Alan Kay defines the laptop #history


Excerpt from The PC Pioneers

Alan Kay, software guru, was born on this day in 1940

Alan Kay did his masters and PhD at the University of Utah where he  worked with another legend of the industry, Ivan Sutherland.  He was invited to an ARPA meeting to present his vision for a notebook-sized personal computer he called ‘Dynabook’.

Kay got short shrift from a highly critical meeting but was recruited to be the team’s ‘odd man out’, a thinker-philosopher in residence.  He did not disappoint, making this early observation about the team’s approach,

‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’

Despite the poor reception for it at the ARPA conference, its description was a pretty accurate prediction of today’s laptops, tablet PCs and eBooks.  When Kay joined Xerox PARC in 1970 he was hoping that he might develop the Dynabook, and help the company to invent the future.

In 1968 Kay met with Seymour Papert and encountered his LOGO language; he learned too of the LISP language.

It was Kay who had the notion that each project on the Dynabook should be considered as a piece of paper, each piled on a desk with only the topmost fully visible.  This would of course become the ‘desktop’ metaphor that we all now use and it shaped both the Apple Lisa and Macintosh developments.

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