is an integrated development environment based on the Smalltalk-80 computer programming language. Tweak is an alternative to an earlier graphic user interface layer called Morphic. Development began in 2001.
The Xerox NoteTaker is an early portable computer. It was developed at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, California, in 1978. Although it did not enter production, and only around ten prototypes were built, it strongly influenced the design of the later Osborne 1 and Compaq Portable computers.
Etoys is a child-friendly computer environment and object-oriented prototype-based programming language for use in education.
Mark Joseph Guzdial is a Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. He was formerly a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology affiliated with the College of Computing and the GVU Center. He is best known for his research in the fields of computer science education and the learning sciences and internationally in the field of Information Technology. From 2001-2003, he was selected to be an ACM Distinguished Lecturer, and in 2007 he was appointed Vice-Chair of the ACM Education Board Council. He was the original developer of the CoWeb, one of the earliest wiki engines, which was implemented in Squeak and has been in use at institutions of higher education since 1998. He is the inventor of the Media Computation approach to learning introductory computing, which uses contextualized computing education to attract and retain students.
Gerhard Fischer is German-born computer scientist, Professor of Computer Science, a Fellow of the Institute of Cognitive Science, and the founder and director of the Center for LifeLong Learning & Design (L3D) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Alexander L. Wolf is a Computer Scientist known for his research in software engineering, distributed systems, and computer networking. He is credited, along with his many collaborators, with introducing the modern study of software architecture, content-based publish/subscribe messaging, content-based networking, automated process discovery, and the software deployment lifecycle. Wolf's 1985 Ph.D. dissertation developed language features for expressing a module's import/export specifications and the notion of multiple interfaces for a type, both of which are now common in modern computer programming languages.
The School of Computing is a school within the College of Engineering at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ted Kaehler is an American computer scientist known for his role in the development of several system methods. He is particularly noted for his contributions to Smalltalk and Squeak programming languages and other technologies developed at Xerox PARC and Apple's HyperCard system.