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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.