Alan Kay (1940)


Kay is best known for his pioneering work on object-oriented programming and co-inventing the Smalltalk language. He coined the phrase, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Kay wanted to make a personal computer for children of all ages and came up with the concept of a tablet computer in 1968. The ideas led to the development of the Xerox Alto prototype, which was originally called “the interim Dynabook”. It embodied all the elements of a graphical user interface. The software component of this research was Smalltalk, which went on to have a life of its own independent of the Dynabook concept. The Dynabook itself hasn’t taken off until now but the concept defined the basics of future laptops, ebooks and tablets.

Fun facts:

  • Kay once said: “I don’t know how many of you have ever met Dijkstra, but you probably know that arrogance in computer science is measured in nano-Dijkstras.”
  • He also noted: “Actually I made up the term “object-oriented”, and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind.”
  • He believes The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet where software engineering is progressing inversely to Moore’s Law which sees hardware capacity increasing each year whilst software becoming un-necessarily bloated. Which he summed up with the 1-liner: “What Andy giveth, Bill taketh away” – refering to Andy Grove the then CEO of Intel and Bill Gates of Microsoft.

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