Happy 70th Birthday, Alan Kay!

May 24, 2010 at 10:21 am 2 comments

Alan Kay turned 70 last week. In honor of his birthday, two of his colleagues at Viewpoints Research, Ian Piumarta and Kim Rose assembled an amazing book of essays from Alan’s past collaborators and friends: From Adele Goldberg and Vint Cerf, to Quincy Jones and Gordon Bell.  Kim is a cognitive scientist and was my co-editor on the second Squeak book. She co-wrote the Squeak Etoys Powerful Ideas in the Classroom book with BJ Allen Conn.  Ian is a gifted systems researcher and programmer (e.g., he did the first port of Squeak outside of Apple or Disney, and still maintains the UNIX ports), who also loves to produce beautiful books.  He managed all the LaTeX-work for Kim and I on our book (for which we remain grateful!), and typeset Kim and BJ’s book.  I’m looking forward to seeing the new book  — I’m sure it’s fascinating and gorgeous.  They are currently out-of-stock, but are planning to do a second printing.  (The first printing sold out in 6 hours!)

Alan is well known to readers of this blog. He and his research group at Xerox PARC in the 1970’s invented the desktop user interface, Smalltalk, and our modern notions of “object-oriented programming.”  He won the ACM Turing Award in 2003.  Alan did his pioneering work in user interfaces and programming languages in pursuit of a larger goal — improving how people learn and think, and using computing technology as the lever and medium.

I am grateful for Alan’s mentoring advice over the last 15 years.  I started on the path to a PhD in education and computer science because I was inspired by his paper with Adele Goldberg on Personal Dynamic Media. We met in 1995 when I invited him to a workshop I was co-organizing for NSF on setting a research agenda in educational technology.  As Alan wondered from group-to-group, other participants and some group leaders came to me asking, “Can you keep Alan out of our room?  He keeps coming in and challenging everything!”  Yup, that’s Alan (and why anyone would think that I could slow him down, or would want to, is beyone me :-).  Alan has generously offered his time as a mentor to me, advising me to think more deeply and push harder in my work.  Alan is often referenced in discussions with my students.  “You know what Alan would say about that!”  When Alan was given an honorary doctorate by Georgia Tech in 2005, his schedule was filled with meetings with the important folks.  He still found time to hang out for a couple hours with me and Barb and others, commenting on everything from schools and technology to management.  Many thanks, Alan, and best birthday wishes to you!

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Media Computation and BPC-Related Workshops this Summer The Core of Computer Science: Alan Kay’s “Triple Whammy”

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