Childhood & Early Life
Alan Curtis Kay was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father designed arm and leg prostheses, and his mother was a musician. He had read about 150 books before he started school.
He attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, earning a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Molecular Biology. Before and during this time, he worked as a professional jazz guitarist.
In 1966, he joined graduate school at the University of Utah College of Engineering, earning Master’s degree and a Ph.D. There, he worked with Ivan Sutherland, a pioneer in graphics programs including Sketchpad.
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In 1968, Kay met Seymour Papert and learned of the Logo programming language, a dialect of Lisp. He created Logo as a tool to improve the way children think and solve the problems.
He studied the works of Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky, and constructionist learning that believed individual learners construct mental models to understand the world around them.
In 1970, he joined Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center, PARC. and was one of the key members there to develop prototypes of networked workstations using the programming language Smalltalk used for constructive learning
He pioneered the idea of object-oriented programming (OOP) along with some colleagues at PARC and predecessors at the Norwegian Computing Center. C++, Objective-C, Smalltalk, Java, C#, Perl, Python, Ruby and PHP are examples of OOP.
Closely related to his Dynabook concept, he was actively involved in the One Laptop per Child project which aims at creating affordable educational devices for use in the developing world.
In 1984, he became an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer’s ATG (Advanced Technology Group), which researched in both hardware and software, and focused on such areas as Human-Computer Interaction, Educational Technology, and Language/action perspective.
Between 1996 and 2001, he was with Walt Disney Imagineering as a Disney Fellow. The Disney Fellow program intended to attract individual contributors of technology applicable to creative arts, media and entertainment.
In 2001, he started the Viewpoints Research Institute (VPRI), a nonprofit organization to improve "powerful ideas education" for the world's children and to advance the state of systems research and personal computing.
Kay worked with a team at Applied Minds, a company founded in 2000 by ex-Disney Imagineers, that provides technology, design, R&D, and consulting services to multiple firms. The company's headquarters are in Glendale, California.
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He became a Senior Fellow at Hewlett-Packard until HP disbanded the Advanced Software Research Team in 2005, a move that was criticized outside HP and created distrust within the company.
In 2005, at the World Summit on the Information Society, the MIT research laboratories unveiled a new laptop computer-the $100 Laptop, the Children's Machine, and the XO-1 -based on his Dynabook concept.
In 2006, his proposal titled, ‘STEPS Toward the Reinvention of Programming: A compact and Practical Model of Personal Computing, as a Self-exploratorium, to the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) was accepted and funds were sanctioned.
In 2011, he taught ‘Powerful Ideas: Useful Tools to Understand the World’, at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program to devise new forms of teaching/learning based on fundamental, powerful concepts, rather than on traditional rote learning.
Awards & Achievements
In 2003, Kay was presented the ACM Turing Award for pioneering many of the ideas basic to contemporary object-oriented programming languages, leading the team that developed Smalltalk, and for fundamental contributions to personal computing.
He was the recipient of the Kyoto Prize similar in intent to the Nobel Prize, in 2004 and also shared the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Alto, the first practical networked computer.