Thursday, February 24, 2005

Interview with Alan Kay

A Conversation with Alan Kay
ACM Queue vol. 2, no. 9 - Dec/Jan 2004-2005

Big talk with the creator of Smalltalk and much more.

When you want to gain a historical perspective on personal computing and programming languages, why not turn to one of the industry's preeminent pioneers? That would be Alan Kay, winner of last year's Turing Award for leading the team that invented Smalltalk, as well as for his fundamental contributions to personal computing.

Kay was one of the founders of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where he led one of several groups that together developed modern workstations (and the forerunners of the Macintosh), Smalltalk, the overlapping window interface, desktop publishing, the Ethernet, laser printing, and network client-servers.

Prior to his work at PARC, Kay earned a Ph.D. in 1969 from the University of Utah, where he designed a graphical object-oriented personal computer and was a member of the research team that developed pioneering 3-D graphics work for the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Kay was also a "slight participant" in the original design of the ARPANet, which later became the Internet. He holds undergraduate degrees in mathematics and molecular biology from the University of Colorado. After leaving Xerox PARC, Kay went on to become chief scientist of Atari, a Fellow of Apple Computer, and vice president of research and development at The Walt Disney Company.

Today he is Senior Fellow at Hewlett-Packard Labs and president of Viewpoints Research Institute, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to change how children are educated by creating a sample curriculum with supporting media for teaching math and science. This curriculum will use Squeak as its media, and will be highly interactive and constructive. Kay's deep interests in children and education have been the catalysts for many of his ideas over the years.

In addition to winning the Turing Award, Kay recently received the Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering and the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology, awarded every four years by the Inamori Foundation.


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