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June 4,1997
Alan Kay, Walt Disney Imagineering
The Computer Revolution Hasn't Happened Yet

Speaker: Alan Kay, Fellow and VP of R&D, Walt Disney Imagineering

Title: The Computer Revolution Hasn't Happened Yet


World changing inventions have rarely been accepted, or even recognized when they appeared. Instead they "create needs only they can fill" which eventually almost forces their acceptance, often over several decades. But they are so different that they initially have to masquerade as "better old things" rather than "completely new things". This has been true for the printing press, automobile, movies, and television, and, now digital computing and communications. Today, after 50 years of development, the computer is still masquerading as "better paper", but the next decade will be the transition into what computing and networks are really about: entirely new ways to communicate, do business, organize politically, think, and live. The changes are likely to be as broad and deep as those brought by the printing press to 15th century Europe. As usual, it will be much easier to invent the technology than it will be to help people make good use of it.


Dr. Alan C. Key, Disney Fellow and Vice President of Research and Development, The Walt Disney Company, is best known for the idea of personal computing, the conception of the intimate laptop computer, and the inventions of the now ubiquitous overlapping-window interface and modern object-oriented programming. His deep interest in children and education was the catalyst for these ideas, and it continues to be a source of inspiration to him.

Kay, one of the founders of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, led one of the groups that in concert developed these ideas into 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, and the Royal Society of Arts. A former professional jazz guitarist, composer, and theatrical designer, he is now an amateur classical pipe organist.

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next up previous
Next: Jun 131997 LAST DAY Up: Stanford University Computer Previous: May 281997 Li Gong,

Dennis Allison
Tue Jun 3 16:37:09 PDT 1997