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A collection of quotes and thoughts by Alan Kay on computers, science, programming, arrogance, humor, technology, inspiration, normality and wisdom.

39 Inspiring Quotes By Alan Kay For All The Tech-Lovers Out There

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Famous As
Computer Scientist

Born On
17 May 1940 AD

Born In
Springfield, Massachusetts

Age
77

Alan Curtis Kay is an American computer scientist, who is responsible for developing some of the most important things in the evolution of computers like graphical user interface, SmallTalk, Dynabook and object-oriented programming. Kay also created the computer programming language ‘FLEX’ for his doctoral thesis in 1966 and from then on he never looked back. Kay has been associated with some of the most important tech companies in the world like Xerox, Apple, Atari and Walt Disney Imagineering, while on the other hand his prowess as a computer scientist has taken him to institutions like Stanford University, Kyoto University, University of California in Los Angeles and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the course of a career that has spanned for more than half a century, Alan Kay has been undoubtedly been one of the most important figures in the history of computer science. He has not only been devoted to computer science but has also been a keen jazz guitarist, pipe organist, music composer and theatrical designer. As one can accept from a tech great, Kay has also been outspoken and expressed vocally his thoughts on a range of subjects that interests him over the course of his life. Following are some profound quotes and thoughts by Alan Kay on storytelling, business, reality, computing, hardware and software.

The greatest single programming language ever designed

- Alan Kay

It's easier to invent the future than to predict it.

- Alan Kay

An important technology first creates a problem and then solves it.

- Alan Kay

The real romance is out ahead and yet to come. The computer revolution hasn't started yet.

- Alan Kay

Any company large enough to have a research lab is too large to listen to it.

- Alan Kay

Lisp isn't a language, it's a building material.

- Alan Kay

I fear - as far as I can tell - that most undergraduate degrees in computer science these days are basically Java vocational training.

- Alan Kay

Change is easy, except for the changed part.

- Alan Kay

I invented the term 'Object-Oriented', and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind.

- Alan Kay

Java and C++ make you think that the new ideas are like the old ones. Java is the most distressing thing to hit computing since MS-DOS.

- Alan Kay

Sun Microsystems had the right people to make Java into a first-class language, and I believe it was the Sun marketing people who rushed the thing out before it should have gotten out.

- Alan Kay

In success there's a tendency to keep on doing what you were doing.

- Alan Kay

School is basically about one point of view - the one the teacher has or the textbooks have. They don't like the idea of having different points of view,...

- Alan Kay

The future is not laid out on a track. It is something that we can decide, and to the extent that we do not violate any known laws of the universe, we can probably make it work the way that we want to.

- Alan Kay

Having an intelligent secretary does not get rid of the need to read, write, and draw, etc. In a well functioning world, tools and agents are complementary.

- Alan Kay

Context is worth 80 IQ points.

- Alan Kay

Quite a few people have to believe something is normal before it becomes normal - a sort of 'voting' situation. But once the threshold is reached, then everyone demands to do whatever it is.

- Alan Kay

As far as Apple goes, it was a different company every few years from the time I joined in 1984.

- Alan Kay

Science requires a society because even people who are trying to be good thinkers love their own thoughts and theories - much of the debugging has to be done by others.

- Alan Kay

Technology is anything that wasn't around when you were born.

- Alan Kay

There is the desire of a consumer society to have no learning curves. This tends to result in very dumbed-down products that are easy to get started on, but are generally worthless and/or debilitating.

- Alan Kay

I had the fortune or misfortune to learn how to read fluently starting at the age of three. So I had read maybe 150 books by the time I hit 1st grade. And I already knew that the teachers were lying to me.

- Alan Kay

Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

- Alan Kay

If you don't fail at least 90 percent of the time, you're not aiming high enough.

- Alan Kay

Some people worry that artificial intelligence will make us feel inferior, but then, anybody in his right mind should have an inferiority complex every time he looks at a flower.

- Alan Kay

The protean nature of the computer is such that it can act like a machine or like a language to be shaped and exploited.

- Alan Kay

Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we're all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories.

- Alan Kay

People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.

- Alan Kay

Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do. The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

- Alan Kay

A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.

- Alan Kay

Technology is anything invented after you were born.

- Alan Kay

The most disastrous thing that you can ever learn is your first programming language.

- Alan Kay

I don't know how many of you have ever met Dijkstra, but you probably know that arrogance in computer science is measured in nano-Dijkstras.

- Alan Kay

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

- Alan Kay

All the companies I've worked for have this deep problem of devolving to something like the hunting and gathering cultures of 100,000 years ago. If businesses could find a way to invent 'agriculture,' we could put the world back together and all would prosper.

- Alan Kay

Social thinking requires very exacting thresholds to be powerful. For example, we've had social thinking for 200,000 years, and hardly anything happened that could be considered progress over most of that time. This is because what is most pervasive about social thinking is 'how to get along and mutually cope.'

- Alan Kay

I've been a Fellow in a number of companies: Xerox, Apple, Disney, HP. There are certain similarities because all the Fellows programs were derived from IBM's, which itself was derived from the MIT 'Institute Professor' program.

- Alan Kay

The Internet was done so well that most people think of it as a natural resource like the Pacific Ocean, rather than something that was man-made. When was the last time a technology with a scale like that was so error-free? The Web, in comparison, is a joke. The Web was done by amateurs.

- Alan Kay

Most creativity is a transition from one context into another where things are more surprising. There’s an element of surprise, and especially in science, there is often laughter that goes along with the “Aha.” Art also has this element. Our job is to remind us that there are more contexts than the one that we’re in — the one that we think is reality.

- Alan Kay