Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Time to do some work

It's Tuesday and the University is closed today (mid-semester break) so I can get some work done on the book.

With the iPad being so much in the news this weekend and some techies commenting that it's the  Dyanbook made real I'm going to get some material together on Alan Kay, it's inventor.

 Alan Kay is one of the legendary ex-employees of Xerox PARC credited with helping invent the GUI, object-oriented programming and the tablet computer or eBook (i.e., the Dynabook).

The best book I've come across on the subject of Xerox PARC is:
Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael A. Hiltzik

Running over 400 pages it's very comprehensive, but probably only for the devoted. My task is to distil this book down into few pages that summarise the highlights of Xerox's remarkable influence on modern computing. Alan Kay's contribution I guess will have to occupy no more than a few paragraphs! This isn't going to be easy.

His home page is at http://www.smalltalk.org/alankay.html though it doesn't look like it's maintained by him. I do like this quote though:

"Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do… The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn't violate too many of Newton's Laws!"

This would make a good quote for the start of the chapter.

There's also a page at Viewpoints Research Institute where Alan was a founder http://vpri.org/html/people/founders.htm

Here I discover that in addition to being a brilliant computer scientist it seems that Alan was also a professional jazz guitarist. Gosh don't you love these multi-talented people? My wife says that a lot of very bright people are also talented musicians, seems like she's right in this case.