Which operating system does Alan Kay use

Alan Kay receives the Turing Award 2003

64-year-old computer pioneer Alan Kay receives this year's Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). The $ 100,000 prize is considered the Nobel Prize in Computer Science. With this award, the mathematician and molecular biologist Alan Kay is honored for his life's work, in particular for the development of small talk and the system of object-oriented programming. In addition to these milestones in computer science, Alan Kay is also considered a scientist who, with his research and in countless publications, repeatedly ignored the subject boundaries. In the musician's magazine Rolling Stone The trained guitarist Kay proclaimed the "computer revolution" in 1968. In 1969 he sketched today's laptops with his Dynabook after seeing the prototype of an LCD at Intel.

"The fact that Alan Kay, one of the visionaries in the field of human-computer interaction, has received the Turing Award shows that the topic has now moved from being a marginal topic to a central topic in computer science. Alan Kay did pioneering work at a time when the majority of computer scientists still saw the formal, theoretical and technical aspects in the foreground, "says Horst Oberquelle, professor for software ergonomics at the University of Hamburg.

As a child of Australian-American parents, Alan Kay grew up in his grandfather's house. He died when Kay was born in 1940, but as a well-known illustrator, photographer and writer, he left a library of over 6000 books in the house, which the young Alan ate his way through, as he reported in a conversation with heise online in 2002. "When I got to school, I quickly realized that the teachers only wanted to tell one page at a time. There were no multiple points of view for them. I thought the school was an outright fraud." The rebellious student had to change schools several times, most recently because he joined civil rights protests against discrimination against Jews.

While serving in the army, Alan Kay learned to program on an IBM 1401. In 1961 he was confronted with the problem of a number of files being exchanged between different Air Force training camps, all in different formats. Instead of writing complex conversion routines, a programmer came up with the trick of sending the data along with the procedures that generated the data. Without knowing the exact data structure, a program in another location could record the procedures and then read the data. "I called the trick heredity because it reminded me of biology." Alan Kay was later to use the method to develop the basis for a systematic programming technique known today as object-oriented programming.

Alan Kay is still involved in programming today, especially with the Squeak programming and learning environment, which is now open source : From small and big inventors, c't 7/2004, p. 216). Together with BitBlt inventor Dan Ingalls, Kay founded the Viewpoints Research Institute, which aims to ensure that children are taught "real math" and "solid science" again. Viewpoints is arguably the only scientific institute that Douglas Adams lists as a consultant on the etheric advisory board. Working on Squeak is a means and an end at the same time. For the Dynabooks and KiddiComps of the future, Squeak is designed as a programming language as well as an operating system. There are painting and music programs, web browsers and e-mail: "Children should learn to program, but not in this dreary drill in which they mess up algorithms and math in schools today."

In his recent lectures, Alan Kay believes that the computer revolution has not happened yet. Kay compares today's history with the emergence of book printing. Around 50 years after Gutenberg, the first books with page numbers appeared, and it took another 20 years for citation according to page numbers to become established and scientists to be able to navigate a space of references and links. The situation is similar in cyberspace: computers and the Internet are there, but we handle them like in the deepest cuneiform civilization. A handful of experts master the technology in their sleep, others cheat their way through and for the rest of the people the technology simply creates stress. "Perhaps in 50 years' time people will be able to deal with a multimodal web of texts, videos and music as we would with a book, perhaps they will no longer even notice the differences between the media that we encounter today as fractures. Then will one might speak of a computer revolution. "

Aside from his lectures on the computer revolution, Alan Kay rarely appears in front of computer scientists and works mainly as an organist specializing in Bach and Buxtehude. With the film "Tron", his wife Bonnie McBird created an artistic memorial for him in which, despite all interventions by Disney, Kay's thoughts can still be felt. (Detlef Borchers) / (jk)

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