Making Desktops on the way to Dynabooks: Happy 80th Birthday to Alan Kay!

Yesterday was Alan Kay’s 80th birthday.

As Ben du Boulay and I wrote in our history of computing education research (see here), Alan and the Learning Research Group group at Xerox PARC asked a question in the 1970’s that has changed how all of us interact with computers, “How would we change computing to make it about learning?” Their efforts to build the Dynabook gave us the desktop user interface that we have today. It’s the greatest public impact of research in computing and learning.

Alan has been a mentor to me for years, and he still influences me, such as in the comments he contributes in this blog . I’m grateful for those opportunities to learn from and be inspired by him. I spoke in my SIGCSE 2019 Keynote (see the clip here) about how finding “Personal Dynamic Media” by Adele Goldberg and Alan (see link here) set the direction of my career. I first met Alan when he came to a workshop I helped organized in 1995. Here’s a picture that Ben Shneiderman took and shared with me:

That’s Alan on the right, and that’s me in the middle. The guy on the left is Wally Feurzeig, the guy who implemented the first Logo (with Danny Bobrow).

Wishing Alan happy days and many more years!