Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GUI Software Hardware

Alan Kay Says iPad Betrays Xerox PARC Vision 387

Posted by timothy
from the and-so-it-goes dept.
harrymcc writes "Over at TIME.com, we've published David Greelish's interview with Alan Kay, the famously quotable visionary whose Dynabook proposal has provided much of the inspiration for advances in mobile computing for over 40 years now. Kay talks about his work, laments that the computer has failed to live up to its potential as an educational tool, and says that the iPad betrays the vision that he and others created at Xerox PARC and elsewhere in the 1970s."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Alan Kay Says iPad Betrays Xerox PARC Vision

Comments Filter:
  • by The Cat (19816) * on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:14AM (#43336765)

    Sometimes I wonder why we are so quick to discard the PC. I certainly hope it won't become a symbol of lost opportunity.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      iPad is shiny!

    • by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:23AM (#43336869) Homepage Journal

      well, all the industry pundits who want to discard the pc are the one's that would be keeping pc's to create stuff for the replacements...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:29AM (#43336949)

      Because for the vast majority of iPad/other tablet buyers, they're either:

      1) Using tablets as a secondary device, and continuing to use their PC (I have a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop. No plans to do away with my "computer", though I expect the somewhat old desktop and somewhat old laptop may converge into a single modern laptop with a dock & dual monitors when it comes time to replace them.)
      2) Basic users who have zero need for the features of a PC.

      Choice is good. Just because somebody else chooses something that's not appropriate for your needs doesn't mean they're "wrong" - they may have different priorities, and different uses for the tool.

      • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:55AM (#43337253) Homepage Journal

        Basic users who have zero need for the features of a PC.

        A PC offers more room to grow. Eventually a basic user is likely to become no longer a basic user and will need to spend a significant chunk of change to upgrade from only a tablet to a tablet and a PC. If this no-longer-basic user is a child under legal working age who has been using a tablet that he had received as a gift, it becomes even more difficult to find the money to buy even a used PC. Owning only an iPad is more likely to convince the user that the limits of only an iPad are reasonable, just as a lot of American kids who owned only a game console and not a PC during the third, fourth, and fifth console generations never got the chance to try their hand at learning what makes a game tick by coding a simple game themselves.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:11AM (#43337485)

          Eventually a basic user is likely to become no longer a basic user

          No, they're really not "likely" to become more than a basic user. The standard tasks that most people use their home computer for - browsing the web, sending emails, watching a video, etc. - are not likely to suddenly prompt those people to decide that they need to hack the Linux kernel.

          just as a lot of American kids who owned only a game console and not a PC during the third, fourth, and fifth console generations never got the chance to try their hand at learning what makes a game tick by coding a simple game themselves.

          Why do you thick fucks make the assumption that this is something MOST people would want to do? There's a reason most of us grew up as social outcasts: OUR INTERESTS ARE NOT SHARED BY THE VAST - OVERWHELMING - MAJORITY OF THE OTHER PEOPLE AROUND US. Playing a game leads to "I'm gonna program my own game" about as often as driving a car leads to "vehicular homicide." Stop projecting your interests on the rest of the population - I can guarantee you that they're not shared by the vast majority of the people you're assuming will magically become Linux kernel hackers if you just hand them a computer with a bash shell on it.

          As far as "upgrading" a tablet? Buy a $30 bluetooth keyboard, and you've got yourself a netbook. I just saved you two grand - you're welcome.

          • by tepples (727027)

            Playing a game leads to "I'm gonna program my own game" about as often as driving a car leads to "vehicular homicide."

            You assert that it does. I disagree with your assertion but am willing to evaluate evidence that you present.

            As far as "upgrading" a tablet? Buy a $30 bluetooth keyboard, and you've got yourself a netbook.

            I run IDLE, a Python programming environment, on my Dell Inspiron mini 1012 netbook. Does the iPad have an app for that?

          • Playing a game leads to "I'm gonna program my own game" about as often as driving a car leads to "vehicular homicide."

            I would submit that "as often as driving a car leads to 'I'm gonna build my own car'" would be more accurate as well as more pleasant.

          • by Hatta (162192)

            Playing a game leads to "I'm gonna program my own game" about as often as driving a car leads to "vehicular homicide."

            We grew up in the 80s. During the 80s it was very common for a kid playing 8 bit games on an 8 bit PC to try his hand at making his own. And many of them were as good as many games published commercially.

            Is it really unreasonable to want kids today to at least have that opportunity? Shouldn't we at least give them the tools and some encouragement? If they don't use them, that's their choi

        • by Specter (11099) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:40AM (#43337855) Journal

          You're living in a very small world and there are very few people who live there with you. (Despite this post, I'm one of them btw.) People who live in the rest of the world, and that's almost everyone, are never going to code up a game themselves. The idea isn't even going to cross their mind. Why? Because they don't care.

          They just want something that works. They own technology to accomplish a task, not for the sake of owning the technology. They want to take a picture, send an email, read a web page, or play a game and they don't care in the slightest how many Mega-pixel-fps-giga-tdp widgets 2.0 this thing has over that thing. This is why the iPad (and the iPhone) is so popular; it gets out of the way and let's people do what they want to do without having to know or care how it happens.

          If the device in their hand does what they want it to do then there is no 'upgrade' (I'd argue: downgrade) path to a PC. The personal computer as you and I know it will die a much deserved death.

          You care. I care. We are, however, a shrinking minority.

          • If the device in their hand does what they want it to do then there is no 'upgrade' (I'd argue: downgrade) path to a PC.

            That's the real problem right there: a locked-down device makes people want less.

    • by psnyder (1326089)
      For a long amount of time, a very large amount of people have only used PCs for the same functions that you can now find in any mobile device (emails, checking news, entertainment, etc). The rest of the "opportunities" a PC provides are unused bloat for many people.

      But a "Post-PC" era isn't coming anytime soon (unless you count today as a "Post-TV" era).
    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:45AM (#43337121)

      Sometimes I wonder why we are so quick to discard the PC.

      Because the PC is a nightmare in terms of reliability. Here I am using PC in the generic sense; this statement applied not just to Windows but also OS X or Linux or any desktop app compared to a tablet. In every case they are much harder for people to keep running well over time.

      The "Post PC" era is a term probably overused at this point but at the core it basically means simply: computers that non-technical users can have over time without someone to help them maintain.

      More technical users see this as limiting, but non-technical users see the ability to not rely on technical people to help them as freeing.

      And it's not like PC's, or anything like them, will ever vanish. Those threatened by a world where normal people can use a computer too should just chill out and be happy for them.

      • by Omestes (471991)

        computers that non-technical users can have over time without someone to help them maintain.

        This disturbs me, personally. Your statement is synonymous with "disposable". Tablets is a way to force PCs to use the cell-phone model of updates and lifespan; you use it for a year or two and ditch it for a better one because it is no longer supported. ASUS did this with the first Transformer, they dropped all support for it in under 2 years, meaning the only recourse a user has is confusing, and unstable community updates. Even in Android land, the vendor now has too much control over devices.

    • by Specter (11099) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:28AM (#43337715) Journal

      ...because it's a hot, power hungry, big, buggy, malware ridden, unreliable, overcomplicated, expensive, time consuming pain in the ass for almost everyone who isn't a computer geek (and that's nearly everybody).

    • by Junta (36770) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:33AM (#43337749)

      I don't even think it's really doing much to displace PCs. People shortsighted enough to think solely in terms of new sales certainly feel that way, but it ignores reality.

      Basically, PC market with or without tablets was destined to plateau. PC sales for a couple of decades were driven by more demanding applications and use cases. Now, the products have, largely, caught up to the applications people use. A new purchase was formerly driven mostly by the current owned product being 'too slow'. Now a new purchase is driven more and more by when the thing wears out beyond warranty rather than new capability not previously available.

      Tablet and mobile are really a distinct market that PC didn't really penetrate. Sure, occasionally you'd see someone pretty dedicated lug around a laptop out and about, but those were pretty rare. Most everyone that had a PC 3 years ago still uses their PC, even if they have no need to buy a new one.

    • Sometimes I wonder why we are so quick to discard the PC.

      Companies that made 10" laptops stopped making 10" laptops [slashdot.org] because tablets and Ultrabook laptops had a higher profit margin.

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      We aren't discarding the PC.

      Many of the people who started using PCs in the past 20 years weren't actually interested in computers. They were looking for a communications device that connected them to the Internet. The Internet, in turn, connected them to family, friends, and businesses. A subset of those went beyond that by using the Internet as a research tool and their computer as a content creation tool. Yet even then their use was limited by their interest in the technology: very few people learned

    • My Mother is a 60+ year old Chinese woman that never really liked working with computers much. A mouse looks clumsy in her hand, and she can't touch type.

      The people here on /. are probably never going to give up PCs, but always remember that WE'RE the weird ones in society. Our use cases are very different.

      I got my Mom an iPad mini and she can sit and play scrabble with people and read her email. Typing is just as easy (or difficult, if you prefer) as it was before, but now we can chat over facetime. Even t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of course the 70s' vision has blurred to the point that the iPad betrays it !! This ain't your grandfather's Atari !! It is his Oldsmobile !!

  • Betrayed? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow (21281) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:21AM (#43336839)

    What a stupid idea. The iPad was intended to be a portable screen for viewing content. Virtually every app (outside of games) is for viewing pre-generated content of some form or another. The iPad was never intended to be a "dynabook" or to co-opt the idea, so how can it be a betrayal?

    I have an idea for Kay... build your own damn hardware and write your own damn software. Don't rely on publicly-traded, for-profit companies to execute your "vision".

    • by Motard (1553251)

      Was following Snooki not a founding ideal of the dynabooks? Ooops, sorry.

    • Re:Betrayed? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NatasRevol (731260) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:52AM (#43337211) Journal

      I have an idea for Kay... build your own damn hardware and write your own damn software. Don't rely on publicly-traded, for-profit companies to execute your "vision".

      Seconded. Also, stop bitching that someone else didn't execute your vision.

      • stop bitching that someone else didn't execute your vision.

        His complaints remind me of a Repo Man quote: "...and, yet I blame society."

      • Re:Betrayed? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:27PM (#43340237)

        He's not "bitching" about anything. He was asked this question:

        Do you agree that we now essentially have the Dynabook, as expressed in the three tiers of modern personal computing; the notebook, tablet and smartphone? If not, what critical features do you see missing from these? Have they delivered on the promise of improving education?

        He responded by saying that no, we don't have a Dynabook, that the slim laptops are the closest thing to it, and that the ideals behind the iPad are not the ideals behind the Dynabook. He's answering the guy's question, which apparently he has been asked for the past 20 years.

  • Locked Installs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:21AM (#43336843)

    As you might expect, his problems with it is the major problem many have with iOS devices:

    Apple with the iPad and iPhone goes even further and does not allow children to download an Etoy made by another child somewhere in the world.

    The solution is obviously to stop buying devices you don't truly own, but it's difficult when many applications are targeted for that platform first.

    • Apple with the iPad and iPhone goes even further and does not allow children to download an Etoy made by another child somewhere in the world.

      Even ignoring the fact that Android doesn't seem like it has any limitations that matter in this regard (and to me the question was more "do we have a dynabook yet" rather than "is the iPad a dynabook"), the statement is incorrect when applied to the iPad.

      That's because you can share "eToys" within the context of an app. Codea [twolivesleft.com] for example, is an app for creating prog

      • These people are trapped by their own make-believe assumptions about the technology, refuse to acknowledge that apps like Codea exist, and are convinced that using an Apple product somehow takes away their freedom. What freedom? Oh, you know, that freedom that lets you go in and modify the kernel source code to suit your own needs. Or that freedom to use whatever software you like. Or to create new content. Yeah, Apple totally destroys all that and keeps kids from learning! The iPad sucks! Fuck Apple! I wan

      • Codea

        Initially, Apple rejected [slashdot.org] anything that would even remotely resemble Codea.

  • I love his idea of a piano in every classroom. Now we just need a way to get the music out of it.
  • sold it all off (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CheshireDragon (1183095) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:32AM (#43336977) Homepage
    Funny thing is Xerox sold a lot of their stuff to Apple in the 70s.
    Seems to me that Xerox got out of the market 40yrs ago and has no right to complain about its path now.
    • by khallow (566160)
      This is a good point. How can you have "betrayal" as the journalist in the interview claims in the absence of any sort of obligation?
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:51AM (#43337185)

    In the middle of the interview is the most brilliant thought of the whole article:

    One way to think of all of these organizations is to realize that if they require a charismatic leader who will shoot people in the knees when needed, then the corporate organization and process is a failure. It means no group can come up with a good decision and make it stick just because it is a good idea. All the companies Iâ(TM)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 âoeagricultureâ we could put the world back together and all would prosper.

    This is exactly right. Modern companies are NOT modern companies, they are generally companies as companies have always been. I think in smaller companies we are seeing experiments that show tiny examples of truly different ways to run a company, but I don't know of any that have been able to scale that to thousands of people yet.

    • by theurge14 (820596)

      One way to think of all of these organizations is to realize that if they require a charismatic leader who will shoot people in the knees when needed, then the corporate organization and process is a failure. It means no group can come up with a good decision and make it stick just because it is a good idea

      On the contrary, without a leader to challenge people by setting the bar high, organizations may run with ideas that should've been shot down, and even if the idea has some merit there might not be enough

    • by olau (314197)

      Valve Corporation has an interesting setup [businessweek.com].

      Prompted by your observation, I read the interview and have to agree it was very interesting. Alan Kay is obviously thinking completely different from the crowd.

  • News Flash (Score:5, Funny)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:51AM (#43337199)

    Tonight's top story: An old guy complains that the future doesn't match what his vision of the future was back when he was young.

    This, and the rest of the news, coming up at 11.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @09:57AM (#43337281)

    Just like society fails to (thankfully) live up to expectations set 2000 years ago in the bible.

    I mean really, we are supposed to adhere to a 40 year old vision of the future? I mean, where is they Dynabook today? Yes, that's right, its back in history where it belongs.

    Also Apple nearly went bankrupt several times back in the day. Obviously the original vision failed to sustain both Xerox (as an innovative company today) AND Apple until Steve Jobs had another vision for the future.

    If you have a vision that fails, then you failed to deliver your vision, it's nobody else's fault.

  • He had his vision, others had different visions. It doesn't mean he's right and they're wrong.

  • by theurge14 (820596) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @10:27AM (#43337695)

    FTA:
    "Apple with the iPad and iPhone goes even further and does not allow children to download an Etoy made by another child somewhere in the world. This could not be farther from the original intentions of the entire ARPA-IPTO/PARC community in the ’60s and ’70s.

    Apple’s reasons for this are mostly bogus, and to the extent that security is an issue, what is insecure are the OSes supplied by the vendors (and the insecurities are the result of their own bad practices — they are not necessary)."

    How is it an OS issue if a user downloads an app and grants an it full access to an iPhone and the app takes a copy of the contact list and the entire archive of phone calls and messages and beams them to a host somewhere in Russia without any further user interaction?

    If the answer is the user must act as the software warden, how is a child supposed to guarantee this Etoy won't do any harm to the machine he or she is using?

    In short, if the wall garden isn't the app curator then who is? The OS? The app developer? The child?

A language that doesn't have everything is actually easier to program in than some that do. -- Dennis M. Ritchie

Working...