Memorial Lecture at 109th: Alan Kay / The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet

Sunday, September 24, 6:00pm,
Theater of the LA Convention Centre Admission for registered 109th AES Convention Participants

Dr. Alan Kay

“The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet”

The printing press was invented in the middle of the 15th century, yet it took 100 years before a book was considered dangerous enough to be banned. 150 years before science was invented, almost 200 years before a new kind of political essay was invented, and more than 300 hundred years before a country with an invented political system (the US) could be argued into existence via the press and a citizenry that could understand the arguments. Schooling and general literacy were also fruits of the press, and also took many centuries to become established. The commercial computer is now about 50 years old and is still imitating the paper culture that came before it, just as the printing press did with the manuscript culture it gradually replaced. No media revolution can be said to have happened without a general establishment of “literacy”: fluent “reading” and “writing” at the highest level of ideas that the medium can represent. With computers, we are so far from that fluent literacy — or even understanding what that literacy should resemble — that we could claim that the computer revolution hasn’t even started. This talk will try to put a shape to the real computer revolution to come.

Dr. Alan Kay, Disney Fellow and Vice President of Research and Development, The Walt Disney Company, is best known for the ideas of personal computing and the intimate laptop computer, the inventions of the now ubiquitous overlapping-window interface and modern object-oriented programming. His deep interests in children and education were the catalysts for these ideas, and they continue to be a source of inspiration to him.

Kay, one of the founders of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, led one of the 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 Xerox, Dr. Kay was a member of the University of Utah ARPA research team that developed 3-D graphics. There he earned a doctorate (with distinction) in 1969 for the development of the first graphical object-oriented personal computer. He holds undergraduate degrees in mathematics and molecular biology from the University of Colorado. Kay also participated in the original design of the ARPANet, which later became the Internet.

Dr. Kay has received numerous honors, including the ACM Software Systems Award and the J-D Warnier Prix D’Informatique. He has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Arts, and the Computer Museum History Center.

A former professional jazz guitarist, composer, and theatrical designer, he is now an amateur classical pipe organist.

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